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University Update: Immediate Plan for Action


Posted 11/08/2017
Posted by Molly Polk


Dear University of Hartford Community,
 
Over the last week, our community has engaged in thoughtful and emotional meetings and conversations focusing and reflecting upon the recent events on campus. These conversations have been productive and provocative, and I will ensure that there will continue to be informal and formal opportunities for shared discourse as an impetus for meaningful change.
 
A number of suggestions for action have emerged from these many discussions. What is clear to me is that each person and unit on campus has a part to play in moving forward. Here is a partial list of activities that have risen to the top of what will soon become a complete action plan for our campus around issues of equity, inclusion, and diversity. This is not an exhaustive list; it is an effort in progress, to be shaped as we continue to learn from each other and outside experts. My hope is that this set of actions will be the first steps in a series of ongoing efforts that raise consciousness about these critical issues, engage in communal learning by embracing the tension inherent in confronting discrimination and harassment, and bring our community together to create new programs, initiatives, and learning goals at the University.   
 
An Immediate Plan for Action
 
1.     This fall semester, the University will host a community observance to affirm our commitment to confronting issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion directly and openly.  I am forming an inclusive committee of faculty, staff, and students to work together to evaluate how to best bring the campus together for meaningful discussion, sharing, and action-planning.
 
2.     We will begin a campus dialogue about the creation of an educational series that will be the centerpiece of an annual diversity awareness calendar for the University moving forward. Towards this end, we will plan and create a focused day committed to these efforts and an extended series of programs for the spring semester.
 
3.     For the remainder of the fall semester, I will host regular sessions and workshops for the campus community to share and engage in discussion and learning. I invite the UHart community to join me each Friday—students in the private dining room in University Commons at noon, and faculty and staff for coffee at 2 p.m. in the GSU café.  A number of other opportunities—including meetings with multicultural group student leaders, student government, regional community leaders, and faculty and staff organizations—are also being planned. We will update the campus community regularly to provide opportunities for participation.
 
4.     There will be an immediate and full review of our current policies and procedures as they relate to reports of discrimination and harassment, with a goal of systematically identifying areas in need of adjustment or improvement. This review will include an assessment of the accessibility and communication of information about reporting options and campus resources. New approaches for communicating this information to the campus community are already being identified and a new website will be created to house all related information in one place. The LiveSafe App, a new tool rolled out earlier this year for anonymous reporting, will also be promoted more broadly. The review will also include an assessment of how information about conduct matters and threat assessment is shared internally between and among responding departments within the University. This review will also explore the adequacy of existing supports and resources for students and employees, including potential access to victim advocacy.
 
5.     The Department of Human Resources, in coordination with the Office of the Provost, will immediately create a campus committee to enhance our diversity efforts in hiring and training of faculty and staff.  Its goal will be to develop new guidelines, strategies, and structures to ensure that diversity remains a high priority in faculty and staff recruitment and hiring.  
 
6.     Expanded training opportunities will be aggressively explored across campus.  Bias training for staff in Residential Life and Public Safety will be immediately reviewed and continue to be mandatory. Later goals will include mandatory workshops for all current and new employees to fulfill an expectation of competency in cross-cultural awareness and inclusion.
 
7.     The Office of the Provost has begun developing a database of internal and external resources to help faculty facilitate discussion of diversity and inclusion within their departments and classrooms. These resource materials will be available to the entire campus community and our goal is to establish an ongoing faculty learning group committed to maintaining and shaping these resources. I will also ask the Faculty Senate and Staff Association to host open discussions in which to explore ways that faculty and staff can encourage robust conversations on student-learning goals surrounding issues of diversity in the fullest sense.
 
8.     The Provost will begin a faculty conversation about cultural competence and education as addressed, or not addressed, in our Institutional Learning Goals, with an examination of the possible creation of a University-wide learning component dedicated to these specific diversity learning goals.
 
9.     Led by a partnership between academic and student affairs, Orientation programming for first-year and transfer students will include a specific series of activities focused on issues of diversity and inclusion. The further engagement of Resident Assistants and Resident Directors in this effort throughout the year will be explored and implemented.
 
10.  In August 2017, I convened a body of three co-chairs (DeLois Lindsey, Karen Tejada, and Jane Horvath) to form a standing committee on diversity, equity, and inclusion. The committee is ready to be expanded to include representation from areas across campus. For the immediate future—as we explore other positions or people the University may need—this committee will be the hub that seeks to connect our efforts across campus; articulate the definition of diversity, inclusion, and equity at UHart; and hold the campus accountable for a commitment to action. I will also explore the possible future addition of a campus leadership position to lead these efforts.
 
11.  We will create a President’s Community Advisory Council to further build partnerships with our neighbors and region, and to find more pathways for students and faculty/staff to be engaged in community projects and education.
 
12.  A website will be created to keep the campus community informed on these efforts, future initiatives, and campus event opportunities.
 
We must challenge ourselves to engage in respectful and meaningful dialogue and educational initiatives that enhance and better our community. We must strive to be a model for society at large as a place of cultural understanding and sensitivity. We must hold diversity in its many forms close to our mission. And we must be mindful and conscious of believing in and practicing active inclusion for each member of our community.
 
I look forward to your comments and suggestions, and to the dialogue and action ahead of us.  Please send your ideas or thoughts—now or in the future—to unity@hartford.edu.
 
Thank you,
Greg Woodward
President