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University releases Diversity, Inclusion Oversight Board memo

Paxson, Locke respond to DIOB’s annual progress memo on Diversity Inclusion Action Plan

By and
Senior Staff Writers
Monday, September 10, 2018

On Sept. 8, the Diversity and Inclusion Oversight Board published its annual memo reflecting on the University’s “progress to date and opportunities for continued growth” in realizing goals outlined in the Diversity and Inclusion Action Plan, wrote Shontay Delalue, vice president for Institutional Equity and Diversity, in a community wide email. The University also shared a response from President Christina Paxson P’19 and Provost Richard Locke P’18 addressing the board’s memo.

The University’s announcement of the DIOB memo follows the release of the DIAP Annual Report in May, as The Herald previously reported. Released in February 2016, the DIAP aims to increase representation of historically underrepresented groups on campus, strengthen research and teaching on diversity and inclusion issues and improve campus life. The University also required administrative and academic units to create their own departmental diversity and inclusion action plans, or DDIAPs, The Herald previously reported.                                                                                              

“We spent the year in conversation, reading through data and reports from the campus, and then as the annual report took shape we met to discuss items we wanted to see addressed more fully in the future, writing them up in our memo collaboratively,” wrote Matthew Guterl — vice chair of the DIOB, professor of American Studies and chair of the department — in an email to The Herald. The memo was prepared in May but was released at the start of the fall semester. 

DIOB Memo

For the Office of Institutional Equity and Diversity, the DIOB memo and response letter present an opportunity to see what a “representative body of community members” feel are the most pressing issues in the implementation of the DIAP, Delalue wrote in an email to The Herald.

In its memo, the DIOB raised questions and offered suggestions to maintain progress toward fulfilling DIAP goals. For instance, the board called for the University to provide a progress update on its faculty hiring goals. In 2016, the University committed to doubling its representation of HUG faculty by 2022, The Herald previously reported.

In addition, the DIOB asked whether the University’s “efforts to secure funding” to support the DIAP had been successful and pointed out that sharing such information would be helpful for members of the Brown community, according to a copy of the memo.

The University identified a $165 million fundraising goal for DIAP  initiatives, The Herald previously reported.

Additionally, the DIOB raised concerns regarding the University’s inclusion of its staff, writing that “no single issue seems more pressing this year than the need for an action plan to improve climate for staff.” Though the Department of Human Resources has its own departmental DIAP, the plan emphasizes clarifying exisiting policies over “improving the material conditions of diversity and inclusion.”

The board also called for a more precise definition of historically underrepresented groups, particularly when referencing University staff.  According to the memo, the board felt “confused about what counts as underrepresented, whether there are critical distinctions across units and ranks, and what measures are needed to address the need for diversity and inclusion.”

Through the process of writing the memo, some board members also reflected on the difficulties of defining diversity and historically underrepresented groups. “I would like to include first-gen students and faculty in the underrepresented group. … At times it feels arbitrary how we classify someone,” wrote Alison Field — a member of the DIOB, a professor of epidemiology and chair of the department — in an email to The Herald. Field also said that she was confused about how international Brown community members are accounted for in the plan.

The board also wrote that the University needed a “renewed focus on how to better support Brown community members with disabilities.”

Lastly, the board identified a need for more effective measures to increase transparency regarding most DIAP and DDIAP progress. In its memo, the board posed the question: “Are we making more progress on the campus-wide DIAP than we are on the departmental or unit DDIAPs?” For instance, the board recommended conducting a survey of the class of 2019 to gauge “how the changes … documented in the Annual Report have been lived and felt by the students who were present at the start of this moment of institutional transformation,” according to the memo.

The board suggested that the University reallocate resources to campus units that demonstrate commitment to their DDIAP goals as a reward. It also recommended that these departments “document best practices” and “host broader conversations about the challenges” of implementing their goals for the benefit of departments that might be more isolated than others.

President and Provost Response

In their response to the DIOB memo, Paxson and Locke wrote that by adjusting the time schedule of the DIOB’s work, the Board had more time to evaluate and understand the progress of the DIAP over the course of the academic year. Last year, the Annual Report and the DIOB memo were released in March, The Herald previously reported.

While the President and the Provost responded to the specific questions in the memo, they noted that the DIOB “raises a number of questions that could have been addressed through conversations with University administrators and/or data provided by their offices.”

On the subject of fundraising, the University is currently “over 60 (percent) of the way toward (its) original stated goal,” in raising funds to support the goals of the DIAP, wrote Paxson and Locke in their response. Because fundraising success has not been consistent across campus programs — the University raised more money for financial aid and faculty chairs than academic programs — “high priority items that have not yet seen fundraising success” were added to the University’s operating budget, according to the response to the DIOB memo.

Paxson and Locke also wrote that the University is on track to achieve its faculty diversity hiring goals.

Additionally, the University will be conducting a climate survey for staff in November 2018 to gauge improvement in staff climate on campus. Paxson and Locke wrote that promoting diversity and inclusion among the University’s staff continues to be a priority and highlighted programs such as First Readings for Staff and the Faculty in Focus Lecture Series as evidence of the University’s efforts to welcome its staff members.

To monitor and acknowledge progress in implementing the University DIAP and DDIAPs, Paxson and Locke wrote that the DIAP awards would expand next year to “include one academic department and one administrative/operational department.” Last year the awards were given to “two students, two faculty members and two staff members,” according to the response. The University will also conduct a survey this fall of faculty, staff and students who were on campus in 2016 to understand “how their experiences of Brown have changed over the last two years.”

The response to the DIOB memo highlighted University efforts to be more inclusive of disability. In addition to opening the “fully-accessible” Friedman Hall this year, the University is currently working to make “all of Brown’s online and web content accessible,” according to the response. The project involves reconstructing of the brown.edu website “to bring it into full compliance with federal accessibility standards.”

Additionally, the Division of Campus Life, along with the Student and Employee Accessibility services, is “nearing the end of an assessment … to see how services can be strengthened,” according to the response.

Over the upcoming year, the President, Provost and Guterl hope make the DIOB more informed of administrative updates, according to the response. The DIOB will meet regularly with relevant administrators directly to discuss University progress in implementing the DIAP.