To the Clark Community:
Following is a quarterly highlight of our efforts related to diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI).
University Diversity Action Council
A newly invigorated university-wide steering group began its work last month. The University Diversity Action Council (UDAC), co-chaired by me and Associate Provost and Dean of the Faculty Esther Jones, includes student, faculty and staff representatives and is the university’s collaborative hub for generating ideas, assessing progress, and providing recommendations on matters related to DEI. Council members are appointed by virtue of the role they play in the community which allow them to lead and influence our DEI work. UDAC will play a prominent role in helping us create a welcoming and inclusive campus environment and a culture of belonging across race, ethnicity, place of origin, gender identity/expression, sexual orientation, religion, political affiliation, age, and ability. Importantly, UDAC will coordinate with other entities with responsibility for overseeing and/or advancing our DEI efforts, including the Office of Diversity and Inclusion and relevant faculty, staff and student committees.
In our first two meetings, we have focused on financial support for DEI initiatives, refining the University’s equal employment opportunity statement, and updating and raising awareness about our bias incident response protocol. We also are working together to complete a comprehensive inventory of all of the University committees, staff and other human resources with specific responsibility for DEI work. Making each of us more aware of what others are doing in this space will help to identify gaps, increase efficiency, and improve collaboration.
My sincere thanks to all who agreed to serve on UDAC. I am looking forward to working together to deepen the impact of our DEI efforts.
An overriding goal of our DEI efforts is to create a campus climate that is welcoming and inclusive for all. In that context, last July, I and the rest of the University leadership committed to you that we would reassess the way in which Clark approaches campus safety and security. The appointment of Chief of Police Lauren Misale, who brings to the Clark University Police Department strong leadership and innovative ideas, was a first important step. Last month, I announced the formation of a Task Force on Campus Safety and Security that is charged with reviewing our current policing practices, exploring alternative policing models and learning from best practice, and engaging the University in the development of recommendations. The Task Force has already met and is on track for submitting a report to me by June 1. On February 16, the Task Force began a series of large and small group conversations to gain input and learn through the experience of members of our community. These sessions, which are being facilitated by an expert in enabling constructive dialogue, will be critical to the work of the Task Force.
Even as the Task Force completes its assessment, Chief Misale already is working to address concerns about the overall relationship between the department and all whom it serves. She has completed department-wide anti-bias training and, in conjunction with the work of the Task Force, is building a differential response staffing model which would provide civilian support for campus care, community service, and wellness.
I am proud and pleased to share that we have added to our undergraduate admissions team Clark University’s inaugural Director of Access and Transition, Miguel Santiago. In this new role, Miguel will work with incoming BIPOC and first generation students to help them successfully navigate the admissions process and begin their Clark journey. He also will focus intently on recruiting under represented students and deepening the diversity of our student body. Taken altogether, Miguel will establish a strong bridge between admissions, financial aid, and the Clark student experience providing new and essential support for our BIPOC students, especially.
Miguel brings to this new role extensive experience in college access and admissions, retention research and student success initiatives. He is the former president of the Northeastern Consortium Bridging Access to College. Miguel will begin his work at Clark on July 1.
DEI and Strategic Planning
DEI is central and cross-cutting to our strategic planning process, and is a critical consideration as we frame our future as a University. There are five areas of focus that are fueling development of our strategic framework:
- Academic programs and research, which involves fostering academic excellence by building on traditional strengths and innovating new ones.
- Culture and identity, which involves ensuring we live up to our values as an inclusive and equitable institution and nurturing a new, emboldened culture of possibility.
- Campus environment, which involves enhancing our physical plant to inspire and enable the best work of faculty, students, and staff.
- Outward engagement, which involves deepening ties and impact — from right here in our Main South community to around the world — and amplifying our voice.
- Institutional capacity, which involves recruiting, retaining, and cultivating talent, and deepening resources to catalyze momentum.
Diversity, equity, and inclusion underpins all of these areas of opportunity so this has been the focus of three of our first four strategic planning engagements. These mingle sessions that occurred over the winter break provided faculty and staff an opportunity to reflect on our current campus climate and begin to envision the Clark of the future. Hundreds of members of the community participated. The output will provide critical grounding for the visioning phase of our strategic planning process. With the spring semester in full gear, we will be inviting students to engage, as well.
New DEI initiatives website
To better present and bring more transparency to our DEI work, we have launched a DEI Initiatives website. You will notice a few key changes from our previous site:
- We have broadened the focus to include all initiatives across the University, categorized more simply into five areas (academics, campus climate and safety, community, data and assessment, and policies, practices and procedures). This structure will better accommodate the incorporation of a university-wide DEI strategic plan that will be developed by our next Chief Officer of Diversity and Inclusion.
- We have included prominent status notifications so you can more easily track our progress on specific initiatives.
- We have incorporated several ways to find and follow commitments that have been made and our efforts to fulfill them: by initiative area, by action item, and by latest update.
We want this to be a valuable resource for the entire community and are going to continually enhance the site. We welcome your feedback and ideas.
In November, Israela Brill-Cass began her engagement as the University’s first-ever ombudsperson. As ombuds, Israela provides third-party, confidential support for faculty and staff in managing difficult workplace challenges, setting and pursuing goals for a healthier work environment, and resolving conflicts. She already has completed 39 contacts and the feedback thus far is that the addition of an ombudsperson is making a constructive, positive difference. I encourage members of our faculty and staff to reach out to Israela if they believe she can be helpful.
Again, this is just a highlight of DEI activity over the past few months. There are many areas worthy of mention, noted on the DEI initiatives website. I will close with a reaffirmation of our resolve to bring about demonstrable, sustainable change and become the fully inclusive, just, and equitable community we aspire to be.
David B. Fithian ‘87