PROVIDENCE, R.I. [Brown University] — As part of efforts to promote a fully diverse and inclusive campus, Brown University has developed a draft document outlining a concrete set of actions aimed at confronting issues of racism and discrimination that have come to the fore in experiences shared by members of the campus community.
Students, faculty and staff are actively providing feedback on the draft of Pathways to Diversity and Inclusion: An Action Plan for Brown University as part of a two-week comment period to help arrive at a final plan to be released by mid-December, which is the end of the current semester. Brown President Christina Paxson shared the draft plan in an email to the campus community on Nov. 19, accompanied by an invitation to make online suggestions and comments through Friday, Dec. 4, 2015.
Update Dec. 4, 2015
The University has extended the comment period to Friday, Jan. 8, 2016, so that students, faculty, and staff can continue to engage with the plan. Members of the campus community will continue to provide recommendations on the plan through the online feedback form, campus discussions, and other mechanisms. The final action plan, informed by a broad range of input, will be released at the beginning of the spring semester. (Read President Paxson’s letter to the community.)
“This plan is intentionally presented as a working document because the input of our students, faculty and staff is vitally important for establishing a set of achievable actions to build a better Brown,” Paxson stated. She said the plan “has been profoundly informed and substantially improved by recent campus conversations about structural racism.”
“Creating a just and inclusive campus community is key to Brown’s ambitions as a university,” Paxson said. “Legacies of structural racism and discrimination in our society and on our campus undermine our goals of being a diverse, inclusive, and academically excellent community. Although we cannot solve these problems globally, we can ensure that all members of our community are treated with dignity and respect and are provided the opportunities they need to reach their full human potential.”
The draft plan for diversity and inclusion evolved out of discussions with faculty, students, staff, and alumni. It focuses both on diversity — ensuring that faculty, students and staff represent the breadth of backgrounds and experiences critical to an intellectual community — and inclusion — ensuring that each individual will have equal standing as a member of the community. The document states, “It would be an empty victory to achieve one without the other.”
The draft plan includes more than 30 actions and initiatives organized into categories that mirror the University’s Building on Distinction strategic plan: campus community, investments in people, and academic leadership. There also is a section on accountability to establish mechanisms for assessing progress. The draft document anticipates an investment in excess of $100 million over 10 years to realize the goals of the plan, and sets forth a timeline for each of the initiatives, some of which are in progress.
The draft plan is available for download, and the online feedback form is open to individuals with University accounts.
Highlights of the draft action plan
The actions in this section of the draft plan aim to develop the knowledge base and educational programs “to create a community that works actively to counteract inequity and injustice and promotes respect and learning.”
- Provide stronger student financial and mentoring support. This includes better funding for necessary expenses beyond financial aid for students in need (health insurance, textbooks, computing, family emergencies) and hiring a new dean to work with first-generation and low-income students; access to dining and housing during breaks for students who cannot travel home; expanded resources and staff for centers that serve diverse communities (students of color, women, LGBTQ); and expanded mentoring for students of color, LGBTQ students and first-generation students.
- Create professional development and educational opportunities. This includes workshops for all community members to foster greater awareness and sensitivity on issues of race, ethnicity, sexual orientation and gender identity and expression; orientation for new faculty that includes consideration of those issues; a focus on training for the Department of Public Safety; and promotion of University research and programming about power, privilege, identity, and structural racism.
- Create a knowledge base on campus climate and inclusion. This includes a major study focusing on inclusion/exclusion inside and outside of the classroom, on experiences with harassment or discrimination, and on perceptions and attitudes toward racism, sexism, and other behaviors that disadvantage specific groups of people on campus. The would be administered by an external firm, working with a student-faculty-staff committee on the survey design. An RFP would be developed in December 2015.
Investing in people
The actions in this section of the draft plan aim to enhance the lives and work of talented individuals through efforts “to identify, recruit and retain individuals from groups that have been historically underrepresented in higher education.”
- Develop and sustain a diverse faculty with the specific goal of doubling the number of faculty from historically underrepresented groups by 2024-25. This includes plans to create a pipeline from postdoctoral researchers to faculty; adopt “cluster hiring” where possible to ensure that communities of diverse faculty are connected by common research interests; launch a diversity visiting scholars program; launch a diversity visiting scholars program; and promote the careers of staff and administrators from historically underrepresented groups, among other initiatives.
- Develop a diverse graduate student body: This includes plans to double the number of graduate students from underrepresented groups; develop research opportunities for aspiring Ph.D. students (work already underway at Brown by the Leadership Alliance); build residential summer seminars for aspiring Ph.D. students (similar to the Department of Philosophy’s Summer Immersion Program); and hire staff dedicated to recruiting diverse graduate students.
- Maintain diversity among the undergraduate student population with a focus on black, Latinx, Native American, and first-generation students. This includes plans to expand partnerships with organizations that promote high school students of color; expand A Day on College Hill, Brown’s annual session for admitted high school students; and increase financial aid for Summer at Brown, a program of campus-based college-level courses for high school students.
The actions in this section of the draft plan aim to create conducive learning environments for students of all backgrounds — and support research and teaching on issues of diversity and social justice around the globe — while “sustaining the University’s long-standing commitment to the highest standards” of scholarship.
- Enhance excellence in teaching and learning. This includes plans to establish a center for first-generation college students; expand programs to attract underrepresented groups to STEM fields; double the number of sophomore seminars on issues of power, privilege, inequality, and social justice; continue to expand Brown’s programs of support for internships and research opportunities (the BrownConnect alumni mentoring and the Undergraduate Teaching and Research Awards programs); and establish a committee on curriculum reform to examine courses intended to foster diverse perspectives.
- Expand support for research on race, ethnicity, and social justice. This includes plans to make further investments in Brown’s Center for the Study of Race and Ethnicity in America and the Center for the Study of Slavery and Justice; launch a Native American and Indigenous Peoples initiative, using resources of the Haffenreffer Museum of Anthropology and the John Carter Brown Library; and incorporate issues of race, ethnicity and identity into the interdisciplinary areas of research that are a focus of Brown’s Building on Distinction strategic plan.
Provisions for accountability
The actions in this section of the draft plan aim to ensure that the actions described in the overall plan are carried out.
- Create a public annual report, produced by the Office of Institutional Diversity and Inclusion, to mark University progress in quantitative and qualitative terms.
- Develop multiyear plans for diversity and inclusion for every academic, administrative, and student-facing department and center by the end of the current academic year.
- Expand resources for the Office of Institutional Diversity and Inclusion, including a new Ph.D.-level position to support the work of creating inclusive practices in faculty hiring, curricular development, pedagogy, mentoring and support, and community engagement.
In the plan’s introduction, the action steps are described as concrete and achievable: “We have chosen to focus attention on a relatively small number of areas that we believe will have the biggest immediate impact on our community, with the expectation that, as time goes by and we learn from experience, more actions will be added to address current and emerging needs.”