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UND diversity council delivers inclusion recommendations

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Grand Forks Taxi. Jesse Trelstad/ Grand Forks Herald3 / 3

The UND Diversity Advisory Council has delivered a set of recommendations to campus leadership for the purpose of improving campus diversity and inclusion efforts.

UND President Mark Kennedy established the council earlier this semester in response to a pair of racially charged social media posts created by university students. The image-based posts drew national media attention after going viral in September.

As part of the administrative response, Kennedy appointed the 12-person council, chaired by Sandra Mitchell, UND associate vice president for diversity and inclusion.

The council was tasked with assessing existing campus diversity and inclusion practices with a specific focus on UND’s Essential Studies program. From there, council members identified best practices with the intent of providing recommendations for improvement based on UND’s current status.

With today’s submission, those recommendations will now be reviewed by Kennedy and other campus leaders to determine which will be incorporated in a long-term process of strategic planning.

In a press statement, Kennedy thanked the council for providing a base for meeting diversity and inclusion goals as defined so far in the ongoing planning effort.

Kennedy described UND’s approach to diversity and inclusion as “a marathon, not a sprint.”

“We have completed two important laps: compiling the recommendations and drafting diversity and inclusion goals as part of the strategic planning process,” he said. “As members of the UND community, we continue to work to create a culture of One UND in which civil discourse about the day’s most pressing and difficult issues is not only welcome, but expected.”

Kennedy said he expected the diversity council to be part of the prioritization of its recommendations moving forward.

Recommendations

The document delivered by the council Thursday refers to diversity at UND as meaning “our community reflects and is strengthened by members representing the full range of human differences, seen and unseen.”

Key recommendations were loosely categorized among three areas, including demonstrable best practices on campus and community climate; teaching, learning and scholarship; and student development and involvement.

For the matter of climate, the council recommended items such as the implementation of campus climate evaluations, mechanisms to report incidents of bias and resource groups to better retain minority faculty and staff. Council members also suggested the creation of a campuswide universal statement of community values and expectations regarding diversity, inclusion and civility.

The council’s recommendations for teaching, learning and scholarship began with the development and implementation of diversity-specific strategic plans within colleges and departments. Such plans would be developed with the aid of a “new hire or faculty fellow” to address issues related to matters such as classroom climate, content and curriculum.

As far as curriculum itself, the council recommended support for an ongoing effort to revise the diversity requirement of UND’s Essential Studies. It also recommended the establishment of a “first-year experience” and common reading for new students, along with the promotion of increased exposure of students to diversity content through practices such as study abroad programs and student exchanges with minority-serving institutions.

Staffing recommendations included building a “critical mass” of faculty from minority populations by intentionally recruiting diverse candidate pools, as well as developing concepts for “cluster hires” of academics focused on diversity, equity and inclusion

Relating to faculty, the council recommended supporting the UND Office of Instructional Development in the creation of educator training focused on “inclusive practices for teaching and learning, classroom environment, curriculum development and advising.”

The council further suggested the encouragement of formal research initiatives related to diversity and recognition of such scholarship during faculty evaluations for promotion and tenure.

The heading for the final category, student development, defined the term as “out of class active participation that enhances academics.”

Recommendations for development included increasing resources for diversity centers on campus and developing student experience goals related to diversity and inclusion.

The council also recommended creating a campus environment “representative of diversity at UND and a multicultural world.”

Such an effort would begin with “renovation and rebranding of spaces on campus, specifically the Memorial Union, to be more inclusive and welcoming for all students.”

Beyond the primary categories, council members recommended their work as a group be continued and that a Diversity Strategic Plan be made in accordance with UND’s wider strategic planning to create achievable benchmarks for inclusion efforts.

Andrew Haffner

Andrew Haffner covers higher education and general assignment stories for the Grand Forks Herald. He attended the University of Wisconsin in Madison, where he studied journalism, political science and international studies. He previously worked at the Dickinson Press.

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