Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Community Forums – On Faculty Initiatives

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Community Forums – On Faculty Initiatives

>>For almost a year we’ve
been working together to write the first graft of
the college’s “Strategic Plan for Diversity, Equity,
and Inclusion”. That process has involved
hundreds of people across the college, many of
whom are with us here today. Throughout the process, you’ve
shared your experiences, your hopes, and your
frustrations, and you’ve made many
great suggestions and provided insightful
critiques, not only to what we’ve
been doing historically, but also our thoughts about
what will happen in the future. So I’m here to thank you. The input you all provided made
the plan better, and frankly, your involvement made it
possible for us to be able to complete the first round
of our planning process. I appreciate your participation,
because diversity, equity and inclusion must
be more than a slogan. Now, perhaps more than ever, we
need to embrace the proposition that diversity makes us stronger
and better, and that access, despite the historic barriers
created by inequalities based on race, ethnicity, gender,
socioeconomic status, and other forms of social
identity, is an essential part of any meaningful DEI effort. That will require
real mechanisms for creating a campus
environment where all of our students, faculty, and
staff feel welcomed and valued, and where everyone is able
to take full advantage of the resources and
the opportunities that make LSA the premier
public liberal arts institution in the nation. As I mentioned, today
is the fourth and final of our community forums, and
our topic is the faculty. We’re going to focus on
the sections of the plan that address that topic. If you’re interested in other
plan sections, I encourage you to provide feedback through the
website, or by talking to those of us who have responsibility
for various parts of the plan. When you leave here
today, we’ll have handouts, and we’ll give you
information about ways in which you can contribute
to a plan in process. I should note that what we’re
about to do is take step one of a very long journey, not only
refining the plan that we’ve put on the table at the
end of August, but also beginning
implementation in many important ways. Today’s discussion’s going to be
led by Associate Dean Liz Cole. Liz was a graduate student here,
and is a faculty member here, now serving as associate
dean for social sciences. Last academic year, she chaired
a faculty taskforce that looked at our faculty to come
up with suggestions, not only to improve the
diversity of our faculty, but perhaps more importantly, to help improve the
climate among our faculty. She’s been working tirelessly
on diversity, equity, and inclusion issues here at
the University of Michigan for a great deal of time, and
has been an important part of the leadership group to steward the production
of our draft plan. So thank you all for being here
this beautiful Friday afternoon, and let me turn things
over to Liz to facilitate our discussion.>>I want to reiterate
Andrew’s thanks to all for making time to
be here today. This plan is going to be
successful because people in our community commit
to both what’s in it, and to the implementation
process, and I know that you are people that are interested
and committed. So let me talk about what
we’re going to do today. I’m going to talk a little
bit about what we mean by DEI, sort of some background about
why this is important to us. And then I will tell you
a little bit about some of the other aspects of the plan that have already
started to be instituted. Then we’ll talk about the
faculty portion of the plan. As Andrew kind of
implied, this is part of a university-wide
planning process, during which last year
was the planning year, and these plans are set to
unfold and be implemented over the next five years. So this is just the
beginning of a process. And then the most
time that we’re going to be together today will
be spent talking to you, getting your thoughts
about the plan. We really want to
hear your feedback. What was circulated
in August was a draft. We will be posting sort
of a summary of that draft to the university-wide
website that will go live in early October, and then we
plan to submit a revised version for the public to see later in
the fall, and these comments that we’ve been collecting at these sessions will be very
important to those revisions. So what are our goals for today? I’m going to share some
information about the plan. I hope that some of you had
a chance to read the plan. But in case you didn’t, I’m going to touch
on some highlights. We want to get your
feedback about it, and we want to hear how you
would like to be involved and if you have concerns
and further ideas, there will be ample
time to express them. We have a scribe here
who’s going to write down the ideas that we hear. So let me start a little
by talking a little about why we think DEI matters. And as we’ve been talking
about in the college, I think there’s really
two key reasons. And the first is that we see it
as part of our responsibility as a public institution to serve
people from all backgrounds. We see that as part of the
University of Michigan mission, and we see that as going all
the way back in our history to President Angel, who talked
about envisioning the University of Michigan as a
public university that would provide an uncommon
education for the common man. That’s still our mission today,
except we want to provide that uncommon education
for the common man, woman, or person who may not care
to identify with gender. We think it should
be open to everyone. Secondly, we are
committed to the idea that diversity is central to
excellence, and to the pursuit of knowledge; that
better knowledge comes from diverse groups. And some of the important
research in this area has been done
by our own LSA faculty. Just to single out two,
Professor Emeritus Pat Gurin, who’s a psychologist, did
longitudinal research over years of Michigan students that showed that there were educational
benefits for college students in interacting with
diverse peers, and some of those benefits
included their intellectual commitment, and there
were also variables about their attitudes towards
being engaged citizens, that students who were exposed
to diverse peers and got to interact in diverse
settings benefited from. Another one of our faculty who’s
done really important research on the centrality of diversity
to excellence is Scott Page, who’s a faculty member in Political Science
and Complex Systems. He has shown that
diverse groups come up with better solutions even
than very brilliant experts. And he’s done experiments
that show — they come up with more creative,
effective solutions to problems. And I think that’s especially
important as we think about how do we maximize all our
human capital to solve the kind of social, political and
scientific challenges that we face today, and
that we’re going to face in the future, and can’t
even anticipate now. Bringing everyone to
that table is going to generate better solutions. Now, one question
that we got a lot and that we thought a lot
during the planning process was, “What are we talking about
when we talk about diversity?” And on the committee
that I led — and I think this was true in
much of the planning that went on in the college, we felt that
we intentionally wanted to leave that definition broad and fairly
unspecified, because there are so many dimensions of human
diversity that matter. So importantly, we thought
about race and ethnicity, and gender and gender identity. We thought about
sexual orientation and socioeconomic status. And I would claim that those
are probably the aspects of diversity that got
talked about the most. But we also talked
about language, we talked about culture,
and national origin, we talked about religious
commitments, we talked about age, disability,
and political perspective, and we tried to design
interventions that we thought were going to
create a campus where people who are diverse in all those
different ways are better poised to have access to all that’s
offered here at Michigan. We’re interested in
creating a climate where everyone can
succeed and thrive here. But we also recognized that
creating a diverse university that really offers opportunity to everyone, doesn’t
just happen. It’s not even enough to just
bring diverse people together on campus, because patterns
of past discrimination because of ongoing structural
inequalities, and the barriers that they present to
success, it means that even when you have equality of
access, you can’t always expect that everyone has
the same access to success, or the
same outcomes. So one way to depict this
graphically is this great little cartoon that Associate Dean
Angela Dillard found that tries to express in a very small
amount of space what we mean when we talk about equity. So because different
individuals come to campus with different skills,
backgrounds, talents, they might not all need the
same things to be successful. So you see in the
left side of the panel where everyone’s given
the same resources, not everyone has the same
ability to see what’s going on. And I originally
thought this was the view from Michigan Stadium, but once
we saw it blown up, I realized, “Oh, it’s a baseball game.” I thought it was a very
good Michigan picture, but not so much. In contrast, what equity means
is that people can have access to all different kinds of
resources and supports, based on the different talents,
and strengths, and also needs that they bring so that everyone
has a route to success, right? So in the second picture, people
are getting different kinds of assistance to all
have the same outcome to being able to see the game. So this picture is meant
to express the difference between equality and equity. And what I think is also sort of
implicit in it is that in order to have equity, we have to
make deliberate efforts. We have to understand
those needs, identify them, and then make provisions
so that all the members of our community
can be successful. Okay; so our vision is
that we’re going to put in this deliberate
effort to ensure that our campus is a place
where differences are welcomed, different perspectives
are heard respectfully, and every individual
feels a sense of belonging and inclusion. And inclusion brings us
to the third piece of DEI. And this is a sort of a
helpful little analogy that is often used by
Rob Sellers’ office. You can think of
diversity, and equity, and inclusion being
similar to what would you do if you were planning
a party, right? So diversity means that everyone
gets to come to the party. You could think about
diversity being about access. Equity is that everyone
gets to both contribute and take advantage of resources,
right, so everyone gets to contribute to the playlist. And inclusion is that
there’s full participation. So the example I gave last — or in the analogy is that
everyone gets to dance. One thing that we’ve talked
about a lot about at the college that I think really gets
at this inclusion idea is that there’s a lot of
fascinating opportunities for students on-campus
that are very enriching, great opportunities to learn and
grow, like study abroad, say, or taking an unpaid internship. If a student doesn’t have
the financial resources to take advantage of that, we can’t really say we have
an inclusive campus, right; not everyone’s having equal
access to that experience, okay? So with those thoughts in
mind, let’s talk a little about how we went into
the planning process. As Andrew mentioned, I had
shared a taskforce to think about what we could do
to increase diversity of the faculty, and
improve climate, and improve retention
for faculty. I led a taskforce that had
three members from each division of LSA, Natural Science,
Social Science, and Humanities. And what we did was we
began by spending a lot of time educating
ourselves about what was and wasn’t possible
under Prop Two. We spent a lot of
time going over data about how we’d been doing in
the past, and kind of trends in the recruitment of faculty. We looked at climate data from
advance, so how are faculty on campus experiencing
the climate. Then we met with the chairs
and directors of all the units. And then finally, we held open
faculty meetings in January that were organized by different
identity groups; that were open to anyone, but we discussed
the issues of different groups. So we had meetings devoted to different ethnic
and racial groups. We had a meeting
around social class. We had a meeting on disability. We had one on sexual
orientation. We had a meeting that
didn’t have a topic at all. So through those meetings, we
were able to talk face-to-face with a lot of our faculty
to hear their ideas. And you can see some of those
themes reflected in our plan. We think it’s really
important to also acknowledge in the planning process the
fundamental kind of motivation and impetus that we
received from the students who participated in the
movement, “Being Black at U of M”, which you might
recall took place in 2013. We found that students were
tweeting really cogent, poignant narratives
of their experiences that made really vivid at
national level what was at stake, where we were
falling short, and what it was like in a really kind
of lived experience way. And those tweets many
administrators and faculty felt like we knew there was a
problem, maybe we didn’t know that the problem was of this
magnitude; we must act now. Many of us see the students who
participated in this movement as maybe the originators
of this planning process. And that’s why we went
so far as to quote some of their words in our plan. The other thing I’ll say
about the planning process is that even though you can
go through our plan and see that it’s separated into
different sections based on faculty, staff, students,
we envision all the parts of the plan working
together in a synergistic way to amplify each other. So when our faculty
are more diverse and we have more faculty
here who are skilled at building diverse communities,
or doing work on topics related to diversity, we believe
that will benefit students. When we improve the training
and climate for diverse staff, we think that that will enhance
the ability of faculty and staff to collaborate together
on these efforts. It will enhance our ability to provide our services
to students. So these are in some ways
kind of separate plans, but they’re designed
to work together. I’m going to give you a
sneak peek of the parts of the plan we’re not
going to focus on today, and then I will give you some
highlights of our faculty plan. So even though last year was
the planning year, we were able to initiate some
of our initiatives, and we have already had some
progress and some successes. And one of the things that
we are most excited about, and has already been
really fruitful is that we created a new position
called the “Staff DEI Officer”, and we hired a very excellent
and experienced person, Leticia Cunningham, to fulfill
that role, and she’s already at work on helping us
implement the plan. Another piece of the plan
that’s already on the road is that we have a laptop loan
program for LSA students from the lowest socioeconomic
families. And this was an attempt to
address the digital divide for LSA students to
help recruit students from less affluent
families to LSA, and then retain them
here through graduation. That process was piloted last
year, and we hope to expand it. And then finally last year, Angela Dillard’s division did a
comprehensive review of the race and ethnicity requirement. And although their overall
finding was the program was sound, they also came up with a
lot of creative, innovative ways to improve that program, like
have more courses that have to do with global irony, or
create more irony courses that involve community work. And so we think the outcome
from that process will be to create a stronger and
more vibrant RNE requirement. Okay; so let me move to tell you
a little bit about what we came up with as goals for the
faculty part of the plan. You know, we went into
this plan, I think, expecting that the biggest piece
of it was going to recruitment. But in our early conversations,
we really quickly came to a consensus that
making a big press to recruitment could
not be effective if it didn’t go hand-in-hand
with efforts to improve climate; because climate is so
intimately tied to retention, and there’s no point
bringing more people to campus only to
have them leave. So we really quickly narrowed
into we have to have a plan that has three areas,
and of course, one part of that is commitment. But we also have to work
on climate and retention. And we also have to
work on career advising. We want people here
to be mentored, and be very successful,
and that’s another key part to keeping the people
we recruit here to stay. As I said, I’m going to
talk about some highlights. I welcome you to
read the whole plan that has more specific goals
that are matched to each of these three pillars. So the first one is to
improve climate and retention. Let me talk a little bit
about some of the evidence that made us think this
was so fundamental. Our advance office, the
University Advance Office, had done some surveys of
faculty across campus, looking at their experiences
of whether they felt bias and exclusion in
their departments, and how much they felt that
they had influence and voice. And they had a lot
of data gathered over many years about this. And what they found was, you
know, sad but not surprising, that female faculty reported
more experiences of bias and exclusion than
male faculty did. And female faculty felt
that they had less influence and voice than the male faculty. There was a similar
pattern with faculty from underrepresented
minority groups. They reported more
bias and exclusion, and felt that they had
less influence and voice. And this is at the department
level, compared to the faculty who were not from
underrepresented groups. What made this really
important was that feeling bias and exclusion, and feeling
that you don’t have influence in your department were both
correlated with having thought about leaving Michigan. So this was one of the data
points that made us think, “We have to be working
seriously on climate.” Another thing we thought was
really important is climate’s really in our own hands, right? Like we talked a lot about
what are the legal issues that govern recruitment. There are some limits on
that, but we can do, you know, any good initiative we can think
of where it’s within our control to try to work towards
the improvement of climate in our units. And so based on those insights, we came up with a few strategic
goals, and I’ll tell you about several of them. First, we heard from
a lot a faculty at our open faculty
meetings that people who had been doing this
work around diversity felt that it was added
extra layer of work that often was really taxiing,
often was a lot of hours, and was largely unrecognized by the college or
their departments. So one recommendation that
the taskforce came up with is to revise the criteria
for faculty evaluation to include significant
contributions to DEI in research, teaching,
and service. And we talked about
how this could be done through annual merit
reviews, through promotions, and even be made
criteria for awards, like collegiate professors. And what we wanted to do
was to look at a way — not that this work was
necessarily going to be expected of everyone, but that the people who had made significant
contributions in this area, that work could be
recognized and rewarded. And part of instituting that
is going to mean that we need to develop criteria
to evaluate that work, to decide when is DEI
work high-quality work? But other schools
have done this, and we believe we
can learn from them, and that that’s some we
can eventually incorporate over the course of this plan. And actually, in the guidelines for this year’s merit
review process for faculty, DEI work was listed as a type
of work that could be recognized with raises from the C-Fund. So every year, there are
certain kinds of merit that are recognized by this
part of the faculty raise pool. This year, DEI work was
one of those kinds of work. So we’ve already started
incorporating this as a criteria for evaluation. The second thing
that we recommend is that Department should
create committees and service assignments
for DEI work, so that it can be something that counts towards a faculty
member’s overall service load, right? So if you’re serving on
the diversity committee, then it would not be appropriate
to also ask you to serve on graduate admissions, right? But the system that has sort
of evolved in many cases is that DEI work is
taken up kind of over and above your other service
assignments, and you do it on a volunteer basis, and so it’s not really counting
towards your overall work plan. And then finally, we talked about how retention
offers are made when people have outside
offers, and it appeared that there was very uneven
information about this, and there was belief that some
people were getting retention offers, and that
other people were not. And so we talked about
the importance of tracking and evaluating the process through which retention offers
are made, so that we can notice if inequity is going on there,
and try to address that aspect of the faculty life cycle. So as I said, there are some
other ideas that we’ve come up with to improve
climate, but those are three that I wanted to highlight here. The second thing we talked
about was improving mentoring. And this is one of my
favorite parts of the plan, because I think of this
as not being geared to any specific aspect of
diversity, but the idea is that when we do effective
mentoring, when we monitor mentoring
and make sure that, you know, assess it and make sure that it’s having the
impact we want it to have, not only does it help
everyone be successful here, it stands to benefit the
faculty members who are from less traditionally
represented groups the most, right? So it’s the idea that
providing support for everyone, everyone can be successful. One of the ways that
we plan to do this is to offer launch committees
to all faculty. Now, if you’re in
the natural sciences, you might already know
what a launch committee is. This is a mentoring
program that’s been going on in other schools besides LSA, and in our natural
sciences for a while. Incoming tenure track faculty
members are assigned a committee that’s made up of
their department chair, a mentor from within
their department, a mentor from outside their
department, because we’ve heard that often faculty feel like maybe there are
certain things I want to ask, but I need to ask it of someone
in a more confidential setting. And then the fourth person
is called the “convener”, and it’s someone who’s
trained to run the committee. And the committee meets with
the junior faculty member every month, and there is a
scripted set of issues to go over every month that
were well-designed, based on what’s going on as
a faculty member transitions to their first job over
the course of that year. So we’ve been doing this for a
while in the natural sciences. This year we’re going
to pilot that program in two social departments and
two humanities departments, because we recognize that the
natural science model isn’t going to seamlessly fit
on those other two areas. Once we get that certifying
tuned, we’re planning to roll that out across the divisions. The second thing we want to do
around mentoring is that in LSA, every department is required
to have a mentoring plan. But we as a college haven’t
really looked at what’s in those plans, and we’ve never
done anything to see is what’s in the plan actually
being carried out. So we are going to start
looking at those plans, meeting with departments, talking with them about,
“How is this working? Are there ways it
could be better? Can we improve this to
better position your faculty for tenure and promotion?” And that’s something we’re
going to have to roll out over several years, but it’s
another that way we’re trying to make sure that the faculty we
hire are actually successfully retained until tenure
and promotion. And that brings me
to recruitment, which is probably the biggest
part of our plan, but that, as I said, relies
very importantly on the other two pillars. We are about to roll out
what we’re calling the “LSA Collegiate Postdoctoral
Fellowship Program”. And today I can give you just a
little bit information about it, because it’s going to be
formally launched on October 6th when President Schlissel
talks about it in the context of university-wide
diversity plan. We plan to recruit our
first cohort this year. And ultimately, our plan is to
recruit 50 postdoctoral fellows to LSA over the next five years,
so on average, ten a year. We have reserved the resources
in order to convert all of those lines into
tenure track faculty. So the idea is that this
postdoctoral program will have a non-incremental impact on
the representation of faculty on campus who have the
skills, the background, and the commitment to enhance
our diversity mission on campus. So that could be people
whose scholarship has to do with diversity, that
could be people who have demonstrated their
commitment to mentoring and teaching in this area. So we’re looking for people
who bring the skills — and I’ll say a little bit more
about how we’re recognizing this as a skill set, who
bring the skills to enhance the diversity
of our university. In some ways, this
is an expansion — or it’s inspired by, I’ll say, the president’s postdoctoral
fellowship, but that is a small-scale
program that’s generally restricted to faculty
in the natural sciences. Ours will be at larger scale,
and it will be open to faculty from all LSA divisions. Another way that
ours is different is that the post-docs will
be here for two years, and they’ll teach
one course each year. So that will help prepare them
for their teaching careers, and it will also
be an opportunity for our undergraduate students
to benefit from interacting with these exciting
young scholars. We’re also setting up clear
mechanisms for mentoring. And it’s our vision that
this will be a cohort that offers each other mutual
support, and that that is part of the non-incremental
change that we hope to see. Another thing that we’ve
proposed in our plan is that departments will be asked to create diversity
hiring plans. In these plans, we’ll ask
departments to reflect on what they’ve been doing, and
whether it’s been successful. The reason we’re doing it
at the department level is because we think each
of these plans needs to address the conditions that are particular
to that discipline. And what our goal is
is for all departments to make progress over time. And again, what we’re
looking for is how do you plan to add faculty to your unit
who have the expertise, who have the demonstrated
commitment to further our diversity
mission? Once these plans are in place,
we will expect that each year when departments request
authorization to search, they’ll need to explain how the
position fits into the plan. And so that means they’ll
need to position this position in light of their
larger long-term plan for adding expertise on
diversity to their departments. Now, as we’ve developed
this plan, we’ve realized that what we’re proposing is
a tremendous amount of work, and it’s also work that
not just anyone can do. There’s expertise in this
area, there’s networking that people need to have. And so what we’ve also
proposed in our plan is to consider the possibility
of creating a new position for the associate dean
for DEI, and we envision that this position would
not only have a portfolio that included diversity efforts, but that they would
also oversee efforts for faculty professional
development; because as you can see, we think that this mentoring
piece is really key to our long-term DEI success. This person would coordinate
and communicate with departments and with other units on campus. Right now we’re in the process
of thinking about what would that portfolio look like? Are there similar positions
are our peer institutions; and kind of weighing whether
this is a step that we want to go forward with, but our
plan puts this on the table as a way both to recognize and compensate the
significant work that’s going to be necessary to make
our plan successful, and also to bring someone onto our administrative team
who’s got significant knowledge and commitment in this area. And then I’ll tell you
about one more thing, and then we can go
into the dialogue. So the last thing I want
to talk about emerged from my faculty taskforce, but is not necessarily directly
related to faculty diversity. This was something that
came out of the many events that we attended in the fall
where we often heard faculty and graduate students talk about
their experience of the history of the struggle for
diversity on this campus. So many long-term faculty,
and even some staff, talked about being
here during periods of other social movements,
people who were here for BAM One and BAM Two, people who remember
diversity blueprints, right? And sometimes these stories
were expressed with a lot of exhaustion, and
sometimes despair. And sometimes it
was sort of coupled with this feeling like,
“Here we go again.” And so my committee talked a
lot about, “We’re hearing this. We can feel it’s important. What can we do with this?” And I think also part of the
frustration was feeling like, “I’ve been here long
enough to see this, and now we’re just sort
of reliving the past.” And so an idea that was
proposed by a historian on our committee was, “What if
we kind of commissioned a bunch of community projects that would
depict this history in ways that make it more visible?” So it could have to do with the
kinds of pictures and portraits that we have in the
hallways of our buildings. It could have to do with
performance pieces, it could — I mean it could take all
kinds of different forms, but the idea is projects that
would be interdisciplinary, that would often
involve the humanities, and would make this past
visible, make it sort of legibly written on
the body of the campus. So we are going to set aside
some funding for faculty, and ideally faculty to
collaborate with students on projects that kind of
demonstrate this history in a way that brings it to
life and makes it visible for people on campus today.

Danny Hutson

1 thought on “Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Community Forums – On Faculty Initiatives

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *