“Will having more chief diversity officers, as student protestors have asked, resolve tensions behind the wave of protests at campuses around the nation?” This is an insightful question, asked by Jackie Jones, in her article: “Demanding Inclusion” published in the Chronicle’s Diverse: Issues in Higher Education for March 18, 2016.
My simple answer to Jone’s question is: it depends!
According to Mary Frances Berry, former chair and member of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, student protestors on campuses across the country “…are looking for more black people, a reduction in overt racism, and micro- and macro-aggressive behavior.” Following a series of high-profile racial incidents at the University of Missouri, students demanded that the institution compose a 10-year strategic plan by May 1, 2016 to:
- increase retention for marginalized students
- sustain diversity curriculum and training
- promote a more safe and inclusive campus
This is only one example of what is happening at U.S. colleges and universities. And the tensions only seem to be building across the country. Solving these dilemmas seems a very tall order for Chief Diversity Officers alone. And their ability to solve them depends on the authority afforded to their role and the influence they have in affecting many areas of an institution, such as:
- Recruitment and Retention
- Campus Climate
- Curriculum and Instruction
- Strategic Planning
- Institutional Advancement
- Student Success
- Staff/Faculty Performance Management
- Intergroup Relations and Discourse
- Procurement/Supplier Diversity
So what can we as leaders do about it? According to William B. Harvey, founding president emeritus of the National Association of Diversity Officers in Higher Education, we need to support Chief Diversity Officers. He says, “The only way these positions can be successful is if they have the support of the university leadership and the staffing needed.” Harvey also says that we need to get senior faculty on board to address student concerns.
I agree with Harvey, but I’ll also push the issue further. It’s not just CDOs and senior faculty that can make a difference in fostering equity and inclusion. Each one of us has a responsibility to create inclusive campus climates, where diversity is valued.
Every time we hire new staff or faculty, we can pay closer attention to affirmative hiring efforts. As we welcome new staff and faculty to our campuses, we can make sure that everyone has an excellent orientation and onboarding experience. We can promote ways to create an inclusive curriculum and provide incentives to do that.
We can support diversity training and make sure that our leadership development programs have strong diversity components. We can model inclusivity in our decision making. We can build equity and inclusion efforts into our strategic planning. And we can hold ourselves accountable to the diversity goals we set.
For my part, I am working collaboratively with staff in Talent Management, Equity and Diversity, Chief Human Resources officers, Affirmative Action Officers, and other leaders to produce training resources that help faculty and staff at our institutions hire affirmatively. It is one thing I can do to promote equity and inclusion.
What can you do?