“Inclusiveness and diversity are not merely buzzwords at Case Western Reserve University, but they are part of the very mission and vision of the University itself,” reads the university’s first Diversity Strategic Action Plan (DSAP). While this may be the plan, according to CWRU’s first campus-wide Diversity Climate Survey, this goal is not necessarily currently the reality as far as campus climate goes.
The survey, which got responses from 3,657 faculty, staff, undergraduates, and graduates, revealed that many people perceived the campus climate as uncomfortable and unwelcoming.
To address this, the Office of Inclusion, Diversity, and Equal Opportunity (OIDEO), led by Marilyn S. Mobely, decided to create a strategic plan, which was adopted in March 2012. The plan was based on “Forward Thinking,” the strategic plan of the university as a whole.
The DSAP has three primary goals: improved campus climate, improved retention and recruitment of underrepresented minorities (URMs) for students, faculty, and staff, and enhanced leveraging of university resources to advance diversity and inclusion.
Last Friday, the OIDEO hosted its first Diversity Town Hall Meeting to tell CWRU community members about the progress that has been made so far. The deans of CWRU’s various schools spoke about their efforts to improve diversity. Other speakers included Mobley from the OIDEO, President Barbara Snyder, and Provost William A. “Bud” Baeslack III.
“It’s one thing to work together to design a campus-wide plan,” begins Dr. Mobley. “It’s another thing to take the time to get feedback on that plan.”
The meeting went on to describe the large amount of headway that has been made in the past year towards advancing diversity at CWRU.
One notable highlight was CWRU’s selection as the first institutional home of the Association of Underrepresented Minority Fellows (AUMF), which works towards making faculty and staff more diverse in science, technology, engineering, math, and, more specifically, in biomedical engineering.
CWRU was also one of 47 colleges to be awarded with the Higher Education Excellence in Diversity award by Insight Into Diversity Magazine. The magazine was particularly impressed by the “Train the Champion” program, which has monthly meetings for faculty and staff to discuss inclusion, with the goal of turning them into “diversity champions.”
One sure sign of success was shown in the diversity of the freshman class, which was the most diverse in CWRU’s history. 14.4 percent of the class was made up of URMs, up from 4.4 percent in 2011.
Progress has been especially noticed in the health sciences schools. The School of Medicine recently introduced the new position of Vice Dean for Faculty Development and Diversity to address climate issues and faculty satisfaction. Many of the other schools have also begun writing their own DSAPs, as well as implementing diversity discussions for faculty, students, and staff.
The OIDEO has also pushed the other schools to hire more qualified URM and female faculty. In the College of Arts and Sciences, 60 percent of hires made in 2012 were women, while 12 percent were URMs. The Information TechnologyServuces Department also boasts a staff that is 50 percent women and 20 percent African American. Twelve years ago, there were no women or URMs represented.
Nationally, women make 77 cents for every dollar that a man makes, according to the National Partnership for Women and Families. Of note, the law school completely eliminated the pay disparity between men and women among its faculty and staff.
The various schools are also trying to align themselves with student groups on campus and national organizations in order to advance diversity. The School of Engineering has been working with the National Society for Black Engineers and WISER to reach out to women and URMs, while the School of Nursing has been trying to keep in consistent contact with groups such as the Hispanic Nurses Organization and the Alaskan Natives Nurses Organization. MSASS has also begun a partnership with six other U.S. universities to help seven schools in China design programs in social work.
However, progress can still be made in each of the schools and at CWRU as a whole. For example, Jeffrey Deurk, dean of the School of Engineering, reported that the six-year graduation rate of URMs is much lower than that of other students. The OIDEO is working on fixing this, and other problems like it, as well as creating accountability for their plans and programs. They are hoping that the release of another campus Diversity Climate Survey in 2014 will yield better results to show that CWRU has become a more comfortable place for women, URMs, and international students, as well as the community as a whole.