Illinois State University released an updated version to the Comprehensive Plan to Promote Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Anti-Racism.
The report, first submitted by President Larry Dietz for the Board of Trustees in October 2020, provides an overview of priority actions accomplished and currently underway in response to calls for action by the students of the #AntiBlackISU student movement and other campus community stakeholders. The spring 2021 version represents an update to the fall report and includes forward motion on demands from campus stakeholders.
“These calls to action were elevated with a renewed sense of urgency as a result of the demands set forth by student leaders from the #Anti-Black ISU movement,” said Dr. Doris Houston, interim assistant to the president for diversity and inclusion. Houston helped guide the task force convened to take action on student demands and comprised of student leaders, members of the President’s cabinet, and administrators. “Equity and social justice work is never complete. It is imperative that the University provide an accounting of the work done and outcomes achieved,” she said.
The spring 2021 report includes forward motion on student demands for additional student counselors with expertise in racial trauma and marginalized identities, initiatives designed to close the student opportunity and retention gaps, and an independent assessment of the ISU Police Department. Find the report here.
“Our student leaders have made it clear that the work of dismantling systems of oppression requires intentional, consistent, and responsive actions centered in student voices and experiences,” said Houston.
Student leaders played a significant role in creating an environment of change, noted Illinois State President Larry Dietz. “The demands of students provided an urgency to our ongoing efforts,” said Dietz. “Personally, I am grateful to the students for being part of solutions.”
Houston said reporting advances to the campus community was a primary force behind creating the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Updates sent out to campus. “The updates also allow us to convey information about not only the demands, but also initiatives happening all across campus,” she said.
For Dietz, who will wrap up a 50-year career in higher education in June, this time has been one of several watershed moments for higher education. He noted that supporting all those who are making change now will ensure that the mechanics for change will continue to be available for future generations. “Our primary concern is for our students, faculty, and staff who are impacted, and finding ways to make the University a better place for them,” said Dietz. “As president, I am also concerned about the people who are doing the work to make that change. It takes dedication and tenacity, in the face of questions about the pace, scope, and the University’s committed to change. Those who work for change at Illinois State put their hearts into that work and they deserve recognition as well.”
“Lasting change requires persistence, motivation, and the ability to cast a wide net of educated and informed allies,” said Houston. “And it is a push/pull between forwarding initiatives at a speed to give people relief while also ensuring adequate planning and preparation for sustainability of the work.” She pointed to several newly formed councils and committees dedicated to equity and social justice that have emerged across campus during the current academic year. “We look forward to convening campus DEI leaders next fall for a retreat to share resources, exchange ideas, and ensure that they have the tools needed to promote long-term systemic change,” she said. “We are working toward a collective vision for long-term, sustainable changes to advance equity and inclusion, and we invite all campus stakeholders to join us in these efforts.”
Reflections on the impact of student movements such as ABISU to advance social change will be published in an upcoming spring issue of the Identity newsletter.