A new, campus-wide Diversity Executive Council may arise as part of a final report of the Illinois State University Climate Assessment Task Force.
After a year of work on recommendations to expand diversity and inclusion on campus, the task force steering committee presented a tentative version of short- and long-term recommendations to President Larry Dietz and other sponsoring leadership. The suggestion for a diversity council, which would draw members from across the University, met with praise.
“This would be a clear step toward our effort to continue an institutionalization of diversity on campus,” said Dietz, who noted the responsibility for diversity needs to emanate from more than one office or individual. “Each member of our campus is a reflection of our University values. A council like this offers the chance for everyone to have a voice that will lead us to a stronger future.”
The recommendations are an outgrowth of the Campus Climate Assessment, released in May of 2016. The Climate Assessment Task Force, assembled by Dietz that summer, used the assessment as a jumping-off point. “The initial climate assessment really set the stage for our actions, but we wanted to gain a greater understanding of ongoing efforts, so we talked to a lot of people,” said Doris Houston, a member of the task force steering committee.
Over the past 12 months, the task force gathered input from student leaders, faculty, and staff members to gain a better understanding of what inclusion efforts are being done, and how they can be expanded. “The incorporation of small work groups and conversations with guest panels that focused on areas such as disabilities, student affinity groups and underrepresented faculty and staff help create a vibrant and robust report,” said steering committee member Dave Bentlin.
Other suggestions from the task force include moving forward on a plan for a prominently placed cultural center on campus, exploring further diversity training for search committees, and required coursework focused on diversity.
Vice President of Student Affairs Levester Johnson, also a member of the sponsoring leadership, provided input on the proposed cultural center, an effort his office and Dean of Students office has been exploring with student leaders. “It is an exciting time to watch ideas take hold and become action,” said Johnson, who along with Provost Jan Murphy co-chair the Campus Climate Implementation Team, a group of campus leaders tasked by President Dietz with implementing the task force suggestions.
Dietz complemented the steering committee for creating an action-oriented set of suggestions. “Your creativity and hard work over the past year are appreciated,” he said of the entire task force. “I know we have a long road ahead, but I feel as though we are covering more distance than we have in the past.”
The final report from the task force will be available in the fall. The Implementation Team is setting up a web page linked to the Office of the President’s website that will allow for transparent updates of the suggestions.