faculty input essential to diversity efforts
By Dan Heuchert
university's president may sincerely seek to promote diversity
on campus, but his or her best intentions may fall short unless
the fac- ulty and staff value the same goals, said two speakers
who described their institutions' efforts in the afternoon session
Y. Lowe, assistant to the president at Northwestern University,
and Gladys Brown, associate director of the American Council on
Education's Office of Women in Higher Education and former director
of the Office of Human Relations Programs at the University of
Maryland, laid out sometimes divergent approaches to tackling
diversity. Lowe agreed to fill in for the originally scheduled
speaker, University of Michigan President Lee C. Bollinger, who
was unable to attend due to a family emergency. He described his
experiences at Princeton University, where he was dean of students
for 10 years, and at Northwestern.
He said there are several areas in which institutions should be
cautious when promoting diversity.
need to be conscious about ways that different parts of the institution
embrace or stand back from the process," he said, citing
a conversation he had with a Hispanic student at Princeton, who
complained that the school simultaneously embraced and rejected
her. While the administration said all the right things, he said,
she did not feel the same sense from the faculty and students.
noted that even as campuses have become more diverse since the
mid-1970s, once diversity-related issues arose, "Our first
response was not to sit with our faculty colleagues about it,
but to sit with the university's lawyer." The result was
top-down dictates, but no "diversity consciousness"
permeating the faculty, he said.
need to be acutely conscious of who the characters are around
the table, and whether those characters are truly representative
of the university," he said.
also urged the audience to look beyond graduation rates when assessing
the success of diversity programs. As dean of students, he said,
he noticed that minority students may have graduated at impressive
rates, but often did not achieve at the same level as their white
counterparts. Many switched to less rigorous majors, he said.
called for new approaches to teaching. He described a program,
piloted elsewhere and adopted at Northwestern, which enhanced
a foundational course in biology that blacks and Hispanics were
failing at a disproportionate rate. The professor re-did the syllabus
and created racially mixed "honors study groups"; through
two years, the GPAs of those who were statistically predicted
to struggle increased by a full point, on average.
Brown's talk focused on a successful decade-old effort at Maryland
to promote diversity from the top down.
the center of the effort was requiring each administrative unit
to submit annual diversity plans, for which unit heads were held
accountable. The plans spell out each unit's goals, how they will
address them, and how they are to be monitored. The blueprints
then are passed up the chain of command to the cabinet level,
where they must be approved or sent back to the unit for more
At the end of the year, a written evaluation followed the same
chain, serving as a basis for evaluation of the unit and unit
head, she said. The process is managed by an "equity council,"
which reports to the president.
There are "dean's report cards," in which each dean
is graded. Based upon those grades, a dean may become eligible
for additional faculty lines and compensation, she said.
participation is mandated, the university also seeks faculty buy-in
through several avenues. University leaders are urged to talk
about diversity, and are provided with talking points about diversity
issues. A faculty relations committee was formed; some faculty
members, selected by a competitive process, are "bought out"
of their courseload and asked to work on addressing particular
university also promotes its efforts through technology, via a
"Diversity Web" Internet site (http://www.inform.umd.edu/Diversityweb/),
and increased media relations efforts on and off campus.
Students were also engaged formally and informally. Brown and
her staff appointed themselves as unofficial advisers to the Student
Government Association and fed the officers news of other efforts
around the country. Eventually, students formed a group called
"United Cultures" that mounted an anti-prejudice campaign,
funded cross-cultural activities and offered leadership training.