Diversity Action Plan Statement
This statement comes as a culmination of multiple focus groups and meetings with various students, groups, administrators, and Corporation members about the Diversity Action Plan. A single op-ed does not do justice to the needs of underrepresented groups on campus. In consultation with other students and groups, UCS compiled a list of action items related to the Diversity Action Plan that can be found here. We appreciate any comments or feedback.
In 2006, the administration released A Diversity Action Plan for Brown University with the goal of making Brown “a national leader in fully integrating diversity into the core operations of an institution.” Nine years later, it would be difficult to argue that Brown University has achieved this goal. Without proper benchmarks and concrete mechanisms for accountability, this plan was not sustained over time. As the senior administration prepares to release a new Diversity Action Plan (DAP), the Undergraduate Council of Students hopes that it will be more comprehensive and specific than the University’s previous one. Thus, we believe it necessary to put forth our minimal expectations for what must be included.
One basis for Brown’s lack of success over the past decade has been the inability—or the unwillingness— to thoughtfully define the “diversity” it seeks. The last plan sought to “[encompass] diversity in the broadest sense to include race, color, religion, age, national and ethnic origin, disability, status as a veteran, language, socioeconomic background, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, political ideology, and theoretical approach, to name a few.” Unfortunately, this broad interpretation dilutes the entire purpose of having such a plan. Specificity and clarity are needed for the administration and academic departments to properly develop strategies and benchmarks for recruitment and support over the next 10 years. It is also noted that the University is focused on doubling “underrepresented minorities,” or URMs, in the faculty and staff by 2025. Thus, this intention should be directly stated in the new plan’s definition. Even the category of URM does not sufficiently address the need to disaggregate data regarding minority faculty and staff within racial categories to account for ethnic and educational backgrounds. Naïveté can no longer excuse publishing a Diversity Action Plan without specifying the “diversity” it is supposed to address.
As with the Operational Plan, the administration has publicized that the new DAP will be a “living document” so that it can be adjusted and changed over time. This flexibility is a crucial component of a successful plan; however, it should not be an excuse for vagueness. The initiatives in the 2006 plan aimed to have diversity at Brown “improve significantly” and “better reflect the diversity of the nation.” These imprecise goals did not establish clear measures for the University to assess its progress over subsequent years. The plan also failed to establish mechanisms to hold the various units and departments on campus accountable for failing to meet the goals of the plan. Many of the initiatives with specific details were not carried out, not well-publicized, or are no longer in effect.
The new plan should be more precise by including specific accountability measures the University can achieve in incremental steps. Such structure could provide a framework for the entire Brown community to understand and engage with how we plan to fight institutional racism and create a more inclusive campus. Knowledge of how this plan will be enacted cannot be limited to senior administrators; rather, if Brown is to move forward together, as the new capital campaign suggests, we must all be part of its creation and implementation. As an initial effort, we encourage the University to release data on the diversity of faculty and staff hires made in the 2014-2015 school year in conjunction with the DAP, rather than waiting until a year following the plan’s release. Increased transparency about Brown’s current climate is necessary for our community to be more fully aware of the need for immediate improvements, especially in the departments that are least representative. As departments develop their individual action plans, it is critical that student voices are prioritized, especially those of students of color.
Embedded in the plan is a call to create a “culturally competent and inclusive campus.” To achieve this, the plan must go beyond acknowledging the need for faculty training on race, gender identity and other LGBTQIA+ issues, and propose strategies and timeframes for implementing such programs. It must also describe how the DPLL course designation will be given more weight in order to generate a more culturally competent curriculum across departments, including those in STEM fields. Furthermore, the Brown Center for Students of Color, Sarah Doyle Women’s Center, and LGBTQ Center are instrumental in offering support for marginalized communities on campus and for building programs for our entire community. The DAP should name what specific efforts will be advocated on behalf of these centers in both the immediate and long term future.
Presently, it seems as though the University and other constituents define “plans” on different terms. It is essential that the DAP be more than an adaptable framework. It must provide a clear and comprehensive structure, with accountability measures that will guide the University’s efforts to build and support diversity at Brown. This is not a criticism of the Office of Institutional Diversity; rather, it speaks to the need for a more collaborative development of Brown’s Diversity Action Plan, so that the burden of its planning does not fall on a single woman of color within Brown’s senior administration. The DAP must be fully integrated into the Operational Plan, which guides all aspects of the University’s development over the next decade, so that none of the objectives within the Operational Plan escape the mission of the DAP. As we reflect on the University’s progress after the 2006 Diversity Action Plan, exactly two years following the Ray Kelly protest, we must show—as a collective community—that we are capable of producing a plan that names progressive goals alongside a comprehensive framework to show how those ideas will translate into action.