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Office of the Provost | Communications

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Office of the Provost
202-885-2127
Fax: 202-885-2173
provost@american.edu
Leonard, Room Lower Level

Bass, Scott A.
Provost

Office of the Provost
4400 Massachusetts Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20016-8061

MEMORANDUM
September 29, 2016

TO:

AU Community

FROM: Scott A. Bass, Provost
Gail Hanson, Vice President of Campus Life

SUBJECT:
Toward Greater Inclusion: Reflecting on What We Have Heard and Next Steps
____________________________________________________________________________

After a week of engagement in activities including a town hall meeting, meetings with department chairs, program directors and student leaders, a conference call with alumni, and many communications with AU parents, we would like to report on action items that address the concerns shared by AU community members. 

We recognize the need to update and build upon our initial plan to improve campus inclusion with new action steps that promptly address what we have recently heard. The chart below identifies the concerns raised, and briefly describes action steps that are in progress or will be taken by the university.  

In addition to the steps we can take right away, we will develop a more comprehensive roadmap that outlines our goals, desired outcomes, timelines, and tools for measuring and reporting progress. Through a process that President Kerwin will launch next week, we will seek to identify game changers – ideas that will radically impact the campus climate in positive ways. We hope to elevate the best of these ideas in objectives for the final two years of the strategic plan and as priorities in the upcoming two-year budget cycle.  

Though the development of this roadmap is the responsibility of the university’s leadership, students made clear that they want a greater voice in any decisions that affect them. We will find ways to engage students in the formation of our plans. In addition, the President’s Council on Diversity and Inclusion will be invited to play a role in gathering ideas from the community that will expedite our progress. To that end, if you have ideas to share, please send them to DICouncil@american.edu.

Concern Action Steps

Improve campus climate and inclusion in the classroom.

Require training and education to raise awareness and improve sensitivity in interactions with faculty, students, and staff.

Student education

1. New courses called AU Experience 1 and AU Experience 2 (AUx1&AUx2) are currently being piloted on campus.

  • AUx1 focuses on the transition to college and includes an introduction to campus climate, diversity, and inclusion.
  • AUx2 focuses on identity, diversity, community, and inclusion. Both will eventually become requirements for all first-year students.

2. A new core curriculum is under review that includes a diversity requirement.

3. Housing staff and Center for Diversity & Inclusion (CDI) staff are actively involved in students’ education around campus climate. Inclusion is one of Campus Life’s top three areas of focus this year:

  • Recent retreats focused on creating inclusive communities and implicit bias.
  • Eagle Summit included sessions on implicit bias.
  • Welcome Week featured activities with a social justice focus.

4. Residence hall community standards and the residential curriculum were planned in collaboration with CDI, leading into the Center’s many training and dialogue opportunities.

5. One of CDI’s new workshops is “Creating Inclusive Communities;” the companion workshop to “Unmasking Your Privilege.”

Faculty training

1. Center for Teaching Research and Learning training workshops on inclusive pedagogies and classroom dialogues are ongoing throughout the term.

2. The Annual Ann Ferren Teaching Conference will focus on this topic again this year.

3. Periodic visits to all faculty departments to discuss campus climate matters began in Spring 2015 and are continuing to take place through Fall 2016.

4. Inclusion will be a major topic of conversation at the upcoming University Retreat as it has been over the past several years.

5. A faculty training session for all schools and colleges on unconscious bias was completed during the previous academic year.

Staff training

1. All staff were required to complete a training session on preventing discrimination in AY2015-2016.

2. The Office of Campus Life evaluates candidates’ multicultural competence as an integral part of its hiring process and offers in-service training and workshops to reinforces skills.

Focus on improved student experience through culture change

The university embarked on a long-term project to change both the culture and service systems around the student experience. Called RiSE (Re-inventing the Student Experience) this project is a major priority to build a more cohesive culture and better student experience. Several pilot projects are underway.

Increase diversity among the faculty.

1. A priority for several years, the most recent tenure-track hires have included over 20% underrepresented minority faculty.

2. At least five positions have been identified to hire tenure-line faculty with expertise in race or related studies.

3. Additional training on recruitment of diverse faculty has been provided to each tenure-track faculty search committee for the upcoming hiring cycle.

Create a greater sense of safety and well-being.

1. Since well-being can be enhanced when meeting others who share one’s identity, Academic Affairs and the Office of Campus Life initiated affinity receptions at the beginning of the academic year to establish networks for students, faculty, and staff of color.

2. The Office of Campus Life will collaborate with Public Safety to convene focus groups to explore additional steps to enhance a sense of safety.

Create a worldlier curriculum, responsive to a diverse student body, including more study abroad destinations and more non-Western perspectives in approach to subject content.

This issue needs more attention. Considerable talent exists on the subject of Africa, however, it is spread across a number of schools and colleges. This is true for other subjects that may be of interest to a more diverse student body.

1. The Library has offered to create thematic directories of the existing course offerings allowing students to easily identify with courses of interest. This could include courses on race, social justice, LGBTQ, political economy, etc.; the categories of the course directories are yet to be determined.

Improve and clarify policies and processes for reporting, response, and communication related to incidents of discrimination and bias.

1. AU will revise the policy on discrimination and harassment and simplify the process for reporting incidents of bias. The draft policy will receive input and consideration by the President’s Council on Diversity and Inclusion.

2. Campus Life researched bias response protocols at other universities. We will actively engage students in the process of considering these models.

3. We will highlight the existing incident reporting protocol that enables designating an incident in the CareNetwork and Conduct systems as bias related. An online complaint reporting form is available on relevant websites.

4. We will share aggregate data on reports of bias related incidents and their disposition. More work is needed on timely and effective reporting formats.

Review our conduct process and outcomes as they relate to acts of racism and bias.

1. Revisions to the Code will be considered and recommendations will be vetted with the Student Conduct Advisory Committee, which has student members. Wider student engagement in the Committee’s work will be sought.

2. Bias related incidents seldom have identified perpetrators. We will seek community recommendations to increase reporting and accountability.

Consider elements of restorative justice in sanctions for bias related incidents.

1. When Student Conduct Code violations involve student victims, the Office of Student Conduct is prepared to integrate restorative justice into the inventory of sanctions imposed in such cases. The Conduct Code will need to be amended accordingly.

Increase capacity for campus mental health services.

1. The Counseling Center employs a diverse and multi-culturally competent staff of 9 full-time staff clinicians and 5 full-time clinical trainees. We will request an additional clinician in the next budget cycle.

2. Individual and group therapy at the Counseling Center are free, as are support groups. To expand timely access, last year the Counseling Center began holding drop-in hours each weekday 2 – 4 p.m. – no appointment necessary.

3. The Student Health Center employs a full time psychiatric nurse who sees students for medication management. We are evaluating expanding hours of service in the next budget cycle.

4. The Psychology Department includes the James J. Gray Psychotherapy Training Clinic which provides a limited range of services.

Maintain stable financial aid allocations throughout students’ time at AU and improve assistance for students with need.

1. In order to improve stable levels of aid while at AU, the Director of Financial Aid is currently developing alternative models of resource allocation. 

2. This year is the first where 100% of financial need has been offered to 100% of all those eligible. 

3. Funds are available to assist with study abroad and internships. 

4. The Library has now purchased 631 of the most expensive text books and placed them on loan. 

5. Exploration of a Food Bank is under consideration.

Evaluate prospective presidential candidates’ commitments to diversity and inclusion.

1. The President’s Office conveyed this important interest to the search committee and board chair.

Provide more timely communication in a format that reaches students effectively.

1. A new internal communication mechanism for periodic news, university announcements, and important events is under development by University Communications and Marketing. It will include SMS notification and mobile-friendly format. Student input in the development process has been sought and will continue.