Mandates for the Future
While there is much to celebrate about the wide range of efforts underway to encourage and support diversity throughout the university community, making and sustaining meaningful change will require our continuing diligence. As we face a comprehensive university redesign, we must recognize the strategic importance of placing the value of diversity at the heart of our decision-making process. We must focus the work of institutional improvement on three areas at OSU:
- Workforce/student body diversity--the representational dimension of diversity, or the numbers and percentages of people from various groups that are present in our university community (see Appendix D for current status); and
- Development and mobility--an outcome of the behavioral dimension of diversity, or the actions of and interactions between people, and how those actions erode or affirm their educational and professional growth, development and achievement.
- Campus climate--the psychological dimension of diversity, or how the culture or institutional climate is experienced by individuals.
Each element of the proposed redesign must be evaluated in the context of how it will affirm or inhibit the potential for transformation in each of these areas.
1) Workforce and student body diversity
The OSU workforce consists of faculty, staff and student employees, as well as volunteers, on the Corvallis campus, the Cascades campus, and in our other programs across the state of Oregon. The statewide student body and workforce together form the university community. To increase the diversity of students, staff and faculty, we must have an impact on each stage of their life at the institution. It is not sufficient to emphasize recruitment and admission or hiring; we must also work to welcome, retain, promote, graduate, or otherwise develop members of this community.
Attracting people with a rich diversity of backgrounds will strengthen the power of our workforce and our student body. To achieve optimal diversity among these interrelated sectors of our community, we need to make intentional efforts at each stage of the relationship with employees and students:
- Actively recruit members of historically underrepresented groups
- Make selections by looking beyond traditional criteria to find the unique contribution each individual can make
- Retain people by fostering the evolution of our institutional culture to support members of all groups, rather than expecting that the minority should adapt to the culture of the majority
- Recognize the growth of each individual through promotion, graduation, and other passage points in each person's OSU career.
2) Development and mobility
As an institution, OSU can achieve greatness by building its human capacity. Human potential exists at every point along the continuum between personal and professional development. At any point along this continuum, members of historically underrepresented groups may experience inexplicable barriers caused by subtle, often unintentional, biases that favor some and disfavor others. These inequities preclude our attainment of the excellence of which we are capable.
To resolve inequities and create a learning environment for all, OSU must build competencies in the following areas:
- Recognize the unique contribution and potential of every member of our workforce and student body;
- Commit to professional/intellectual development as a key to success for each individual, independent of her/his role within the institution;
- Understand that professional development includes formal and informal opportunities to build skills, enhance understanding, and pursue areas of individual passion;
- Increase the richness of our pool of potential leaders, by providing formal and hands-on learning experiences, particularly for individuals from historically underrepresented groups.
- Expect that each person is on a professional path;
- Build advancement opportunities for those who wish to move beyond their current positions;
- Encourage people to see traditional and non-traditional possibilities for growth;
- Affirm formal and informal relationships among people to increase opportunities for collective learning;
- Recognize that effective mentoring is the single most effective means of ensuring the success and development of each individual within the institution,
- Acknowledge that people from historically underrepresented groups currently make up a disproportionately small percentage of our institutional leadership;
- Change the face of leadership at the institution to reflect a rich diversity of thought and experience;
- Expect multicultural competence of all leaders;
- Ensure that current leaders possess the skills and the vision to pursue new forms of collective leadership and collaborative decision-making that affirm the value of minority perspectives.
3) Campus climate
We acknowledge that members of majority and historically underrepresented groups may experience the university climate quite differently. Some will find OSU to be a warm, welcoming and engaging community, while others will feel it to be cold, distant and isolating. Our human tendency is to view the behavior of members of certain groups through the lens of our own beliefs, values, and ways of relating to the world. The problems arise when we make biased judgements based on unexamined use of these lenses. Our lack of awareness can lead to domination by those with more power, because their views may be assumed to be natural and unquestionably legitimate. Because this bias is unexamined and operates below the level of conscious awareness for many, it can be extremely difficult to recognize. Thus, judgements can form that create distance between members of different groups. The first step in developing multicultural competence is to appreciate that our lenses may lead to cultural bias and do not represent a universal system of truth.
The campus climate is clearly the context within which individual and collective learning occurs. In addition to this more passive role, our campus climate also creates active opportunities for individuals to learn about communities, diversity, and society. The institutional value we place on diversity is foundational to the compelling learning experience we promise our students. The process each person engages in to become culturally aware opens new avenues of learning and understanding; it is a mistake to assume that cultural competence benefits only the minority.
A campus climate that allows the greatest growth and learning opportunities will:
- Make everyone feel welcome;
- Teach each person to be open to diverse perspectives and ideas;
- Develop an inquisitive spirit that seeks to understand before passing judgement;
- Expect and nurture the growth of cultural competence;
- Respect the inherent worth and dignity of each individual.
As we improve in these three areas, we must identify ways to assess our progress, both quantitatively (e.g. matriculation, graduation, hiring and promotion rates) and qualitatively (e.g. the experience of historically underrepresented and majority members of our university community). Because these measures are challenging to develop and to validate, I encourage students, faculty, staff and administrators of OSU to add your ideas as soon as possible to those I have already received from external stakeholders on this topic. When I produce this report next year, I expect to include an initial assessment plan that will guide our work in both the qualitative and the quantitative arenas.