The Community Building Subcommittee was charged with examining, assessing, and making recommendations to improve how the University influences non-academic matters as they relate to race, culture, and faith. The subcommittee was asked to consider but not be limited to looking at University governance, the diversification of the student body, and the University’s relationship with alumni and nearby communities.
The subcommittee, which met weekly from October 2020 to April 2020, focused its efforts in three areas: student experience, governance, and the surrounding community. Members reviewed board composition, training resources, and strategic plans at other Catholic universities, held listening sessions with Black students, conducted an online survey completed by nearly 250 students, identified areas for faculty training, assessed the availability of support from existing student and professional student organizations, and identified strategic community partners.
The listening sessions with Black students revealed experiences that included microaggressions and incidents of racism on campus and in classes. Students felt a lack of empathy from some faculty and desired more support, such as a more diverse faculty and advisors to serve as mentors for students of color. The Center for Cultural Engagement is appreciated but has limited resources. Students also recommended racial-diversity training and a better orientation experience for new students that would include cultural affinity content for the campus and region.
The student survey revealed a strong desire for the University to engage with issues of diversity and inclusion outside the classroom setting. This would include campus-wide efforts to educate peers about issues of diversity and inclusion, particularly those dealing with race.
The subcommittee also considered the University’s diversity compared to national data. In fall 2020, nearly 12 percent of the University’s Board of Trustees were from underrepresented communities. By fall 2021, this increased to nearly 17 percent.
The University’s student body (undergraduate and graduate) is slightly more white (59 percent) than the nation’s overall population (54 percent) and less Hispanic/Latino. Eleven percent of the University’s students are Hispanic/ Latino compared to 18.5 percent in the U.S. population. Nearly eight percent of students are Black/non-Hispanic compared to 13.4 percent in the U.S. population, and less than four percent are Asian/non-Hispanic. The U.S. Census data from 2020 indicates the U.S. population has become increasingly multiracial and diverse.
An application submitted to a college guidance organization that gives equity and inclusion badges resulted in recommendations for the University, including a centralized equity and inclusion plan, targeted recruitment, support for employees of color, and on-campus support for students of color once recruited.
Strengthen the cultural competency curriculum for all student leaders, with collaboration between departments. Create a train-the-trainer program for cultural competency for staff responsible for student leadership development.
Develop a comprehensive and appropriate racial training/formation program for all University members, including faculty, staff, and students.
Develop Title IX-style training to address racial discrimination, including the reporting process for racial discrimination. Training should be provided for students, staff, and faculty, and the number of racial discrimination claims and investigations should be publicly reported.
Host an annual Sister Thea Bowman speaker series, with a variety of speakers addressing relevant and timely issues of diversity and inclusion. (Note: The Department of Library and Information Science currently sponsors the Library and Information Science Sister Thea Bowman Lecture Series on Social Justice.)
Initiate a national search for the position of chief diversity officer (or equivalent senior position), who will oversee implementation of recommendations from the Sister Thea Bowman Committee.
Diversify the ethnic/racial composition of the University’s board of trustees.
Develop a detailed plan for increasing the diversity of the student population.