Progress continues on DEI implementation

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Though the changes regarding diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) may not be visible, progress is occurring, according Aisha Torrey-Sawyer, the director of diversity and inclusion initiatives.

The DEI committee, of which Torrey-Sawyer is a co-chair, is inviting vice chancellors of the university to its meetings to update the committee on how they are implementing DEI and incorporating the Vision in Action plan in their divisions. 

Sharon Gooding, the new coordinator of diversity and inclusion, will be focusing on events for cultural and heritage awareness months, Torrey-Sawyer said. 

Last year, there were three unconscious bias training sessions for faculty and staff and more will be held this year. Torrey-Sawyer’s office is also searching for more ways for faculty and staff to educate themselves about matters of DEI.

One step the university is taking is hiring an outside firm to take an inventory of the DEI efforts on campus and help determine what else can be done to improve DEI’s current state, according to Dr. Claire Sanders, the provost faculty fellow and academic affairs diversity advocate. 

As a co-chair of the DEI Essential Competency Implementation Committee, Sanders and her colleagues will be discussing the DEI proposal with faculty members and getting feedback from them.

She said she hopes to deliver the package of the student requirements, vetting procedures, assessment process and administrative information they formulate and gather to the Faculty Senate in December so the entire faculty can vote to approve the proposal in February or March 2020. 

Though she cannot say for certain when the DEI portion of the core curriculum will be implemented, Sanders said the goal is fall 2022. 

On a more individual level, Sanders said she is working on a training for faculty to help them develop skills they can apply in their classrooms surrounding discourse, expectations for students, privilege and unconscious bias.

She said the module will be a week-long, intensive boot camp model, and she is aiming to hold the first training in May or June of next year. 

Over the summer, the School of Interdisciplinary Studies, the Koehler Center, the Office of Diversity and Inclusion, and Human Resources hosted an event called Think-A-Thon, which was held to give faculty and staff members an opportunity to brainstorm about how to implement DEI on campus. About 60 people attended the event, said Dr. Nada Elias-Lambert, the diversity administrative fellow for the School of Interdisciplinary Studies. 

About 60 people attended Think-A-Thon, which was held in August. Photo courtesy of Dr. Nada Elias-Lambert

At the event, Elias-Lambert said several ideas that were given to the Faculty Senate, Staff Assembly and Provost Council were developed. They involved:

  • Messaging and how the university communicates the importance of everyone working to implement DEI on campus
  • Defining DEI
  • Sharing the idea that DEI is central to TCU’s mission
  • Collecting and disseminating data about which DEI efforts members of TCU’s community think are effective and which ones need to be improved, as well as what is being done in regards to DEI in general
  • Increasing collaboration and communication, which could include making an organizational chart listing key DEI leaders or creating a digital chest of tools faculty can access to find ways to implement DEI in their classes

Dr. Elias-Lambert said she is open to having another event like the Think-A-Thon in the future, with the goal of implementing the ideas from the Think-A-Thon as well as other DEI initiatives.

One of the biggest challenges for continuing with DEI implementation efforts, Torrey-Sawyer said, is working to ensure not only that the campus is diverse but also that members of those groups feel that they are included, as well as continuing to emphasize the message that having a diverse campus is important.

Sanders said one of the issues she has seen with incorporating DEI is that some people are “fearful of change.” 

“The core curriculum change is not some sort of cavalier or maverick project coming out of the DEI committee,” Sanders said.

She said she tries to solve this challenge by reminding or informing those who are afraid of the work she and her colleagues are doing that DEI is embedded throughout the Lead On strategic plan, which the Board of Trustees has already approved, showing that incorporating DEI is a responsibility of academic affairs.