Letter to the Editor: Vice President Mobley and Vice President Stark in response to “Austin Stroud: CWRU fails to structurally understand diversity”

To the editor,

A collaboration between the Office for Inclusion, Diversity and Equal Opportunity (OIDEO) and the Division of Student Affairs, Diversity 360 is a new campus-wide initiative designed to assist students, staff and faculty in becoming more culturally competent. Although Austin Stroud participated in Diversity 360 as a first-year student during orientation and seemed to believe doing so was beneficial, his comments in last week’s Observer reveal he has reservations about the breadth and reach of the program and its ability to have long-range effects. While we in no way believe that Diversity 360 is a panacea for addressing diversity and inclusion on our campus, we believe it has the potential to be transformative. We are writing, therefore, to share more about the genesis of the program, the process by which it is being implemented and the plans for sustaining it over time.

Diversity 360 emerged from our profound desire to be responsive to issues of campus climate.  These issues were not only apparent to those of us in the administration, but also to students who shared their concerns with us through our Sustained Dialogue Program, campus protests, campus forums and presentations. We took these concerns seriously and created more opportunities for Sustained Dialogue. We also began working together to build a program that would address “identity safety” in ways similar to what safe zone training did for the LGBT community. Out of these discussions, we began the work of developing Diversity 360.

This work included bringing in last year’s Power of Diversity speaker, Lee Mun Wah, and the hiring of a consultant to engage students, faculty and staff in dialogue about campus climate.  Facilitator training and the first pilots for Diversity 360 took place all spring of 2015 and continued into the summer. Under the leadership of Dean Ken Chance, the School of Dental Medicine even invited us to bring Diversity 360 to its all-faculty retreat. Last month, the university’s President’s Council, which includes President Barbara R. Snyder, Provost Bud Baeslack, deans and vice presidents also participated in the program. This session, co-facilitated by Vice President Mobley and School of Engineering Dean Jeff Duerk, marked Diversity 360’s official launch before first-year students arrived on campus. All summer, however, the Office of Multicultural Affairs and the First-Year Experience program were training and preparing for orientation.  

This fall the work of Diversity 360 continues in full force.  Various students groups will be trained this semester and the OIDEO is reaching out to staff and faculty groups, both to train additional facilitators and to provide sessions. Vice President Mobley led a session for the new faculty orientation, and several departments have requested training. Moreover the Board of Trustees will participate in Diversity 360 program at their October meeting. This year’s common reading, “Whistling Vivaldi” by Claude Steele, PhD, was chosen purposely to address the university’s concerns with diversity and stereotype threats and ongoing programs including Sustained Dialogue, the Power of Diversity series and the upcoming Social Justice Intergenerational Think Tank are all opportunities to deepen the work that Diversity 360 has begun. Plans also are underway for “lunch and learn” sessions so that groups who have completed the Diversity 360 programs can engage in dialogue in a more informal way about such topics as implicit bias, unconscious bias and microaggressions. In addition, we are meeting with such groups as the Undergraduate Diversity Collaborative, the Multicultural Roundtable, La Alianza, QGrad, the African American Society and others to discover ways we can continue this work in a meaningful fashion. We understand the larger national context in which we are doing this work and we are mindful that it will take time, collaboration and genuine commitment. We agree we have a long way to go, but we believe Diversity 360 is a way to move forward in the right direction to make a meaningful difference for our campus community for the long term.  We welcome ideas, suggestions and support.

Marilyn Mobley, PhD

Vice President for Inclusion, Diversity & Equal Opportunity and Professor of English

Lou Stark

Vice President for Student Affairs