In conjunction with Seattle University’s commitment and mission to diversity and inclusion, the Task Force on Diversity and Inclusive Excellence has made their final report available to students, faculty and staff.
Formed two and a half years ago, the Task Force has been diligently investigating factors that might hinder our university in being a more diverse and inclusive environment for all. Associate Vice President for Student Development Alvin Sturdivant and associate professor of law Natasha Martin both serve as co-chairs for the Task Force.
“It’s tiring work, but what movement isn’t,” Sturdivant said. “Some might call it a burden. I don’t. It’s a responsibility.”
The 62-page comprehensive document details the framework in which the Task Force operated and provides a summary of the six main goals and their subsequent initiatives that have been identified moving forward in helping the university achieve its core values.
All interconnected, the goals revolve around the organizational infrastructure of Seattle University, ‘meeting the challenges and opportunities of recruiting and graduating a diverse student body’ as well as ‘recruiting and retaining talented faculty and staff.’ This is all taken in the context of recognizing the university’s ‘capacity for social change in the local community.’
“I’m really excited to see what [the school] has in store for us once we actively start working to achieve these goals,” said sophomore Jessica Martinez. “SU is great, but I would love to feel like I belong a little more.”
The Task Force was not originally intended as an implementation resource for these identified goals, but instead provides recommendations and suggestions in the process of carrying out these goals.
“The Task Force report really serves as a roadmap on how to move forward toward this aspiration of inclusivity,” Sturdivant said.
A number of factors were taken into account as part of the final report. One of the key components that contributed to their work was the campus climate survey that was administered during the winter of the 2014-2015 academic year.
Input given by the campus community was crucial in providing data to help understand what had previously only been said anecdotally through various interviews and conversations across and outside of campus.
Prior to the release of the survey’s results, significant foundational work had already been done by the Task Force, that of which included meeting with the surrounding neighborhood councils and digging into currently existing data sets involving financial aid strategy and allocation, admissions strategy, selection and hiring practices and the like.
Co-chairs Martin and Sturdivant as well as assistant vice president for student development Monica Nixon met with the academic assembly this past Monday, Feb. 1 to review the report and answer any questions about its various elements. On Feb. 9 they will be meeting with the senior cabinet to clarify the report and conduct an in-depth discussion of the findings.
Because of the importance of an inclusive campus climate, there is an underlying expectation within the community that these goals need to be accomplished right away. However this complex, institutional and communal issue is challenging. Sturdivant argues that, to some degree, this calls on our partners across campus to disrupt some of the systems in place.
Executive vice president Timothy Leary acknowledges that we have a long way to go with our curricular and co-curricular offerings on campus, but expresses that himself, President Fr. Stephen Sundborg, S.J. and Provost Isiaah Crawford have high hopes that the report has thoroughly outlined what the campus has been doing well and where we most need improvement.
“The important part is the sense that there is a campus environment, climate and culture where people can come together to have this kind of dialogues marked with a sense of trust and honesty,” Leary said . “We have to create that.”
Whether that means recruiting a chief diversity officer or a diversity council, the senior cabinet is highly invested in doing whatever it takes to gather the resources necessary to implement and integrate this inclusive excellence throughout the campus.
The new University Leadership Council, consisting of 60 members of the faculty, staff and administration appointed by the president, will be coming together for the first time in March with their top initiative being a discussion of the report. The upcoming annual budget review will also need to be taken into account.
As for now, the Task Force will be focusing on continued conversation about the findings in the released final report.
“My view is someone opened a door for me that I could walk through,” Sturdivant said. “It’s my responsibility to now open doors for others to be able to come through knowing that not everyone even acknowledges it as a responsibility.”
Vikki may be reached at [email protected]