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Higher Education Associations Provide Tool

Higher Education Associations Provide Tool
To Assess Commitment to Campus Diversity
By Cassie Chew

Does my hiring record demonstrate my commitment to diversity? Do I receive reports on students, faculty and staff of color who choose to leave our institution? Do I initiate discussions with the governing board about institutional strengths and progress in advancing diversity?
These are just a few of the questions that the joint task force on diversity of the National Association of State Universities and Land-Grant Colleges (NASULGC) and the American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU) is asking university presidents and chancellors to reflect upon as they assess their commitments to diversify their campuses.

The set of questions is a part of an assessment tool found in the report, “Now Is the Time: Meeting the Challenge for a Diverse Academy” released last month during NASULGC’s annual meeting in Washington, D.C.

“It’s a call to action that also is a call to reflection,” says Dr. Robert E. Hemenway, chancellor of the University of Kansas, who says diversity efforts on campus require dialogue.

The report, which grew out of discussions held by NASULGC and AASCU members following the 2003 Supreme Court’s split decision on the use of diversity programs in college admissions, is designed to be a template for colleges and universities seeking to renew their commitment to the diversity mission of higher education.

“After the court decision, a number of us asked, ‘What do these decisions mean? How do we conduct our outreach programs?’” says task force member Alysa Christmas Rollock, vice president for human relations at Purdue University.

“We decided that we have been reactive,” she says. “We wanted to talk about best practices and how we can move forward. We wanted to confirm that diversity is important.”

Says Dr. C. Peter Magrath, NASULGC’s outgoing president and former president of three NASULGC institutions, “This is a document that can be tailored. It has an action plan in it. … There is some real stuff in here that is more than rhetoric.”

The goal of the document is to help universities across the country identify and assess diversity initiatives on their campuses and develop best practices to overcome the obstacles to achieving their goals.
Challenges might include developing strategies to work with their communities toward achieving diversity goals; diversifying campuses in homogenous geographic regions; advancing diversity initiatives on campuses that may lack a majority population among the student body; or addressing diversity on campuses where the majority population has shifted. Challenges also include developing strategies to diversify faculty and staff.

But the task of achieving campuswide diversity does not rest solely on the shoulders of university presidents and chancellors. The assessment tool, “Centers of Responsibility for Diversity,” is composed of 11 sets of reflective questions for people who make up the university community.
In addition to asking the university’s top officers to review their track records, there are sets of assessment questions for faculty and staff working in academic affairs, athletics, business and finance, development and university relations and governing boards. Students can assess the student affairs and student leadership environment as well.

The series of questions for each group is organized around six themes: recruitment, retention, partnerships, campus climate, professional development and assessment. The tool also includes a diversity assessment scale to help evaluate performance.

“We really wanted to be comprehensive,” Rollock says. “There are some units that may not be on the front line supporting students, but it doesn’t matter if you are a coach in the athletics department, a groundskeeper or a student leader.”

The tool is designed to help the units understand that they each play a roll in achieving campuswide diversity, Rollock says. The questions are designed to help campus units assess where they are and decide where they can make changes.

This process is important for universities, says Rollock, because it is key to the mission of the university.

“Access is part of our core mission,” she says. “We want equal access and opportunity in all aspects of the campus from the student body, to faculty, to staff and to the administration. We have to make sure we are providing opportunity. If we didn’t, we would undermine the mission of the university.”

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