Diversity Update

Wednesday, December 9th, 2015

Dear UNI Family,

The conversations the UNI community has been having over the past couple of weeks regarding discrimination, diversity and inclusion have been eye opening and powerful. University administration, along with faculty and staff, is committed to engaging in improving the campus climate and the systems and structures we have in place in order to create a culture of care, which is central to long-term change. We want to again thank our student leaders for their time, passion and courage.

As was promised in our last message to campus, we would like to share with you an update on our progress for addressing concerns that have been raised.

First, we have re-engaged the Diversity and Inclusion Council and the Diversity Advisory Committee. Both groups have been re-energized by the voices of the students and recommitted to this important work. We will be adding more students to the Diversity Advisory Committee to make certain that their voices are elevated and become prominent as we move forward.

Second, the Diversity Advisory Committee is taking on two important tasks. They will be drafting a university statement about the value of diversity on our campus. This value statement will guide much of our work going forward on all levels and in all departments across campus. Additionally, they will be organizing a spring Town Hall Forum that will engage our community in forward thinking ways, including creating momentum for this work on our campus; that is, the forum will not be the end of an activity, but the beginning of a movement.

Third, we will be launching a national search for a chief diversity officer. Robert Smith, executive director of the University of Northern Iowa Center for Urban Education, will chair this search. We are currently considering who will be on the search committee; if you have suggestions, please let us know.

Fourth, we are pleased to announce that we have created leadership roles for the Center for Multicultural Education. Jon Cox has accepted the position of interim program manager for the spring 2016 semester and Jackie Rangel, currently the program assistant, will be elevated to the position of interim program coordinator.

Fifth, we have invited the architectural firm of Neumann Monson from Iowa City to help us explore options for reconfiguring the CME space.  Two architects from the firm will be on campus from 10 a.m. to noon, Thursday, December 10, in the CME to meet with interested students, faculty and staff. Please attend if you are able and extend this invitation to others who you think might be interested. If you are not able to attend the entire time, please stop in as you can.

Finally, we have also begun to draft a Diversity and Inclusion Action Plan based on the feedback and comments at the student forum. We have developed draft guiding principles for this plan, which we are happy to share with you now

Diversity and Inclusion Guiding Principles

  • Data and Information. We will share data and information openly and consistently and convene groups to analyze, discuss and understand this information so that we can know where we have been and where we are and so that we can chart a pathway forward.

  • Conversation and Dialogue. We will foster honest and challenging conversations that engage conflict and tension on our campus and in the Cedar Valley in constructive and productive ways; this will include sharing our stories with integrity, listening deeply and actively, and seeking ways to learn from our differences.

  • Mind and Heart. We will engage not just our minds (which lead to critical insights, rational analysis and deep understanding) but also our hearts (which lead to emotional insights, empathy and deep connection).

  • Accountability and Transparency. We will hold each other individually and communally accountable for improving diversity on our campus and for the creation of an inclusive campus culture. We will provide ongoing status reports of our efforts.

If you have feedback regarding these guiding principles, please let us know. We have also developed some general goals for the plan, which will be fleshed out with specific objectives and actions, with timeline and individuals accountable. The general goals include:

  1. The university will gather and share relevant data and information on diversity and inclusion with the purposes of understanding our history and our trajectory and setting goals for improvement.

  2. UNI will hire and support key positions that will foster diversity and inclusion across campus.

  3. UNI will investigate diversity training in order to deepen our practice of celebrating difference and reducing discrimination and racism; this work will necessitate engaging both our minds to develop understanding and our hearts to foster empathy.

  4. The university will critically investigate and improve the structures and systems intended to support diversity and inclusion in order to open pathways to surface discrimination and to engage in seeking communal solutions.

  5. UNI will hold regular and ongoing forums to build on the Discrimination, Diversity and Inclusion Forum of November 2015 in order to maintain momentum for this important work.

UNI is committed to championing diversity as a core value of our university community. We appreciate the way in which the challenges that we face at the University of Northern Iowa have become opportunities and possibilities; in many respects, this could be a watershed moment for us as we work together to elevate mutual respect, active and engaged listening, and deep care.

Thank you for your willingness to come together as a community and redouble our efforts to make our campus a welcoming and inclusive environment. If you have questions, comments or suggestions, please let us know.

Purple for Life!                Awe & Wonder!

Bill Ruud                         Jim Wohlpart
President                        Provost