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Progress continues on recommendations from W&M’s task force on race

From increasing faculty diversity to better understanding and improving campus climate of staff, work continues to implement changes recommended by the William & Mary Task Force on Race and Race Relations.

In May, a team charged with implementing recommendations from the task force issued a progress report with information on what goals have been accomplished and what initiatives are on the horizon, with several expected to be completed this fall.

“The implementation team has been diligently working to accomplish the remaining recommendations,” said Chief Diversity Officer Chon Glover. “I have been pleased with the consistent support of the board and the administration but mostly with the dedication of the implementation team members. The timing is right, and we want to capitalize on the momentum that has been set.”

The Task Force on Race and Race Relations was established in spring 2015 by President Taylor Reveley to provide recommendations in four areas: campus climate, prevention and education, recruitment of diverse faculty and senior administration, and bias reporting and incident protocol. The group completed its work in spring 2016 and presented Reveley with 51 recommendations.

In the summer of 2016, a smaller implementation team was created to explore and enact those recommendations. That team is expected to finish its work by the end of the academic year. Any remaining tasks will be distributed to administrators and staff members to incorporate into their job responsibilities.

According to the implementation team’s May 2017 progress report, some of its completed actions include creating and filling the deputy chief diversity officer position, expanding the staff in the Center for Student Diversity and renaming the Jamestown dorms to Lemon Hall and Hardy Hall.

In addition, six faculty members — five starting this semester and one postponing for a year to accept a fellowship — were hired through a new initiative from Provost Michael R. Halleran that seeks to increase the diversity of the university’s faculty. Reveley announced in April 2016 a total of $1 million in funding for that initiative: $500,000 for 2016-17 and a further $500,000 starting 2017-18. The recruitment process under that initiative is ongoing, said Glover, and more faculty are expected to be hired under this program this coming year and beyond.

“I am very pleased with the interest in this initiative and especially with the very high quality of new faculty who are joining us,” said Halleran. “The goals have been broadly and deeply embraced by deans, schools and departments.”

The task force’s recommendations around staff concerns in Facilities Management have also seen progress. Following a series of focus groups conducted by a consultant last year, a human resources generalist was hired to make sure that university policies are implemented consistently within Facilities Management. In addition, Associate Vice President for Facilities Management Van Dobson established a working group to develop recommendations on improving fairness, respect and accountability in the division. That group met throughout the summer.

“I look forward to receiving the working group's actionable recommendations at the end of September.  We plan to quickly implement as many recommendations as possible as we continue our journey to improve the culture within Facilities Management,” said Dobson.

But new training opportunities haven’t been limited to Facilities Management. The implementation team is currently researching companies to provide training for faculty, staff and students.

“Selecting the right company and product is very critical for any type of training, but more specifically for training surrounding cultural competency and sensitivity,” said Glover, adding that the team expects to make recommendations by the spring.

In addition, Human Resources, which recently launched its new learning management system, is developing a training manual for hiring managers and search committee members that will include educational information on unconscious bias. That manual is expected to be completed this fall. Human Resources is also developing a customized supervisor’s institute for Facilities Management that will begin in the new academic year.

One of the task force’s recommendations called for the creation of a Diversity and Inclusion Committee to create a university-wide plan. A working group, chaired by Glover, was established at the end of the spring semester to begin developing the framework for that plan, which will “inform, drive, and influence the institution’s diversity initiatives,” according to Glover. The committee will be established and given a charge when the working group’s initial planning is complete. The plan is not expected to be completed until William & Mary’s new president is in place in order to make sure that it is consistent with that person’s goals for the university, said Glover.

All of W&M’s schools and more than half of Arts & Sciences’ academic departments have completed their unit-level diversity and inclusion plans. Administrative departments will begin work on their plans this fall.

Some of the recommendations that the implementation team continues to work on include implementing a racial climate survey for students, reviewing all official documentation of printed and electronic materials related to diversity, increasing funding for multicultural organizations and clubs and recruiting more students of color.

Additional diversity-related efforts coming up at W&M this year include: the 50th anniversary of William & Mary’s first African-American residential students, which includes a yearlong series of special events starting this fall; the university’s second annual Diversity & Inclusion Symposium, set for Oct. 14; a fall professional development series; new recruitment and retention efforts for faculty and staff who are veterans; and the continuation of the Office of Diversity & Inclusion’s IDEA grants and diversity recognition programs. In addition, an LGBT implementation team has been established to begin working on recommendations developed by a 2015 working group.

“The work of the implementation team on race remains a high priority; however, the Office of Diversity & Inclusion continues to respond and proactively plan for other rising issues that may impact the diversity of our community members,” said Glover. “We are excited to welcome our new faculty, staff and students who join William & Mary this year and look forward to working closely with all as we increase our initiatives.

“With our expanded staff, it is my hope that we will be able to cover more ground and be innovative in the way we do our work as we inform, educate, support and advocate for all members of our university.”