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Diversity and Inclusion Strengthened at Syracuse University During Past Year, Important Work Continues
Last week, new and returning students arrived on campus to kick off the 2017-18 academic year. As they settle in, they, along with the entire campus community, will notice expanded and new initiatives aimed at enhancing diversity and inclusion campuswide.
The accomplishments were largely driven by the recommendations of the Chancellor’s Workgroup on Diversity and Inclusion (CWDI) and implemented under the direction of members of the Chancellor’s Executive Team.
“Our students, faculty, staff and alumni are deeply invested in ensuring every member of our community feels welcome, supported and empowered,” says Chancellor Syverud. “Our commitment to diversity and inclusion is engrained in our values, our vision and our mission. Every day, I am inspired on this campus by the talent, hard work and decency I see manifested by our faculty, students, staff and alumni.”
The Chancellor’s Workgroup on Diversity and Inclusion, which was created in the fall of 2015, issued 18 short-term recommendations in the spring of 2016. The recommendations were grouped in three categories—institutional commitment; faculty, staff and student education; and full access—to address the wide range of progress needed to be made.
“The work of achieving a truly diverse and inclusive community remains an evolving process on our campus,” says Barry L. Wells, special assistant to the Chancellor and former CWDI co-chair. “Our near-term goal is to implement as many of the Work Group’s recommendations as possible. Our long-term objective is to create an inclusive, accessible and more respectful campus community, which values individual and group differences and where our community of students, faculty and staff reflects the human diversity of this country and our world.”
Progress made this past year on the CWDI’s short-term recommendations includes the following:
- The Universitywide Council on Diversity and Inclusion was created and its members were appointed by Chancellor Syverud last fall. The council is the Chancellor’s primary advisory committee on diversity and inclusion and serves as a resource for academic and non-academic units. The council is co-chaired by Diane R. Wiener, director of the Disability Cultural Center, and Barry L. Wells, special assistant to the Chancellor.
- A central University fund was created to assist sponsoring schools, colleges, responsibility centers and administrative support units to pay for faculty or staff accommodations deemed reasonable or necessary under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
- Improvements were made to enhance accessibility and inclusion on campus, including new uniform signage to identify all-gender, accessible and single-occupancy restrooms across campus and implementation of a comprehensive accessibility audit of all 9 million square feet of University spaces. More information on recent accessibility and inclusion improvements can be found here.
- The University provided training to faculty and staff responsible for receiving and responding to requests for academic adjustments and/or aids made by students with disabilities. The sessions were co-sponsored by the Office of Disability Services, the Office of the Provost and the Beyond Compliance Coordinating Committee.
- An institutional commitment was made to acknowledge at major events that Syracuse University sits on the ancestral lands of Onondaga Nation and the Haudenosaunee flag is also now flown beside the American flag on campus.
- In 2016, Syracuse University celebrated its first Indigenous Peoples’ Day to recognize and honor the history, cultures and contributions of indigenous peoples and to raise awareness and generate dialogue across the campus community.
- The Advancing Diversity and Inclusion website (syr.edu) was established to serve as an online inventory of diversity and inclusion programs and activities across the Syracuse University campus. News and announcements about diversity-related events and developments can be found in the News & Headlines section.
- The Office of the Provost has announced revisions to the form that faculty use to update their curriculum vitae annually. The changes were made in order to better reflect faculty contributions to equity, diversity, inclusion, international knowledge and global perspective.
- The La Casita Cultural Center in downtown Syracuse has become a recognized stop on the Connective Corridor. The Division of Enrollment and the Student Experience, the Mary Ann Shaw Center for Public and Community Service, Parking and Transit Services, and the Department of Public Safety are working together to determine other sites in the community that would benefit from the transportation services.
- Inclusive food options, such as Kosher, Halal, vegetarian and gluten-free, are offered at University events where food is included.
All of these efforts are designed to help the University reach its goal of fostering a richly diverse and inclusive community of learning and opportunity—a crucial element of the University’s mission statement developed as part of the Academic Strategic Plan.
“We have made gains in fostering a campus climate and environment that supports and welcomes all to our Syracuse University community, but we still have more work to do,” says Wiener. “Our students have been central to these efforts. Their passion and advocacy for improving their and our communities through activism, candid engagement and honest feedback are stellar. It is our collective role to help people understand this is how we serve all of our constituents—this work is about creating a campus culture that is both aspirational and achievable.”
Progress made this past year on other initiatives in the areas of diversity and inclusion include:
- The Division for Campus Safety and Emergency Services held Implicit Bias training for all officers and supervisors in the Department of Public Safety, as well as more than 300 Central New York law enforcement officers. This is part of an ongoing effort to increase cultural competency, improve understanding of issues related to diversity and inclusion, and provide professional growth opportunities for campus and community law enforcement officers.
- The Opportunity Syracuse initiative, part of the larger Invest Syracuse initiative, was unveiled. This initiative focuses on creating opportunity and access for students from across the socioeconomic spectrum.
- The University was awarded $4 million from the National Science Foundation to boost retention of historically underrepresented students in the science, technology, mathematics and science (STEM) fields. Vice Chancellor and Provost Michele Wheatly is the principal investigator for the grant. Co-principal investigators are Tamara Hamilton, NSF’s Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation (LSAMP) program director at Syracuse and co-principal investigator for the Upstate LSAMP alliance; Dawn Johnson, associate professor and chair of the Department of Higher Education in the University’s School of Education; Andria Costello Staniec, associate professor of civil and environmental engineering in the University’s College of Engineering and Computer Science; and Julie White, senior vice president for student engagement, Onondaga Community College.
- Provost Wheatly established the Internationalization Council, which will operate under the auspices of the Office of the Provost and was charged with furthering an international orientation to the programs and priorities of the University as a whole.
- Four Syracuse University professors, led by John Tillotson, associate professor and department chair of science teaching, received a three-year, $999,719 National Science Foundation (NSF) grant to support recruitment and retention of underrepresented students in STEM fields. The other co-recipients are Karin Ruhlandt, distinguished professor of chemistry and dean of the College of Arts and Sciences; Jason Wiles, associate professor of biology, and Kandice Salomone, associate dean for advising and career services in the College of Arts and Sciences. The funding will be used to launch a new program called “The Strategic Undergraduate STEM Talent Acceleration Initiative” (SUSTAIN), and to research the program’s effectiveness.
- A three-year, $738,195 Graduate Assistance in Areas of National Need (GAANN) award from the U.S. Department of Education was received by the chemistry department to support the program’s quest to increase graduate student diversity. Through aggressive recruitment and programming to support retention of women and minorities in the field, co-principal investigators Nancy Totah and John Chisholm, both associate professors, aim to increase diversity in chemistry both at Syracuse University and in the field as a whole.
- Syracuse University Libraries hired an inclusion and accessibility librarian, who will start in October. Kate Deibel will guide the libraries’ efforts to promote inclusion and accessibility. She will oversee the libraries’ assistive technology and accessibility services, working directly with students, faculty and staff.
Work continues on implementing the CWDI’s short-term and long-term recommendations to enhance the campus climate and increase diversity among students, faculty and staff. An update on the status of the recommendations will be provided to the campus community later this semester.
To learn more about the University’s efforts to enhance diversity and inclusion, please visit Diversity.syr.edu.