Wed, 14 Mar 2012
Dear campus community member,
The dialog about diversity that began last semester has focused our collective thinking about how to improve SUNY Oneonta’s campus climate. This is a critical issue for our college and a deep concern for campus leaders, as well as students and other community members. Over the past few weeks, I have compiled a preliminary report outlining some of the college's many efforts that support of diversity and a welcoming campus climate. Tonight I'll share with you some of the major actions that we have already taken, some of our next steps, and some future planning.
The college has undertaken a number of initiatives to increase diversity and improve the climate on our campus. Many of these are ongoing and will continue to bear results over time. Among the most important examples are:
- In the past seven years, the college's African American, Latino/a, Asian and Native American (AALANA) student population has grown from 530 to 747, the largest in college history.
- Admissions staff give preference—consistent with applicable law—to AALANA applicants during the recruitment process.
- To further diversify our applicant pool, the college has invested $75,000 to establish a multicultural recruitment caller program.
- The college recently increased its commitment to scholarships supporting diversity and low-income students by $344,000. We increased the number of Presidential Diversity Scholarships from 10 to 15 and raised the value of each from $4,000 to full tuition. We also revised the Catskills scholarships program, raising the number we will offer from 13 to 47, and doubling the value of each from $2,000 to $4,000.
Bias Prevention and Response
- The Bias Act Response Team was established last semester to advocate for those affected by reported incidents of hate crimes or other bias acts.
- The college recently hired a new Affirmative Action officer from off campus who will revise the discrimination complaint process.
- I have held forums for students, faculty and staff and have met with the Committee for Social Justice to identify concerns and hear suggestions for improvement.
- The college adopted a Strategic Action Plan for Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion in 2008, which resulted in the Tapestry of Diversity Award and sculpture, over $30,000 in funding for IDEA grants to support diversity initiatives, a faculty mentoring program, Kente Graduation Ceremony, establishment of a Multicultural Student Association, and campus climate forums facilitated by Dr. Joyce Shabbaz, among other activities.
- The college has conducted two surveys of its cultural climate for diversity, using the findings to strengthen programs and develop new initiatives.
- The college implemented the Faculty and Professionals’ Diversity Resource Guide for Search Committees and conducted training sessions for department chairs and search committees to improve their search processes.
- Departments have achieved greater diversity in applicant pools by enhancing advertising, writing position descriptions that stress diversity, and broadening the range of places where ads are published.
- The number of faculty of color has doubled—from 25 to 50—since 1994 and is now nearly 20%.
- For the past four years, the Doctoral Fellowship Program has brought pre-doctoral students from underrepresented groups to campus as faculty; beginning next year, we will bring two doctoral fellows to campus each year instead of one.
- The University Police officers have been equipped with cameras to document their interactions with community members for purposes of accountability.
- The University Police will undergo a complete review by the Department of Criminal Justice Services (DCJS) later this semester as part of an accreditation process to assure it is meeting the highest standards of quality and effectiveness.
- All campus police undergo training specific to cultural diversity, bias incidents, and ethical awareness as part of their academy training and ongoing professional development.
- The incoming Chief of the Oneonta Police Department has agreed to meet with students and learn more about their experiences in the community.
In addition to the initiatives already implemented, Cabinet and other administrative offices will take further actions based in part on the feedback we have received from campus this academic year. These include:
- To increase the proportion of accepted students of color who decide to attend Oneonta, we will expand the on-site visitation program and create a publication specifically for multicultural students.
Bias Prevention and Response
- As directed by the college's strategic plan, a campus-wide campaign against discrimination, harassment, and bullying will be launched this year.
- The discrimination complaint (Tripartite Committee) process is under review and will be revised.
- Training for resident assistants and directors regarding dealing with bias acts in residence halls will be enhanced.
- The Center for Multicultural Experiences will be renovated to better meet students' needs.
- The Anti-Defamation League will lead a comprehensive Campus of Difference training, beginning with senior college leaders this semester and reaching out to all students and employees next semester.
- The campus will mark the 20th anniversary of the “Black List” incident with a commemorative program making it a focal point for discussion and education.
- I will reconstitute the President's Council on Diversity as a means of informing me directly about campus climate issues.
- University Police will work with the Student Association to establish a Police Liaison Committee to formalize communication and feedback regarding issues.
Several good ideas have been raised and are currently under consideration or in early planning stages. This list will be continually updated, and I welcome further suggestions. At present, it includes:
Bias Prevention and Response
- The college is preparing to appoint an ombudsman who will be available to all campus members for informal resolution of issues.
- Academic departments will be offered additional training, incentives, and support to develop more diverse candidate pools and to make offers of employment to multicultural candidates.
- The administration will adopt a goal of hiring 2-3 AALANA faculty college-wide per hiring cycle to tenure-track positions and encourage departments to consider diversity as a strong asset in the hiring process.
- In parallel with the Doctoral Fellowship Program, we are considering implementing a postdoctoral fellowship to increase the number of Latino/a and African American faculty members.
- Provost Thompson will ask the College Senate to review the college's General Education program with the goal of incorporating more substantial content on diversity and its meaning for students.
- Provost Thompson will urge all academic departments to use their program reviews as opportunities to make their curricula more culturally inclusive.
Diversity is one of the six pillars of our strategic plan, and I take seriously our commitment to create and sustain a welcoming campus. SUNY Oneonta will not be truly excellent until we fuse academic excellence with diversity. The responsibility for making this vision a reality rests not with any one office or group, but must be shared by us all. Please join me in this effort by supporting our current initiatives and by working to create lasting positive change in our community.