Mary E. Graham, Ph.D., professor in the Department of Sport Management, has been named Falk College associate dean of faculty affairs effective Jan. 2, 2024. This newly created leadership position reports to Falk College Dean Jeremy Jordan and is dedicated…
The State of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Accessibility at Syracuse University With Mary Grace Almandrez
As the University’s vice president for diversity and inclusion, Mary Grace Almandrez was paying close attention to the Supreme Court rulings that were issued towards the end of the court’s term in June. In particular, Almandrez and her Office of Diversity and Inclusion colleagues were anxious to see how the court would rule on the issue of race-based admissions and how the outcome would impact colleges and universities across the country, including Syracuse University.
The court decided to undo decades of judicial precedent by reversing rulings that allowed race-conscious admissions programs, preventing colleges and universities from considering race as one of many factors in deciding which qualified applicants are admitted.
Almandrez says that the court’s rulings align with recent national trends where issues of diversity, equity, inclusion and accessibility (DEIA) are coming under attack, and she wasn’t surprised when the decisions were announced.
While Almandrez was deeply disappointed by the rulings, she pointed to the University’s long track record of fostering an environment where all students feel welcomed and supported as proof that Syracuse University will not waver in its commitment to DEIA issues.
“It’s important to note that the decisions have to do with the consideration of race in the admissions process. That does not mean that we need to back down from our recruitment strategies. In fact, this is a moment when we have to enhance and expand. We’re thinking about other ways we can diversify our applicant pool, doing concerted and targeted outreach in areas where there is great diversity, racial, ethnic, socioeconomic status diversity, for example,” says Almandrez, who facilitates critical programs and initiatives, and partners with key constituencies to achieve the priorities outlined in our university’s DEIA’s strategic plan and academic strategic plan.
On this “’Cuse Conversation,” Almandrez discusses the Supreme Court’s rulings and their impact on current and prospective students, shares how the University remains committed to being a national leader in DEIA efforts, and highlights what the campus community can expect from the inaugural D.E.I.A. Symposium on Oct. 3.
Students, faculty and staff are invited to attend the Symposium, which will showcase the breadth of DEIA efforts across the University. The deadline to register is Sept. 25.
01What was your reaction to the Supreme Court rulings?
Deeply disappointed but not surprised. Within the field and on campus we’ve been talking about potential outcomes of the rulings for over a year. Certainly, when I arrived, that was top of mind for me and my colleagues. It was important that, regardless of what the decisions were, we were going to recommit our unwavering dedication to ensure that all students can find a place here at Syracuse University and that our faculty, staff, community members and alumni knew that our commitment to DEIA would not end with whatever decisions were made.
That’s very different from the posturing that other campuses have taken across the country. Even before the Supreme Court ruling, we were aware of at least one campus that preemptively dismantled the equivalent of the Office of Diversity and Inclusion on their campus in anticipation of what might happen in the rulings. I remembered reading that article and thinking that could never happen at Syracuse. We have too long of a history of being an inclusive and welcoming campus to even fathom that being a potential possibility for us. If anything, we’re expanding our resources.
02What kind of impact do you feel this reversal will have on campus?
It’s important to note the decisions have to do with the consideration of race in the admissions process. That does not mean we need to back down from our recruitment strategies. This is a moment when we must enhance and expand. We’re thinking about other ways in which we can diversify our applicant pool, doing concerted and targeted outreach in areas where there is great diversity: racial, ethnic and socioeconomic status diversity, for example. It’s really leveraging our existing networks with our alumni, our families, our staff and faculty who work here. This is a moment for us to think about how to enhance and expand our resources, not take away resources.
03How have we communicated to current and prospective students to address any fears they might be having over how this will impact their college experience?
I give credit to our colleagues in admissions. They’ve been working around the clock to ensure that we are reaching different populations that perhaps we haven’t leveraged in the past. I’ve also had the opportunity to go on the road and talk to different communities, whether it be with our families or alumni in different parts of the country. We’re really trying to ensure that those who are in the community are aware of Syracuse University as a viable option and that students know they have resources once they get here.
I think about the Intercultural Collective, which includes 119 Euclid, an affinity space for our Black students; 113 Euclid, which houses our native student programs; the LGBTQ Resource Center; the Disability Cultural Center; Office of Multicultural Affairs; the Center for International Services. Syracuse University is a place where when students come to our campus, they cannot not be exposed to DEIA. If they walk through the Schine Student Center or any of our residence halls, they’re going to encounter a diverse population of people who care deeply about DEIA issues.
04The campus community is invited to the daylong, inaugural D.E.I.A. Symposium on Oct. 3. What are the goals and objectives of the symposium?
The symposium is going to highlight a lot of promising practices, research and creative works from our students, faculty and staff that advance DEIA efforts across campus. We will run the gamut of the breadth and depth of expertise, research and creative works across this University, and we’re so excited and proud to amplify that work and provide opportunities for inspiration. We’re hoping participants and attendees leave feeling inspired and that they want to continue advancing DEIA efforts in their spheres of influence. That they understand that, regardless of the Supreme Court ruling, we are unwavering in our commitment to diversity and inclusion.
Note: This conversation was edited for brevity and clarity.