By Mattew Gulick
Liberal Arts schools like Puget Sound place high value on diversity and the connections a diverse campus fosters for faculty and students. On Feb. 14, Chief Diversity Officerand Dean of Diversity and Inclusion Michael Benitez sent out a campus wide update on the Diversity Strategic Plan (DSP). This annual update for 2016 reported on the progress of the “Threshold 2022: Cultivating a Culture of Inclusive Excellence,” DSP.
According to the document, “the plan is designed to implement new strategies over time that move [the University] closer to our vision of being a fully welcoming and inclusive campus community, and to respond to emerging concerns.” While this overarching purpose may sound undefined and vague, the plan lays out several concrete actions deemed to make the campus more diverse. Some of these actions are better defined than others.
The DSP conceptualizes diversity as “a matter of equity and inclusion” seeking to remedy historical practices, cultural representations and institutional policies that would deny individuals full participation in higher education.
Diversity in the DSP can include characteristics such as an individual’s sex, race, ethnicity, gender identity and expression, socioeconomic class, disability, sexual identity, physical appearance and even political beliefs. The planpays attention to such University practices as curriculum, admissions, hiring practices, budgeting and “any other day-to-day business decisions made within the institution.” Puget Sound first implemented a diversity plan in 2006.
Then in Sept. 2008 the University created the Diversity Action Council (DAC), a permanent, college-wide institutional group “charged with examining diversity, inclusion, and equity issues on campus with respect to policy and practice from multiple perspectives.” Essentially, DAC is a group of faculty and staff created to understand campus diversity in all its forms. In practice, DAC develops and implements the Diversity Strategic Plan, working alongside other groups like the President’s Cabinet leadership and Institutional Research though the Campus Climate Survey. There are 20 people on DAC including one student representative — current ASUPS president Noah Lumbantobing. Dean Benitez chairs the Council.
The DSP consists of four goals: Recruitment and Retention, Campus Climate Cultivation, Community Connections and Engagement and Alumni Outreach and Connections. Each goal has several explicit objectives and lists strategies and their outcomes.
What follows is a brief synopsis of the plan, highlighting objectives and representative strategies for increased diversity:
“Goal One: Recruitment and Retention,” broadly defined as the structural diversity of the campus community, prioritizes the recruitment of students, staff, faculty and trustees from underrepresented and minoritized groups. The bullet point list of 21 strategies in the document includes local, national and international levels of diversity. One example of the local level is to “meet full demonstrated financial need of eligible Tacoma Public Schools (TPS) graduates.” According to the DSP the number of TPS undergraduates has tripled to 23 since 2014.
In the international vein, Puget Sound created an online university virtual tour in fall 2016, available in Spanish and Mandarin.
Categorized under “Other Recruitment Efforts,” another strategy is to “continue work to hire at least 50 percent tenure- line faculty members of color, or from underrepresented populations, in annual search processes.”
“Goal Two: Campus Climate Cultivation” focuses broadly on the structures of the University and the subsequent culture such a system creates. This goal is less straightforward than goal one. Here the (paraphrased) objectives include creating a sense of belonging, enhancing intercultural development, readdressing policy and protocol, developing diversity scholarship and co-curricular programming.
One example strategy is fully implementing the new Knowledge, Identity and Power (KNOW) requirement. By way of update the DSP notes that 41 courses have been approved to f lfill the requirement, and that 1,172 students have completed the requirement since implementation. Another strategy is including all-gender bathrooms and changing areas in all future construction projects.
“Goal Three: Community Connections and Engagement” concerns the University’s relationship with the broader Tacoma community. Objectives include raising awareness of the diverse communities around Puget Sound, increasing civic engagement and scholarship opportunities with those communities and enhancing relationships with their leaders. In addition, the University seeks to create a “desegregated and truly representative campus community.”Here strategies include Slater Museum of Natural History outreach initiatives and encouraging proactive efforts by Athletics staff to recruit Tacoma Public School student- athletes.
Lastly, “Goal Four: Alumni Outreach and Connections” addresses what Puget Sound graduates do to increase campus diversity. These objectives deal with minoritized alumni groups and the connections they form with prospective and current students. One interesting objective seeks to “foster a culture of radical hospitality and engagement for prospective students, current students, and alumni.” Radical hospitality goes undefined in the plan, demonstrating that some objectives remain more vague than others.
Goal Four receives only one page of the document and contains fewer strategies. One example is to make more of an effort to form alumni groups from systematically nondominant and minoritized groups.
Additional information found at pugetsound.edu/diversity. For a full copy of the report go to pugetsound.edu/files/reso urces/2016diversityannualreport.pdf.