On September 28, members of the University of Redlands community gathered virtually for a Diversity Town Hall hosted by Senior Diversity and Inclusion Officer Christopher Jones. The event launched the formal process of developing a University-wide diversity strategic plan, while giving voice to ongoing diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) efforts across the University.
President Ralph W. Kuncl presented opening remarks: “Recent national events surely have impressed upon you, certainly upon me and the rest of University leadership, just how urgent it is to continue to work toward a blueprint for diversity, equity, and inclusion on campus,” he said. “And that is why we're here today—to harness the purpose and power of our community.”
Voices from across the community
Following Kuncl at the virtual podium was a host of speakers—including representatives from the President’s Cabinet, Campus Diversity and Inclusion/Native Student Programs, University-wide Council on Inclusiveness and Community (UCIC), Office of International Students and Scholars, Academic Success and Disability Services, Human Resources, Office of Equity and Title IX, and Black Student, Faculty, Staff, and Administrator Association (BSFSAA). They shared ongoing measures to improve DEI in their areas and groups.
One of the speakers was Erica Moorer, director of equity and Title IX coordinator. “I am incredibly proud to say that over the summer, we have expanded [the Title IX] policy to include how to report matters of equity,” she said. “I am deeply committed to working with every single one of you. If you're out there and you have an idea about … what we should be doing, I want to work with you. [We’re] working with restorative justice, our annual training with athletics, faculty departments who have asked me to come in every year at their departmental retreats… Policy is only one way that we create the environment that we want to be in... The other ways we do this are … to have dialogue with each other, to connect with each other, and to share different values and beliefs with each other.”
Joy Clark, assistant to the vice president for finance/CFO, and Professor Nicol Howard, also offered remarks about the recent founding of the BSFSAA to promote and enhance visibility and inclusivity for the Black community at the University of Redlands. “I’ve heard a lot today about initiative,” said Clark, “and that is how the BSFSAA was founded.”
In addition to Jones, Kuncl, Moorer, Clark, and Howard, speakers included: Kevin Dyerly, vice president for finance/CFO; Donna Eddleman, University dean of student affairs, (read Eddleman's remarks); Jeremy Hammond, director of human resources; Tamara Josserand, vice president for advancement (read Josserand’s remarks); Kathy Ogren, provost and executive director of the Marin campus (read Ogren's remarks); Michelle Rogers, vice president for administration (read Rogers’ remarks); Keith Osajima, professor and chair of UCIC; Elizabeth Shulterbrandt, assistant director of Native Student Programs; Monique Stennis, interim director of diversity initiatives; Amy Wilms, assistant dean for academic success and disability services; and Steve Wuhs, assistant provost for internationalization (read Wuhs's remarks).
The nuts and bolts of building a strategic plan
Jones then bridged to the second part of the program, which focused on the goals and steps to establish a formal diversity strategic plan for the University.
“As I began in February, I started a listening tour on campus,” he said. “Because of our transition to online operations, I didn’t get to start the tour exactly as I had intended. Nonetheless, I was able to learn some important things to inform our strategic planning process leading up to today. With that feedback, there were some specific things that came out of discussions from groups, which included faculty, staff, and students.”
That feedback informed the three broad goals Jones articulated for the diversity strategic plan:
- Improving the campus climate in relation to inclusion
- Increasing retention and recruitment of underrepresented students, faculty members, and staff
- Leveraging University resources to advance diversity and inclusion
“The goals are broad intentionally, to allow room for a range of action steps to achieve them,” noted Jones, who also said the plan will institutionalize DEI efforts so community members can count on them even though specific individuals may come and go.
Three subcommittees, one for each goal, have been created and are currently recruiting U of R participants. Any member of the faculty, student body, staff, or administration who would like to participate is encouraged to fill out the online form indicating interest; individuals can also reach out to the subcommittee chairs—Director of Native Student Programs Nora Pulskamp (campus climate), Professor Jose Lalas (retention and recruitment), and Director of Enrollment for Education Dalyn Montgomery (leveraging resources).
Each group will meet twice, virtually, before Thanksgiving break and will be able to incorporate data gathered from the upcoming campus climate survey once information is published. Reports and a public meeting are anticipated in the first quarter of next year to update the University community on the process. The goal is to release a diversity strategic plan in the third quarter of 2021.
Jones urged the audience to be innovative in their thinking about the strategic plan. “Ask probing questions and answer them with research,” he said. “Engage with each other with a spirit of collaboration and cooperation; challenge old models and experiment with new ideas, and be courageous.”
If you have a Redlands.edu email address, sign in to watch a video of the town hall.