Preliminary Diversity Action Plan

  • IUP has developed, over the past five years, a healthy history of using a collaborative, mutually consultative approach to launching institutional projects.

  • Four students give a presentation at the front of a classroom

    For example, soon after his arrival as president at IUP in July 2012, Dr. Michael Driscoll launched the Strategic Visioning Project, and exhorted the university community to articulate a vision for IUP. The IUP community responded by conducting comprehensive consultations and identifying its core values. Based on the findings from the Strategic Visioning Project, the community engaged in extensive discussions and achieved a consensus regarding the values embraced by IUP. The resulting IUP Vision Statement won the unanimous endorsement of the University Senate and was then approved by the Council of Trustees in November 2013. Following the development and adoption of the Vision Statement, the community was charged with the creation of a new strategic plan, which was also developed in a participatory fashion and was very well received. IUP’s recent Middle States Re-accreditation Self-Study was also conducted in a similarly participatory context. The preparation of the Self-Study Report involved the active participation of a wide network of constituents in the university community (students, faculty, staff, administrators, alumni representatives, and trustees). Because the process was so open and widely participatory, the university community welcomed with pride and self-assurance the Middle States Accreditation Visiting Team during its April 2016 site visit.

    A student takes notes in a classroomIt is in the context of this new tradition for initiating projects of high significance across the university community that the President’s Commission on Diversity and Inclusion adopted a similar method in the development of this preliminary Diversity Action Plan. The origins of this commission are noteworthy. In 2014, Dr. Driscoll commissioned IUP’s Office of Social Equity to conduct a two-phase campus climate study to invite members of the university community to “weigh in on matters of inclusion and equity.” The first phase of the study encouraged university constituents to complete an extensive electronic survey. The second phase of the study, led by two faculty members, was comprised of multiple focus groups and individual interviews with members of IUP’s community. While the second phase of the campus climate study was under way, in December 2015, President Driscoll cited a growing sense of unease about “how we [i.e., the members of the IUP community] talk about and treat each other, and observed that “we have not risen to our shared values and have fallen short of being an inclusive, welcoming community of people who learn and grow together.” President Driscoll expressed this concern about the university climate and exhorted us to transform the university into “the place and the people we know we should be and can be.” The campus climate study was completed at the end of summer 2016 and the lessons from the study were widely disseminated across IUP in fall 2016.

    A group of students in lab coats pose for a photo with their professor in a labThe first recommendation of the authors of the campus climate study was to establish a task force to lead the effort to develop a Diversity Action Plan for the university. This recommendation reinforced the president’s passion to challenge the university community to improve IUP’s climate by reflecting on how to come together as a community, engage in the difficult discussions, and challenge ourselves to grow individually and as a collective. It is within this context that, in October 2016, he announced the creation of the President’s Commission on Diversity and Inclusion. Dr. Driscoll charged this commission with:

    1. examining IUP’s diversity and inclusion practices and their impact in the university;

    2. recommending a vision that demonstrates an institutionalized, sustainable commitment to embodying the principles of diversity and inclusion; and;

    3. recommending action steps to achieve this vision articulated in a Diversity Action Plan.

    Springing as it did from the results of the Campus Climate Study, the commission was informed by the findings and recommendations of the study.

    To assure that its work is inclusive and transparent, the commission adopted a structure under which commission members led six sub-committees in the discussion, analysis, and development of recommendations pertaining to specific areas of focus selected by the commission. IUP students, faculty, staff, and administrators were invited to serve on the sub-committees. This invitation was met with an overwhelming response: over 100 volunteers offered to serve. Individuals who could not be assigned to any of the limited 60 sub-committee slots were urged to participate in the work of the commission by providing feedback directly to the commission. The commission and its sub-committees met regularly during the 2017 spring and fall semesters. The commission’s immediate goals were

    1. To ignite progress around the issues of diversity and inclusion and to grapple with issues, and then propose and move IUP forward with recommendations in six identified areas; and

    2. To acknowledge the contemporary accomplishments at IUP that advance diversity and inclusion (a list of these areas of progress, informed in part by the Director of Social Equity, LGBTQIA Support, and sister presidential commissions, is provided as an addendum to this document).

    A rainbow flag flies against a sunny, blue skyAs the President’s Commission on Diversity and Inclusion worked towards achieving these goals, it hosted representatives from IUP’s Office of Social Equity, the LGBTQ Commission, the IUP Commission on the Status of Women at IUP, and IUP’s Women’s and Gender Studies program. Commission and sub-committee members also attended student forums and programs triggered by a racist incident during the fall 2017 semester to hear directly about the needs and concerns of our current students, particularly student members of under-represented populations.

    The focus of this commission’s work was to develop an initial set of recommendations-for-action which are articulated in the Diversity Action Plan. This task was undertaken with great care and consideration for the current national climate around issues of diversity and inclusion and for recent incidents at IUP that have challenged our community’s desire to foster a nurturing, welcoming environment. In addition, the commission was mindful of the increasingly diverse populations that constitute our student body, now and in the future.

    Several themes emerge from the actions recommended by the sub-committees: the need to:

    1. Develop and implement a protocol for early response or intervention in the university community when discriminatory incidents arise;

    2. Establish multiple ways to report incidents that test the university community’s resolve to enhance diversity and inclusion

    3. Develop and implement clear mechanisms for resolving disputes related to diversity and inclusion issues

    4. Invest additional resources and restructure or centralize existing units to enhance the leadership, visibility, collaboration, efficiency and access to diversity and inclusion resources;

    5. Demonstrate IUP’s commitment to diversity and inclusion by establishing a stronger and better coordinated web presence, by developing statements of commitment, and by crafting an IUP Pledge;

    6. Recruit and sustain a diverse faculty, staff, and student body (by providing academic and other support to students, as outlined by the Task Force on Undergraduate Retention/Persistence (TOUR);

    7. Engage members of the IUP community in cross-cultural activities and provide ongoing training that promotes a climate of civility and celebrates IUP’s commitment to diversity and inclusion; and,

    8. Restructure functions and traditions that promote diversity and inclusion (for example, by enriching the whole student experience through a more intentional and bolder delivery of the Liberal Studies curriculum).

    Accounting students work on a group projectBetween December 2017 and February 2018, the Commission will invite comments from the IUP community regarding this initial Diversity Action Plan. Comments are invited through February 23, 2018, at diversity-inclusion@iup.edu.

    Even as we do this, the commission urges IUP’s leadership to move quickly on two key recommendations: first, to develop a mechanism for reporting and responding to incidents, and resolving disputes that arise. The commission views this as the most basic and critical step in addressing the immediate needs of our faculty, staff, and especially our students.

    Second, to provide leadership to the university on matters of diversity and inclusion, we must restructure and centralize existing units and personnel, and add the human and financial resources necessary to create one centralized office. These two priorities should be swiftly addressed. The other recommendations are of great importance and will be advanced through the leadership that will be established by a new office, with the expectation that the broader IUP community will be fully engaged.

    In addition to the creation of this initial Diversity Action Plan, the President’s Commission on Diversity and Inclusion will promote and monitor continued progress and cultural change in diversity and inclusion at IUP. This Diversity Action Plan is intended to be fluid and will evolve as new initiatives are identified.