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University announces Phase II of Diversity and Inclusion Action Plan

Phase II will assess, build on DIAP’s progress, focus on equity, inclusion

Five years after the release of the Diversity and Inclusion Action Plan, the University is launching Phase II of the plan. Phase II reiterates the DIAP’s central goals while outlining new actions aimed specifically at increasing equity and inclusion in the community.

Phase II does not replace the DIAP but seeks to build on its progress in six priority areas — People, Academic Excellence, Curriculum, Community, Knowledge and Accountability, according to the release plan. 

Phase II was developed over the past year under the direction of the Office of Institutional Equity and Diversity, with student, faculty and staff input, Vice President for Institutional Equity and Diversity Shontay Delalue said.

The DIAP Assessment

A key feature of Phase II report was its assessment of the DIAP to date. This was intentional, Delalue said. From the start, the DIAP was treated as a “living document,” she added, meaning that it was intended to be updated and engaged with, rather than just sitting “on a shelf.” Five years into the plan was a “natural mark,” Delalue said. “At some point, you take a pause, really do a deep dive, assess what's working, make decisions about any things that need to continue and some new actions that need to be added.”

Fifty of the plan’s initial 56 major goals — 89 percent — have been accomplished over the past five years, according to the Phase II assessment. The two priority areas that had not been implemented in full were People and Community, with 85 percent and 86 percent progress respectively.

“I’m proud of the community-wide effort,” Delalue said, reflecting on the DIAP’s assessment. The University has received calls from other institutions remarking on its success at getting every department “on board,” she said. “We are very proud of the fact that our community is engaged.”

Delalue also highlighted updated hiring practices as one of the DIAP’s notable successes. 

When the University launched the DIAP in 2016, it laid out a plan to double the number of faculty from historically underrepresented groups by 2022. HUGs include individuals who identify as Black/African American, Hispanic/Latinx, American Indian/Alaska Native or Native Hawaiian/Other Pacific Islander. So far, the University has hired 42 new HUG faculty, increasing the total number of HUG faculty members to 100.

“I'm most proud of the increase in diversity among faculty and graduate students,” President Christina Paxson P’19 told The Herald. In terms of “compositional diversity,” she said, the gains in diversity in these two communities have been “clear wins.”

Paxson also expressed particular pride in the research and scholarship at the Center for the Study of Race and Ethnicity in America and the Center for the Study of Slavery and Justice. They are “powerhouse research centers at Brown … and their relevance is more apparent than ever, especially in the last year.”

Along with doubling HUG faculty by 2022, the DIAP also established the goal of doubling the number of HUG graduate students. The percentage of graduate students from HUGs has risen from 9.4 percent in fall 2014 to 16.2 percent in the 2020-21 academic year, according to the Phase II assessment.

HUG students now compose 22 percent of the undergraduate population, a 1.2 percent increase from 2014.

Under the DIAP, the University has also focused on faculty training and mentorship, Delalue said. The University has launched an online course on unconscious bias that they have encouraged staff to take. 1,074 faculty and staff have completed the course.

The Office of the President also launched the Presidential Diversity Postdoctoral Fellowship in 2017, a two-year program that supports the work of Ph.D. graduates from HUGs or those who have demonstrated support for HUGs through their research and teaching. Nine fellows have become permanent faculty since the program’s creation.

The DIAP has already changed the Brown community, according to Paxson. “When HUG students walk into a classroom, they’re more likely to see a faculty member who comes from a historically underrepresented group themselves … their graduate student TAs are going to look different and represent a broader swath of the community.”

But Delalue said that despite the successes of the DIAP so far, there is more to be done in inclusion work, more than just diversity. 

“If we define diversity as composition … continuing to recruit and hire individuals from historically underrepresented backgrounds, we've done well and we can track that progress.” Delalue said. Now, “we want to focus our attention on … inclusion,” she added. “So once you continue to bring in different individuals from a variety of different backgrounds, you really do want to be intentional about ensuring that everyone has a sense of belonging.”

“Inclusion is, in some ways, a harder and longer slog” than diversity, Paxson said. “To be a fully inclusive community requires cultural change, and culture changes (are) slow and hard.”

Phase II Goals

Among the goals set out in Phase II are increasing the HUG student population and the number of women faculty in STEM. Specifically, the University hopes to increase the undergraduate regular decision yield for Black/African American identified students to 50 percent of the enrolled class and double the percentage of women faculty in STEM.

The University will also continue its support of programs and research centers focused on race, immigration and ethnicity, focusing on increasing fundraising in those areas.

Another area of focus in Phase II will be on the curriculum. Since 2016, Brown has created a new course designation for classes that deal with topics of power and oppression. DIAP courses have “reached a majority of undergraduates,” with 4,047 undergraduate students taking one of the 211 DIAP courses in the 2018-19 year, according to the University press release.

The College will continue its assessment of DIAP course engagement which will inform University support for the courses going forward.

Phase II will also include community-wide discussions around community safety and security, including a “reimagining of the Department of Public Safety,” according to the plan. These discussions will be led by the Brown University Community Council.

Education and training on non-discrimination and anti-harassment, Title IX and bias policies will also be included in training and orientation for student, faculty and staff leadership roles.

Moving forward

“We've done a lot of work, and we've made a lot of progress, and we have a lot of work to go,” Delalue said.

For Delalue, the nationwide calls for racial justice this past year and the disproportionate effect of COVID-19 on historically marginalized racial groups has only reinforced the importance of the DIAP. This past year has “affirmed that we were always on the right track,” she added. The focus on historically underrepresented groups acknowledges larger “structural issues” that have led to greater numbers of COVID-19 deaths among members of Black and brown communities.

Moving forward, Delalue said the focus should be on engaging the Brown community through meetings with student bodies such as the University Council of Students, the Graduate Student Council and the Medical Student Senate.

“We do have to take a moment and also recognize we've done good work, and we can keep that work going,” Delalue said. “By acknowledging our progress, that doesn't mean we're getting stagnant or not moving forward.”

Delalue said that it is important to be both “celebratory” and “aggressive” moving forward in the University’s “approach to continue” the DIAP’s work. 

“We're talking about systems and structures that have been around for hundreds of years,” Delalue said. “One plan will not undo those things. Instead, it will chip away at those systems and ensure more and more people have access to things they didn't have before.”

“Brown students, I hope, will see themselves as part of what will be a long ongoing process,” Paxson said, adding that the work of increasing diversity and inclusion will require the involvement of future generations.

Ultimately, for Paxson, the DIAP and Phase II are investments in academic excellence. “I think of diversity as being a cornerstone of academic excellence. We learn better, we learn more, when we're surrounded by people who have life experiences that are different than our own,” she added. “I think the quality of the student experience is changing and improving, and that's important.”

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