Dear Students, Families, Faculty and Staff: In recent days, there has been a renewed and palpable sense of energy on our campus. Many of us are feeling optimistic for the future, especially as more and more members of our community…
Message from Damon Williams
Dear Syracuse University Community:
In November 2019, the Syracuse University Board of Trustees Special Committee on University Climate, Diversity and Inclusion asked me to serve on an Independent Advisory Panel and, later, to conduct a campus climate “pulse” survey and a programmatic inventory of where the University stands on issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI).
The Syracuse University State of DEI Executive Summary [PDF], along with its four accompanying technical reports, provide an evidence-based understanding of this milestone on the University’s journey regarding DEI, broadly defined to include race/ethnicity, gender, LGBTQIA, religion, disability status, and economic background. The full report will be available tomorrow on the Campus Climate Pulse Survey webpage.
It must be emphasized that the fall of 2020 was a very challenging moment in which to survey the community, not only given the pandemic, divisive politics, and widespread national activism but also following on the heels of SU’s own student campus protests. Even under this uncertainty, the Syracuse community rose to the moment, achieving a 22% response rate for students, 42% response rate for staff, and a 47% response rate for faculty. The 7,800 usable surveys produced represent not only a highly credible response for a non-incentivized study of this kind, but the most campus climate data ever collected at Syracuse University.
Post-stratification weighting was performed to ensure the respondent group data accurately represented the entire population for each body surveyed (students, faculty, staff), reducing error and response bias. We took care to ask questions about the pandemic and broader societal dynamics as a way of weaving these generation-shaping events into this survey, analyses, and interpretation.
We are excited that SU has not waited for the publication of these reports to move forward with new DEI-empowering actions. Dozens of exciting new initiatives are taking place institutionally. In early March, the Board Special Committee on University Climate, Diversity and Inclusion announced a new $50M dollar investment towards faculty diversity. The reports we are offering now are meant to amplify that work by (1) providing a baseline for the university to assess progress against, and (2) developing a best-in-class Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Accessibility (DEIA) strategic plan and implementation model that builds further upon the powerful work that has been ongoing for several decades across campus.
In my career, I have worked with thousands of organizations and want to emphasize that your challenges are much like those we see at most institutions across the country. What is different about Syracuse is that you are facing these challenges institutionally and that your students, faculty, staff, and leadership are making the types of investments of time, attention, and finances that can lead to meaningful change over time. We applaud these efforts and encourage you to keep going!
We offer these reports “in community” with Syracuse University students, faculty, staff, alumni, leadership, and parents. Please know that our intention in every sentence, paragraph, and chart is to add value and support in both your personal and institutional DEI journeys. Working in community, we took every intention to use language to describe and honor the living experience of race, ethnicity, gender, LGBTQIA, disability, and economic background in ways that support the full spectra of individuals that make up the SU community. At the same time, we know that, somewhere across the five reports that make up this package, we may have authored some language, methodology, or interpretation to which someone took exception. In advance, we accept full responsibility for our words and apologize for any offense. Please know that we will continue to work and get better into the future.
With humility and respect for every individual and the campus community as a whole, we hope you find these reports helpful.
Damon A. Williams, PhD
Chief Catalyst, Center for Strategic Diversity Leadership & Social Innovation
Senior Scholar and Innovation Fellow, Wisconsin’s Equity & Inclusion Laboratory, University of Wisconsin-Madison