Where We Are
While there is work ahead, the university is not starting from scratch and progress has been made to support new efforts. Reflecting and valuing diversity is part of our current strategic plan, which was created in 2008. In 2016, under the leadership of former President Neil Kerwin, the university put forth a five-point diversity and inclusion plan which led to the creation of new councils, hiring and training programs, as well as centers of scholarship and majors.
Still, recent examination found that the institutions, policies, and practices that could respond to inequities are considered at best inconsistent and opaque; at worst, biased. This assessment summarizes the opportunities and challenges the university faces with respect to diversity, equity, and inclusion.
A Candid Assessment
AU engaged in a thorough review and analysis of our current environment and practices. Existing survey data and interviews provided important input for this assessment.
Key observations and findings lay out in stark terms the work we have to do:
More students of color experience bias and feel alienated and unsafe, compared to white peers.
- Only 33 percent of African American students said they felt included on campus, compared to 71 percent of white students and less than 60 percent each of Hispanic, Asian, or international* students. Too few students from other segments of people of color are enrolled at AU to call out in these statistics.(Source:
2017 Campus Climate Survey).
- Students reported a lack of comfort in classrooms and with faculty, citing racial and gender bias, as well as a consistent pattern of derogatory comments directed at students of color.
- First-year students who identify as minorities do not feel as comfortable with faculty and academic advisors as their non-minority student counterparts. (Source: 2016 National Survey of Student Engagement)
- Students of color feel less physically and emotionally safe than their white counterparts and see few spaces designed by and for underrepresented students to hold meetings, to study together, and to socialize.
Fewer students of color and international* students said they feel included on campus, compared to white peers.
* International students are not US citizens or permanent residents, and instead are here on a student or other non-immigrant visa.
Institutional systems, policies, and practices are considered at best inconsistent and lacking transparency; at worst, biased.
- Majorities of students of all races said that, in responding to troubling situations around discrimination or bias, AU was not responsive to student concerns. (Source: 2017 Campus Climate Survey).
- Students desire more clarity about how to navigate institutional policies and also seek to better understand how incidents of bias, discrimination, and harassment are handled.
- The institutional policies and practices for hiring especially need to be further examined to determine how current practices impact recruitment outcomes for staff and faculty appointments.
Training programs to develop cultural competence and mitigate bias are many and varied; most are voluntary, and their effectiveness has not been adequately demonstrated.
- Programs at AU have primarily been offered by Human Resources, the Center for Teaching, Research, and Learning, and the Center for Diversity and Inclusion. All training programs are optional, excluding the required compliance course focused on Preventing Discrimination and Sexual Violence. Summer orientation for incoming students includes a diversity and inclusion session, which 89 percent of first year students took in the summer of 2017. New faculty orientation in 2018 included a session on inclusive pedagogy.
- Within the past year, there has been a major expansion of diversity course offerings through Human Resources as well as through the Office of the Provost; between the two units, nearly 20 new trainings have been added.
- No comprehensive inventory of training programs exists, and there is no consistent framework within which training programs are developed, assigned as expectations, or measured for effectiveness.
Diversity across all levels of the institution has grown incrementally over the last few years, but inequities and gaps persist for racial minorities, acutely so for African American/black members of the community.
- Students report that it is important to see themselves reflected in the faculty and curriculum to create a sense of belonging and inclusiveness.
- Compositional diversity of students and faculty in fall 2017:
- 13.6% Hispanic/Latino
- 9.3% African American
- 6.5% Asian American
- 4.5% Multiracial
- 0.2% American Indian/Alaskan Native
- < 0.1% (5) Native Hawaiian
- 7.8% Asian American
- 5.8% African American
- 5.5% Hispanic/Latino
- 0.1% Mulitracial