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Paxson releases final diversity, inclusion action plan

After community feedback, U. to invest $165 million in faculty pipeline, research centers

The University released a final draft of its diversity and inclusion action plan Monday. The plan sets aside $165 million — 5.5 percent of the $3 billion to be raised in BrownTogether, President Christina Paxson’s P’19 capital campaign — to bolster the representation of historically underrepresented groups on campus, embolden centers for research on diversity and inclusion, improve campus life for students from underrepresented groups and integrate programming on inclusiveness into curricula.

Though the final draft is not “a point-by-point response to any list of demands,” it reflects the University’s response to a barrage of community reactions following the November release of the first draft. In response to the draft, students held a demonstration in University Hall and released demands for its revision. Ethnic studies faculty members also released a “5 Percent Plan,”  which calls for raising the proportion of funds devoted to the plan from about 3 percent of the BrownTogether campaign to 5 percent. The quantity and force of the replies spurred the University to solicit feedback until Jan. 8.

Among online forms, emails, conversations in public forums with faculty members, staff members and students and consultations with Providence community members, the Provost’s office compiled over 720 comments on the plan, Paxson said.

After receiving the initial feedback, Provost Richard Locke P’17 said, his office revised the plan, releasing the revision to senior administrators, faculty members who had organized and graduate students who had organized for further recommendations.

“I see in the revisions, finally, a reminder that Brown’s current administration has the courage to try to make a permanent change to the way this place works — seeking something more than just window dressing — and the confidence to listen to its extraordinary students and faculty about how best to do that,” wrote Matthew Guterl, professor of Africana studies and American studies and signatory of the “5 Percent Plan” in an email to The Herald.

The major changes to the plan include more concrete financing; shortening the deadline to double the number of faculty members from historically underrepresented groups to between five and seven years instead of 10; diversifying the graduate student population through the endowment of 25 graduate fellowships; and generating a “full suite” of optional professional training workshops to educate community members on issues of diversity and inclusion, Locke told The Herald Monday.

The increase in funding for the DIAP from 3 percent to 5.5 percent of Paxson’s fundraising campaign came about  naturally through more specific financial calculations, Locke said.

The $165 million includes $100 million for 25 endowed faculty positions, $25 million for graduate fellowships, $20 million for co-curricular programming and $10 million each to the Center for the Study of Race and Ethnicity in America and the Center for the Study of Slavery and Justice, Locke added.

Not included in the plan were specifics for an additional $500 million dedicated to the expansion of financial assistance to support first-generation, low-income and middle-income students, Locke added.

Paxson and Locke emphasized the importance of detaching the price tag from the major aims of the plan.

“Even more important than financial investments, … we’re really changing the culture and a set of practices of the University to make it a more inclusive community,” Locke said.

Faculty development

The development of orientations and trainings for faculty members, staff members and students on diversity, inclusion and sensitivity was a major change between the initial and finalized versions of the DIAP.

Throughout the revision process, administrators learned that “mandating diversity training does not change behaviors or attitudes,” Locke said, noting specifically that research by Harvard Professor of Sociology Frank Dobbin, who spoke to Paxson’s cabinet Jan. 12, reveals this trend. Instead, the University is developing a “suite of options,” including lectures, workshops and retreats to engage faculty members more fully, he added.

Many of the options are being developed by in-house talent, such as Professor Tricia Rose’s MA’87 PhD’93 Structural Racism lecture series. Outside experts will also be consulted, Locke said. Appendix C of the final draft of the DIAP enumerates the planned roll-out of professional development options for the coming semester.

While diversity and inclusion training will be mandated for senior administrators, it will be an “opt-in” model for faculty, Paxson said, because “deep and broad buy-in to the goals of the plan” is the only way to ensure its success.

Additionally, Locke noted that because different departments have different needs in terms of sensitivity education, a decentralized model for training would be more effective.

Each department is charged with creating and releasing a diversity and inclusion action plan specific to its own needs. The University will provide data on departments’ current standings and provide support and guidance, Paxson said.

Though some demands included student approval of department plans, the plans will only be approved by the provost and the Office of Institutional Diversity and Inclusion.

The University will use the leverage behind these plans’ approval to ensure that each department’s commitment to improvement on matters of diversity and inclusion is sufficiently robust. The University will not afford departments’ funding to hire new faculty members if they do not work out approvable plans, Locke and Paxson said.

Oversight and governance

The DIAP creates many different committees and working groups, including the Diversity and Inclusion Oversight Board, which will include students, the vice president for campus life and student services, faculty members and staff members. The board will track the progress of the University and department plans and issue an annual report.

Two other groups will report to the board: the Diversity Advisory Council and the Committee on Faculty Equity and Diversity. The Diversity Advisory Council is comprised of alums, and the Committee on Faculty Equity and Diversity will be comprised of faculty. The chair of the CFED will also sit on the DIOB.

In turn, the DIOB will report to the Diversity Steering Committee, made up of senior administrators and chaired by Paxson, who will report to the Corporation.

Unlike other universities’ plans, Brown’s action plan furnishes in-depth detail about the strategic approach to implementing diversity and inclusion policies and practices in all aspects of campus functions, Paxson said.

“This is the kind of competition that we hope everyone is going to be in,” Locke added.

Changes to the curriculum

The plan also addresses the “dissatisfaction with how Diverse Perspectives in Liberal Learning works,” Paxson said.

The DPLL designation for courses was added in 2002 as a mechanism of indicating classes that engage with issues of intersectionality. The plan pledges to reevaluate the designation through a collective of faculty members, students and staff members, said Dean of the College Maud Mandel.

The collective is charged with thinking “about how we can create more robust opportunities for students to engage with questions of diversity in the curriculum,” Mandel said.

The committee will “presumably” consider whether there should be a DPLL requirement for graduation akin to the WRIT requirement, she added. “I suspect there would be strong feelings across the Brown community on all sides.”

Additionally, the Office of the Provost will coordinate the creation of a Native American and Indigenous Peoples Initiative. The office expects to publish an initial draft of proposals for the initiative by the end of the semester.

Disaggregating data

In accordance with recommendations of faculty members, undergraduate students and graduate students, the University will revise how it collects and reports demographic data. A subgroup of the oversight board will be charged with determining how data will specifically be collected and made available to the public, Locke said.

In compliance with students’ demands, the Southwest Asian and North African designation will be added to demographic options.

Furthermore, all data regarding faculty members, staff members, graduate students and undergraduate students will be made available electronically on the website, Locke said.


The Department of Public Safety, a focus of student demands, received one paragraph in the finalized plan. The plan notes DPS’s commitment to and requirement of annual training on a “wide variety of topics, including diversity and inclusion.” The Public Safety Oversight Committee will continue to oversee DPS’s “policies and practices”  and will release an overview assessment by the end of this academic year, the plan states.

Despite multiple calls for the disarming of DPS, Paxson maintained her stance. “I’ve been very clear that I don’t agree with that,” she told The Herald.

“I don’t think stripping DPS of guns will necessarily solve anything,” said Gabe Reyes ’18, who was involved in the Day of Reclamation demonstration. “It’s about un-learning racist thoughts and violent behavior.”

The Herald requested comments from eight students who were either unavailable or expressed that they were not comfortable commenting until they had read the DIAP in full.

— Additional reporting by Melissa Cruz



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