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Diversity & Inclusion Plan

Diversity & Inclusion Plan

Sept. 5, 2013

Dear Friends,

On behalf of the Diversity and Inclusion Implementation Committee, I am pleased to share with you a draft report [pdf] that outlines our recommendations to the community. As the complete report notes, the committee's charge, which came from the College's Strategic Directions [pdf] document, was to develop a "diversity, inclusivity, and engagement project that will transform the College into a model workplace and residential learning community in an increasingly complex global world." Our intention to become a more diverse and inclusive community is firmly rooted in Swarthmore's core values, which include respect for all people and their individual characteristics or perspectives, such as ethnicity or race, socioeconomic status, religious perspective, political conviction, gender, and sexual orientation.

The issues and challenges the committee sought to address are not new, but are more complex and nuanced. Our committee viewed the unrest of last spring as an opportunity to reaffirm and reinvigorate the College's commitment to cultivating a diverse and inclusive learning environment. Cultivating such an environment requires dialogue, deep listening, and, sometimes, conflict.

During the fall semester, our community will have several opportunities to discuss this draft report and to offer feedback: at a faculty meeting, an all-staff meeting, the Leadership Forum, and the Administrative Advisory Council. We will work with Student Council to host several community forums, at least one of them with the Student Senate. We will also ask each member of the president's staff as well as department chairs to host discussions with their respective departments. We aim to gather ideas and perspectives for a final report, to be presented to the community and to the Board of Managers in February. 

We are pleased that Liliana Rodriguez, our new associate dean of diversity, inclusion, and community development, joins us in this work going forward. Charged with the advancement of Swarthmore's enduring mission: to ensure that diversity, equity, and inclusion are woven into all aspects of student life, College operations, and community culture, Dean Rodriguez will work to establish the College as a recognized leader in these areas.

As our community responds to the work our committee has done so far, we want to affirm two overarching principles that we strongly believe must provide the foundation for all our efforts going forward:

  1. Every member of this community - students, faculty, and staff - plays a pivotal role in shaping Swarthmore College. Each person offers something unique, and it is only through our combined efforts that we can reach our full potential. We uphold the concept of "inclusive excellence" - establishing a community wherein everyone is able to reach the highest level of academic and personal achievement. 
  2. The issues and challenges we face in our society at large-institutionalized racism, homophobia, classism, xenophobia, sexism, and so forth - are pernicious and omnipresent. We must not fall prey to complacency or consider our community (or ourselves) immune. Rather, we must continue to challenge ourselves, and one another, to recognize that structures of inequality are persistent, and we must seek ways to deconstruct them. This requires putting in place structures of accountability and assessment to inform our ongoing work.

Many of the ideas and recommendations in our draft report are new and will require careful deliberation before action is taken. This ought not suggest, however, that the community must stand still throughout this process. We will move forward together on numerous fronts this fall, including the following:

  • The provost will ask the Committee on Faculty Procedures to appoint an ad hoc faculty committee to develop guidelines for faculty search procedures on best practices for achieving greater diversity. This committee should review and incorporate best practices from peer institutions. These guidelines should be developed in collaboration with the Equal Opportunity Office and presented to faculty for approval, ideally in spring 2014.  
  • Human Resources, in collaboration with the Administrative Advisory Council (AAC) and the Staff Advisory Council (SAC), also will appoint an ad hoc committee to develop guidelines so that staff searches employ best practices for achieving greater diversity. This committee will further be asked to review the new training programs on hiring currently offered to managers and faculty chairs. Ideally, this committee will conclude its work by this spring.
  • The associate provost for faculty development, equal opportunity director, and associate dean of diversity, inclusion, and community development will meet with all faculty departments conducting searches this year to lead a discussion of best practices related to recruiting, hiring, and retaining diverse candidates.
  • Beginning in 2013-2014, all faculty searches will use online applications that ensure mandatory collection of equal opportunity (EO) data. This data will help to ensure that search techniques are successfully reaching a diverse pool of qualified candidates in each hiring situation. (Staff searches are already using online applications and collecting EO data.)
  • The Student Affairs Division, the Provost's Office, and Human Resources will initiate and oversee a thorough "campus climate" study-beginning with focus groups-to capture the persons' attitudes, feelings and perceptions about the campus community - not just individual experiences but also the quality and extent of interactions and relationships between and among various groups and individuals across campus. We want to come to a more complete understanding of where our community stands on these issues so we have a firmer sense of where we need to go. This study will include quantitative and qualitative elements. Both the process and the findings will be shared with the community and will inform the direction of future initiatives. 
  • A committee, to be appointed this fall, will investigate a range of curricular initiatives. The Diversity and Inclusion Implementation Committee discussed several ideas for further exploration, including but not limited to: 1) A series of required courses focused on living in an intentional community. Similar to the physical education requirement, several of these courses would be required for graduation (though they would not be for academic credit.). 2) Courses such as Intergroup Dialogue that would not be mandatory but would be taken for credit. 3) The creation of a designation like the W (writing courses) for particular courses that directly link to the cultivation of a diverse and inclusive learning environment.
  • This fall the president will establish a diversity and inclusion initiative fund of $50,000 per year for three years, with a plan to evaluate and assess the fund at the end of this initial period. Faculty, staff, and students will be able to apply for funding for projects that support the cultivation of a diverse and inclusive learning environment. Preference will be given to projects that involve cross-campus collaborations and that include a plan for continuity and assessment. We will announce the process for applications and selection by early October. 
  • The president will deliver an annual report to the Board and the entire community assessing the College's progress toward the goal of building and supporting a diverse and inclusive learning environment. The first report is scheduled for May 2014 and will include updates on the implementation of the above recommendations.
  • Going forward, the president will require all senior staff members to present goals for their areas that support the cultivation of a diverse and inclusive environment and a plan to assess the implementation of those goals. This means that every area of the College will have clear goals to improve diversity and inclusivity and will be evaluated upon achieving those goals.

    We look forward to implementing these initiatives immediately. Many other recommendations are in the report; we welcome your reactions and suggestions.

    Our Committee was encouraged by the way so many people stepped forward this spring to speak to and act on the challenging issues we face in an effort to make our community stronger. We are confident that the work we have done-work that has produced numerous ideas and recommendations-will enable the College to build on this momentum.

    Please feel free to contact me or Pamela Prescod-Caesar, vice president for human resources, with any questions or observations. We look forward to your active engagement and participation over the next several months.


    Liz Braun

    Dean of Students