Final versions of departmental diversity and inclusion action plans for the majority of the University’s academic departments are now available on the Office of Institutional Diversity and Inclusion’s website for the perusal of all members of the Brown community.
Each academic unit at Brown is required to complete a diversity action plan “to establish each department’s goals on faculty and student diversity as well as the department’s contributions towards the creation of an inclusive environment on campus,” according to the University’s Diversity and Inclusion Action Plan. Work on the departments’ plans began last semester, and drafts were submitted to the DDIAP Review Committee over the summer.
While the plans that are currently available on the website are the most up-to-date versions and have been approved by the DDIAP Review Committee, community members should expect the plans to evolve over the course of the next few years, said Provost Richard Locke P’17, one of the members of the DDIAP Review Committee.
“We think of (the DDIAPs) as living documents,” Locke said.
Some DDIAPS on the website are still marked as drafts, but all academic departments will publish their final plans on the OIDI website by the end of the month, said Liza Cariaga-Lo, vice president for academic development and diversity and inclusion.
Departments with leadership changes were given extensions, according to the OIDI website.
Locke added that this transparency about the departmental targets was “not a compliance exercise,” but a way to encourage “collective learning about best practices” in relation to diversity and inclusion.
The drafting and implementation process
Most plans have a five-year time frame and were written up by each department’s DDIAP Drafting Committee, generally comprising faculty and staff members and student volunteers.
While the majority of students working on the plans were not financially reimbursed for their work, the computer science department paid its student committee members for their work, said Alex Karim ’17, a computer science concentrator.
“There were weeks when I was working 20 hours a week,” Karim said, adding that while the lack of payment would not have deterred her from taking on the task, she could see how it could be prohibitive for low-income students. “There’s an expectation that Brown students can volunteer to serve on these committees, which is not always realistic.”
Karim will be taking on an expanded role as a student advisor this semester now that the plan is finalized — not only will she continue to serve on the CS DDIAP Drafting Committee as it updates the plan, but she will also hold office hours for students to drop by and share concerns. In addition, she leads diversity trainings for teaching assistants within the department.
Most DDIAP Drafting Committees will not disband now that the plans have been finalized. Rather, members will be tasked with releasing annual reports about DDIAP implementation and progress in the future.
Progress toward DDIAP goals will be considered during external reviews of departments as an additional accountability mechanism, Locke said.
Above and beyond
Broadly, the DIAP seeks to increase the representation and retention of historically underrepresented groups on campus. The University defines historically underrepresented groups as American Indian, Alaskan Native, African American, Hispanic or Latinx and Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander ethnicities. In addition, women in science, technology, engineering and math and Asian American or Pacific Islanders in the social sciences and the humanities also fall under the DIAP’s conception of HUGs.
The history department’s DIAP also notes that current metrics for determining the ethnic diversity of the Brown community are themselves inadequate. For instance, many people of Middle Eastern and North African descent are classified as white by the 2010 U.S. Census. Brown does not recognize them as a distinct racial or ethnic category at this time, but the University hopes to in the future, according to the DIAP.
Some members of the CS department had misgivings about the sheer breadth of some of the categories in the University’s DIAP, Karim said. “You could look at CS and say that Asians seem well represented. But maybe Asians from some countries are better represented than others, skewing all the data,” she said.
Nonetheless, all DDIAPs have adopted the University’s terminology for the time being, though some also call attention to the exclusion of socioeconomic status, first-generation status, religious identification, gender identification, sexual orientation, political affiliation, disability and citizenship as HUGs and therefore as criteria for assessing diversity.
Departments have attempted to address these concerns in addition to analyzing racial or ethnic disparities in their communities. For instance, the anthropology DDIAP includes an entire section on the “limited” physical accessibility of its two buildings, Giddings House and Feinstein House.
As a general trend, many plans also propose to administer climate surveys asking students and concentrators within their respective departments to “fill in” however they self-identify in numerous categories not limited to ethnicity or race. “We want to acknowledge all the groups people can be a part of,” Karim said of the CS climate survey, adding that the resulting data would give the CS department a more holistic idea of its composition and shortcomings.
Recruitment and retention
Many DDIAPS make note of student demand for greater transparency in the hiring process. In response to this demand, the School of Engineering has committed to holding town hall-style meetings at least once per semester to share hiring plans with the student body. The SOE plans to make nearly a dozen faculty hires in the next five years, and 50 percent of the offers will be made to candidates from underrepresented groups.
Departments have also committed to changing their internal hiring and recruitment processes to be mindful of the goals of their DDIAPS. The mathematics department plans to increase its presence at national conferences to attract more diverse applicants, while the comparative literature department is emailing public, state and historically black universities to encourage their students to apply to graduate programs within the department.
All departments strongly encourage faculty members to participate in diversity training and propose to make TA diversity training mandatory. The cognitive, linguistic and psychological sciences department is atypical in that it goes so far as to mandate training for faculty members, staff members and students. “This is paramount to sustaining a campus culture in which each individual’s humanity and dignity are acknowledged and accorded the full respect of the entire University community,” the plan states.
The OIDI has hired three students — two graduate and one undergraduate — to help keep up with the requests for training, demographic information, hiring pipelines and other support, Cariaga-Lo said. At the time of the interview, Cariaga-Lo indicated that the OIDI would be in a position to hire a fourth undergraduate student soon.
The mathematics department uniquely proposes that TAs for math courses also participate in “in-house” diversity training led by a member of the department alongside the OIDI training. “Teaching mathematics can be idiosyncratic. There are challenges that HUGs students may face in this department that are particular to mathematics,” said Assistant Professor of Mathematics Melody Chan. “It’s also important to show that the department is trying to integrate awareness and sensitivity at every level and is not just sending you to an office to be trained.”
The mathematics plan expresses a concern that junior faculty members who are from HUGs could end up leading the bulk of the diversity efforts. As it stands, Chan is writing a pilot proposal for a summer liftoff program for female graduate students and coordinating a peer mentorship network for women in the department. But Chan said that her department chair has been very careful not to overload her with work, adding that the tenure process does place some emphasis on public service.
Elsewhere in the University, other departments have voiced concerns about burdening HUGs faculty members and postdoctorates with extra work and failing to recognize their efforts in the tenure process. The anthropology department aims to schedule a faculty meeting to review the departmental criteria for tenure to address the fact that scholars of color “find negotiating the tenure process difficult due to such pressures as carrying heavier-than-average advising and service responsibilities.”
“It’s easy to fall into a pattern of exploitation,” said Stephen Bloomfield, associate director of the Watson Institute of International and Public Affairs. “We’re trying to be aware that postdocs who are from HUGs may do things that their peers don’t.”
Many plans have considered reaching out to undergraduates in the pipeline before they even get to campus. The classics department proposes to attract prospective students through massive open online courses, known as MOOCs, hosted on its website, in association with the School of Professional Studies. The SOE proposes to collaborate with the Admission Office to encourage potential HUG engineers to matriculate to the University by calling them.
Curricular change is also a prominent feature in the plans. The mathematics department’s plan includes an initiative to create a year-long course to introduce students to the world beyond calculus, while the physics department suggests making introductory courses mandatory Satisfactory/No Credit “to reduce … anxieties that the grade in introductory courses indicates who can and cannot succeed in physics.”
But curricular change doesn’t necessarily involve the creation of new courses. The modern culture and media department is encouraging faculty members to share a list of required course readings with students during pre-registration to reduce financial barriers.
Finding the money
At this stage, many DDIAPs contain proposals that are contingent on receiving funding, either from the University or from external sources.
For instance, the Watson Institute envisions new positions as a result of the merger with the Taubman Center for Public Policy and American Institutions. But all faculty lines come from University funding, Bloomfield said. In addition, Watson’s plans to endow a financial aid program for its Master’s in Public Administration depends on the University’s fundraising success, he added.
The University’s Brown Together capital campaign aims to raise $3 billion, of which $165 million will be committed to the implementation of the DIAP.
Departments have also been resourceful in using existing funds to finance their initiatives, Locke said.
In order to fund her summer liftoff program for incoming mathematics students, Chan applied for a National Science Foundation grant. The CS department has committed to financing diversity initiatives at a rate of at least 50 percent of the annual revenue from the department’s Industry Partners Program for at least the next three years.
According to the OIDI website, the DIAPs for the University administrative offices, such as Student and Employee Accessibility Services and the dean of the College, will be released in November.