Committee addresses diversity

Illustration by Cyan Cowap

By GELSEY PLAZA /// Senior Staff Writer

WITH LOTS OF commotion around modifying Exploration and Discovery (E&D) common texts and diversifying classroom curriculums, Lewis & Clark’s Committee on Diversity and Inclusion (CDI) is actively devoting time to the accommodation of diverse practices across all three campuses. CDI designs, coordinates and implements initiatives in order to make LC a welcoming, safe and inclusive community. The committee includes faculty, students and staff from the College of Arts and Sciences, the Law School and the Graduate School. When necessary, the CDI makes recommendations to the Executive Council regarding diversity-related issues. It sponsors initiatives that support on- and off-campus efforts to comprehend and celebrate the differences and similarities within the LC environment. The CDI oversees all aspects of diversity and inclusion across all three schools and works with everyone on campus to fulfill pertinent goals.

One of the primary issues that CDI is working on is diversity hiring. Diversifying faculty and staff is one of its top priorities. However, the big question for them is “How?” When openings come up, how will LC pull in diverse candidates? Another issue that CDI is engaged in is diversifying the curriculum within classes, as well as the courses LC offers. Last spring, CDI released a 21-page action plan to address these and other diversity-related issues. Other immediate action items in the draft plan include starting long-term professional development training and support system in diversity and inclusion for faculty and staff, providing cultural competency training and inter-group dialogue sessions for staff, faculty, and students and publishing a comprehensive calendar of diversity events occurring at all three schools.

The Preamble to the Spring 2016 CDI Action Plan states: “[A] diverse community is characterized by the presence and participation of people who vary from each other in terms of age, color, ethnicity, gender/gender identity/gender expression, embodiment (e.g., body type and/or appearance), language, national origin, race, religion/spirituality, sexual orientation, ability status, and socio-economic status/social class … Diversity and inclusion must be woven within a climate in which there is a commonality that comes from working together to effect constructive change … Beyond representational diversity, we [the CDI] aim to promote inclusion and understanding through respectful, collaborative, and civil discourse and conduct.”

The CDI is currently in the process of finishing the Action Plan; it will provide direction for the crucial next steps in terms of enhancing diversity in the LC community. The Action Plan provides a number of immediate and ongoing things that LC can work on together to address some of the most pressing issues faced.

CDI committee member and Dean of Religious and Spiritual Life Mark Duntley is excited that the CDI will be able to roll out an action plan for immediate implementation, as well as be able to create a comprehensive Diversity Strategic Plan for the long term.

“With Janet Steverson as our new Dean of Diversity and Inclusion working with the CDI and serving as a member of the Executive Council, I believe that there is hope that we will really make substantive changes as an institution and that there will be a strategic vision for enhancing diversity within our community along with concrete, pragmatic actions that we will commit to taking,” Duntley said.

Dean of Diversity and Inclusion and Professor of Law Janet Steverson serves on the CDI because she cares about creating an inclusive and supportive environment across all three campuses.

“I want our campus to be an inclusive and welcoming campus for our students,” Steverson said. “Not just for one group of students, and not just for another group of students, but for all of the students that are here on campus.  [I want them] to feel that LC is their community [and that] they are a part of that community.  Because I care about the students, as well as caring about the faculty and staff, is why I do this work.  [Serving on this committee is all extra time]; but [students and faculty] do it because they care. They want [LC] to be a really wonderful place for everyone.”

President of Gente Latina Unida (GLU) and Admissions Fellow for Multicultural Recruitment Alvaro Torres ‘18 hopes that GLU will bring together students of similar backgrounds. GLU has worked very closely with Inclusion and Multicultural Engagement (IME) in order to kickoff events and make the LC community feel that diversity is prevalent around campus.

“[GLU] would like to emphasize the variety of cultures that exist here [at] LC,” Torres said. “[Although] we may not all be [at LC] for the same reason, [we have] the common goal of supporting each other [through] a very rigorous four years. I find the comfort of seeing my culture expressed through this club. [However,] others may be [here at GLU] in order for their culture to be understood properly on campus. At the end of the day, Latino and Hispanic is a loose term that is supposed to represent a wide variety of people. With CDI being introduced, we hope to have another ally in our faculty, one that will help increase the diversity on campus and show the many colors of it, purposefully.”

With committees and organizations such as CDI, IME and GLU, whose collective mission is to bring awareness to a diverse spectrum of students, faculty and staff across campuses, LC is actively working to foster a growing, multifaceted and unique community.

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