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Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

Task Force Charge

SUNY New Paltz
Diversity & Inclusion Plan Development – Task Force Charge
May 4, 2016

Background and Timeline. The SUNY Board of Trustees passed a resolution in September 2015 that requires each campus to develop and begin implementing a diversity and inclusion plan, among other steps. This resolution was based on a report developed last year by a SUNY Diversity Task Force. Many of the goals and recommendations of the report and the resolution align closely with SUNY New Paltz initiatives and priorities underway, including increasing our focus on education in cultural competency and enhancing strategies for faculty recruitment.

The Board of Trustees at its March 24, 2016 meeting extended the deadline for submitting plans for review by SUNY Administration to November 1, 2016, from the earlier September 1 date.  The Trustees recognized that consultation with faculty is essential to the process of developing a strong plan but challenging to achieve during summer. My charge to the Task Force includes developing a framework and draft plan by the start of the fall semester, which will likely entail meetings among members who are on campus during summer as well as sharing information and documents by email. I expect the Task Force to engage the campus community in discussion about the plan early in the semester, and provide me with a draft plan and recommendations by October 15, 2016. This will allow me and other campus leaders to review the draft and discuss possible revisions with you before I approve the plan and submit it to Chancellor Nancy Zimpher by the November 1, 2016 deadline.  Campus plans will be reviewed by SUNY before they are finally approved.

Basic Approach and Cautions:  One of my goals in populating this task force has been to assemble expertise and capability in the complex intellectual grounding of this work, in strategic thinking, in strong teamwork and demonstrated community commitment, and experience to deal with legal, human resources, and related elements of diversity, inclusion, and equity. No one individual or targeted group can possess the knowledge, insight, and capability to develop and implement such a plan, and it will be essential that you hear each other’s input and ideas. You represent diverse interests, backgrounds, orientations, values, experiences, and parts of the university. But each individual’s contribution to this work must extend beyond “representation” of a particular dimension of diversity or intersectionality. The success and inclusion of all members of our community must be at the core of the plan and our planning.

It will be important that your experience and expertise be brought to bear on developing a plan that is right for our university, at this time in our history, and at our particular stage in the trajectory of becoming the diverse and equitable institution we aim to be. Our plan must reach people at New Paltz where we are now, not where we want to be 5 or 10 or 20 years from now.  That includes being thoughtful and balanced in how state-of-the-art scholarship and theory on race, gender, sexual orientation, disability status, and other elements of diversity are brought to bear on our plan as a real-world document guiding our continued improvement in the here and now. Finally, our plan must be consistent with campus and SUNY system policies, as well as state and federal law.

 

The Diversity and Inclusion Plan.  The SUNY Campus Guide for Strategic Diversity & Inclusion Plan Development (March 2016) provides a clear framework for our campus plan and a roadmap for your work. SUNY expectations are that campus plans will build on existing efforts and include the following:

  • Campus commitments for diversity and inclusion;
  • Campus principles guiding the development and implementation of the diversity and inclusion plan;
  • A student recruitment strategy that includes programs and activities that will enable the campus to enroll a student population that is increasingly representative of the diversity of its primary service region and the State as a whole;
  • A student retention and completion strategy wherein the campus strives to increase the rate of completion for all students and close any gaps in the completion rates of students from any group when compared with the average campus completion rate and which addresses the challenges of students in transition (such as transfer, stop-out, international student acclimation);
  • An administrative, faculty and staff recruitment and retention strategy that continuously improves campus efforts to increase diversity and inclusion;
  • Implementation of best-practice mentoring plans and strategies tailored to the needs of diverse campus groups of faculty and staff;
  • With support from System Administration, the introduction or expansion of cultural competency programming as a central aspect of the orientation program for new employees and as a regular program for all continuing employees; and
  • An evaluation component.

These elements are well aligned with written expectations for strong strategic diversity plans, such as excerpts from Are the Walls Really Down?: Behavioral and Organizational Barriers to Faculty and Staff Diversity. These will be posted on our Diversity website, along with the SUNY Guidelines and the AAC&U document Committing to Equity and Inclusive Excellence. These provide a detailed and thoughtful framework for both the structure of a diversity and inclusion plan and the process for developing such a plan. This guidance will be extremely valuable for the task force, campus leadership, and the campus community as we undertake this charge and the implementation of a plan that builds on our many successful efforts to date.  The work of the task force will inevitably develop a richer bibliography that will be posted on the Diversity website.

My charge to you includes recommending the composition, selection of members, and responsibilities of an ongoing diversity and inclusion committee that will guide and support implementation of the plan after this initial task force “sunsets” at the end of the 2016-17 academic year. Examples of the tasks of this ongoing committee – or perhaps subcommittees - might include: collect, share, and model best practices; be “ears on the ground” to issues that we must address, including what’s happening in our classrooms; with training, help to implement best practices; perhaps serve as trained, outside members of search committees; share in or aid communication needs and responses to campus incidents, serving as a “bias response team”; help interpret findings of campus climate surveys.  I ask that your recommendation clearly articulate the relationship between this committee, the Chief Diversity Officer, and other campus leaders and offices.