Princeton Forms Diversity Council for Staff Related Diversity Matters

Princeton University has formed a new Diversity Council to advise the offices of the provost and executive vice president on staff-related diversity matters.

The council, co-chaired by Lianne Sullivan-Crowley, vice president for human resources, and Dr. Terri Harris Reed, vice provost for institutional equity and diversity, is composed of 28 staff members. The council’s purpose is to further extend the efforts of a pre-existing group, the Diversity Working Group.

The Diversity Working Group, assembled in 2004 by university president Shirley M. Tilghman, was charged with identifying strategies and potential barriers that affect the recruitment, hiring, retention and promotion of a diverse work force at Princeton. A year after its inception, the group issued a report that resulted in a number of changes intended to make Princeton a more diverse and welcoming workplace for people of all backgrounds. Among the changes implemented were to:

— Create and expand training for managers.

— Add multilingual employees in the Office of Human Resources.

— Hire several additional employee relations professionals.

— Add English as a Second Language programming.

In fall 2006, the working group sponsored a confidential survey of Princeton staff members on topics including the fairness of employment practices and the openness of Princeton’s culture.

The new Diversity Council hopes to use data collected from the survey to recommend and promote policies, practices and programs that foster an equitable and inclusive community, university officials report. Examining formal and informal structures that impede progress toward diversity goals and recommending improvements will be an integral part of the Diversity Council’s responsibility, officials say.

In addition to Sullivan-Crowley and Reed, the administrators responsible for these efforts include the director for equal opportunity programs in the Office of the Provost, Cheri Lawson, and the manager of diversity and inclusion in the Office of Human Resources, Robert Martinez. These four individuals constitute the institutional equity and diversity team, which works closely with other colleagues in human resources.

“Our team’s responsibility is to promote, encourage and monitor the university’s goals for fairness, openness and participation,” Reed said in a written statement. “Human resources has the responsibility to help managers address issues related to recruitment, hiring, merit review, promotion and pay. We will work with the Diversity Council to target these areas.”

The survey, developed by Cornell University and customized for Princeton, was administered to Princeton’s staff both online and on paper. It had a 29 percent response rate, which the university says is statistically significant. According to data collected from the survey, Princeton employees are extremely conscientious, good university citizens and helpful to coworkers. They are very loyal and committed to the university.

However, the survey also indicated that staff members’ relationships with senior managers can be improved, especially in the areas of communication. Some employees perceive compensation and promotion practices to be unfairly applied, while others have a general concern about the quality of supervision and limited opportunities for career development and learning. The majority of staff members do perceive themselves to be included in decision-making or as having opportunities to contribute new ideas.

In general, members of underrepresented groups responded less favorably to questions on the survey. Less than 10 percent of the respondents believe that overall the university is not open to differences of opinion or is an unfair place to work.

Reed said, in a written statement, that the findings reveal that staff members view the university as committed to diversity.

Reed cited the issue of openness as one that the council wants to understand more fully. “The survey shows us that people feel they can really be themselves. But they also feel an opposite sentiment — that they have to hide a part of themselves. We need to look at that. Why are people saying ‘I get to be myself’ and at the same time they are saying there are clear ‘in groups’ and ‘out groups?’ The council will be able to provide feedback from their experiences and create settings where we can get more information.”

While the changes may take time, Reed feels the survey and the council are important continuing steps toward improving the workplace climate at Princeton.

Michelle J. Nealy can be reached at mnealy@diverseeducation.com

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