In my December newsletter to you, I wrote, “I believe in Brockport’s capacity to thrive even in uncertain environments.” I am unwavering in this belief, and I hope that you are, too. We are in an important moment in our College’s history, and how we react to this moment will solidify our progress if we choose to react wisely and proactively.
Over the last month, I have used my father’s sage advice to me: “You have two ears and one mouth for a reason.” I have listened hard, and I am not alone in this: all of cabinet is listening, too, and listening extends even further. I met with the Chair’s Council and with the new faculty on the same day. I’ve met with the Department of African and African-American Studies, and with the President’s Council on Diversity and Inclusion. I met with new staff members at the NEST training. I’ve held six open office hours, with more planned. In all of these opportunities to listen and talk, I heard from people who want to be proactive and address issues of equity, diversity and inclusion in meaningful, impactful ways. I’ve heard from you, and I appreciate this. I know what you know: that we can only achieve progress on our goals if we work together and truly commit to making a difference. And progress is being made—not always as swiftly as we would ideally like, perhaps, but made nonetheless.
In what follows, I will address both the immediate progress on the action points that we committed to last week.
Action 1: External Support
In partnership with SUNY, Dr. Rodmon King, Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer at SUNY Oswego, will be joining our campus for the rest of the semester and will serve on the Cabinet to help the college rethink the structure and strategic plan for the Office of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (OEDI). Dr. King will play an integral role in helping provide guidance, direction and support for the College. Dr. King will join us starting the week of March 2 through the end of the semester. He will be on campus 3 days a week, specifically to advise me, Dr. Acker and the rest of cabinet. His office will be on the 6th floor of the Allen Building.
I look forward to introducing him to campus as the date draws near.
Action 2: Revamping bias reporting mechanism
Cabinet and I acknowledge that the change in the bias reporting mechanism website launched last month was confusing to many. What we thought were improvements turned out not to be as successful as we had hoped.
Proceeding the wrong way down a one-way street is never wise; and collective wisdom is what will help us, as a College, Build a Better Brockport. It is for this reason that the prior system has been reinstated, while we take additional time to ensure that this very important process is reviewed and reconsidered. It is critically important that we improve the process and be transparent in doing so.
Dr. King and Dr. Acker will conduct a full review to ensure that we have the best process possible. We continue to seek input and advice from students, faculty, and staff to ensure that all concerns are heard and valued on campus.
If you have a concern and wish to report it, please go to the Issues Reporting Center and click on “Report an Incident” under the Bias Related Incident Reporting System. This information has also been shared with our students.
Action 3: Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Training for Campus Leadership
Cabinet approved a Training and Development position last week, with connections to all areas of training on campus, including the OEDI and the President’s Council on Diversity and Inclusion. OEDI and HR will work together on a comprehensive plan for both online and face-to-face training for all campus administrators. External training on implicit bias is currently being contracted, and details will be available soon as the procurement process is complete. All college leaders will take part in the training.
Action 4: Demographic review
Annually, the campus produces an Affirmative Action Plan that set “placement goals” (not quotas) for departments that are not as diverse in terms of ethnicity and/or gender as they might be, given demographic data. Two departments have placement goals at present: Psychology and Social Work. We also have placement goals for non-tenure-track faculty, and UUP professionals or Management Confidential employees at SL-3 and SL-4 levels. Finally, we have a placement goal in relation to entry level service maintenance jobs. Placement goals refer to plans to expand the diversity of our employment base to match the available workforce. The analysis is done by an external company.
We have a total of 87 departments on campus, with around 1400 employees. According to our latest records, two academic departments on campus have no racial or ethnic diversity, and one additional academic affairs department lacks racial or ethnic diversity. Three EMSA departments lack racial or ethnic diversity in their full-time teams. Six non-student facing Administration and Finance Departments lack racial or ethnic diversity.
For some months, a Diversity and Recruitment Plan has been in draft form, and we urgently need to finalize that plan, focusing specifically on how we can assist departments and offices that have little or no racial/ethnic diversity to become more inclusive.
In addition, Provost Heyning is working on a plan for recruitment and retention of faculty and staff, including a review of hiring data across Academic Affairs. At cabinet’s request, the Provost will provide a full review of faculty and staff retention programming and develop new plans to ensure all faculty and staff have the support they need to be successful.
In addition, we plan to make our faculty and staff retention data by gender and race/ethnicity more visible on our HR website. Once that web link is established, I will update you further.
Action 5: Additional community conversations
In addition to the Community Conversation scheduled for February 27 from 3:15-5:00 in the Seymour Union Ballroom, we have also scheduled a Community Conversation for March 5, from 5:00-6:30 in Seymour 119, with a focus on efforts we already have and will continue to make to focus on student recruitment and retention.
Because in addition to collective responsibility, I have a personal responsibility to ensure that we meet the goals of our EDI strategic plan and these action points above, I have committed to additional office hours, town halls, small group meetings and other opportunities to build relationships across campus. These will continue to be announced through The Daily Eagle.
My next letter to campus will focus on the four goals of our EDI strategic Plan, and progress we have made towards these goals. As a reminder, these goals are as follows:
- Goal 1: Achieve a balance of representation in faculty and staff in line with student population, and national, state, and regional demographics; and maintain a commitment to retention and promotion of minority and underrepresented faculty and staff.
- Goal 2: Achieve a balance of representation in student body population in line with state demographics; and maintain a commitment to retention, completion, and academic success of minority and underrepresented students.
- Goal 3: Ensure that curriculum, programming, and/or trainings educate all incoming students, faculty, and staff and are available to current students, faculty, and staff in issues of social equity and the ability to speak to each other across differences as part of the College’s commitment to inclusive community, diverse engagement, academic excellence, and self-transformation.
- Goal 4: Continue to build and maintain an inclusive and positive campus climate for every member in which to foster internal and external community building on the campus, local, regional, and international levels in which diversity is valued and inclusion and equity are shared.
Finally, my regular monthly newsletters contain important information regarding faculty and staff successes, and I want to be sure to include them here as well because so much good work continues to be done on campus and by all of you.
Our CSTEP program, led so ably by Barbara Thompson, has been awarded another 5-year grant totaling $780,000. This means that 78 students per year will be supported by the program, which has an almost 35 year history at our college. Please join me in congratulating Barbara and her team, including Helen Cheves and Algernon Kelley, for the extraordinary work that they do.
In other good news, our Master’s in Social Work (MSW) program has recently been granted initial accreditation for four years by the Commission on Accreditation (COA). You may recall that our program separated from Nazareth College last year. Congratulations to the department for their hard work in developing the independent program and achieving this important milestone.
The College’s Institute on Movement Studies for Individuals with Visual Impairments won The Corrine Kirchner National Research award from the American Foundation for the Blind. Drs. Pam Beach, Melanie Perreault, and Lauren Lieberman will represent SUNY Brockport and receive this award at the national conference in March in Washington, DC.
Finally, the EMSA division has just been awarded a 2019-2020 NASPA Excellence Award. The College’s program, Creating a Culture of Evidence: The EMSA Assessment Team, was selected as the Gold Award Winner in the Assessment Persistence Data Analytics and Related Programs category. Congratulations are due to Dr. Sara Kelly and the whole team for the work they undertook to achieve this honor.
I want to close by thanking you all for your ongoing commitment to Building a Better Brockport.