A message from NSU President Dr. Chris Maggio
Dear Faculty and Staff:
Racism and discrimination that have created deep divisions here and across the country have provided opportunities for the university to listen, learn and make progress in addressing issues and attitudes that have contributed to racial inequities and insensitivity on our campuses.
As specific situations have surfaced in recent weeks, the university has been diligent in taking expedient and appropriate action. There have been disciplinary measures involving both students and employees.
These incidents have also provided the impetus for extensive conversation between students, faculty, staff and administrators at the university and African American alumni, community leaders and others who have offered insight and assistance in expanding diversity and inclusion at Northwestern.
The university has taken several steps in recent years to become a more diverse and inclusive institution, but we realize that much more needs to be done to ensure fairness, inclusivity, and equity in every aspect and endeavor of our university.
We are implementing comprehensive procedures and providing additional resources to assure the expanded diversity, inclusion, and equity that we all agree is imperative to the institution’s future stability and success.
Vice President of Diversity and Inclusion
We are moving quickly toward establishing the position of Vice-President for Diversity and Inclusion at Northwestern and have reached out to individuals who might be interested in and qualified for that position.
That individual will have a leadership role in creating and coordinating programs and initiatives that will lead to intensified recruitment of African American employees in prominent positions on the faculty and staff and minority students to provide expanded participation and leadership in student government and other organizations and activities at the university.
Diversity and Inclusion Planning Team
We established last fall a large committee to craft a comprehensive University Diversity and Inclusion Plan. This group of faculty, staff, and students have worked diligently over the past several months to draft our framework of inclusive excellence and were nearing completion of the document when COVID 19 closed the university. The committee has resumed its meetings and will have the plan finalized before the fall semester to share with the university-wide committee and others across our campuses. We will then ask students, faculty, staff and others to review before final adoption. The new Vice President will lead our efforts in finalizing the diversity and inclusion plan.
The five overarching goals for the Diversity and Inclusion Planning Team are:
- Increase diversity and equity among faculty, staff, and administration.
- Increase diversity among the student body.
- Integrate diversity and inclusion throughout the academic curriculum.
- Develop a more inclusive campus environment that fosters success and meaningful participation for all students, faculty, and staff.
- Ensure diversity and inclusion are reflected in policies, procedures, budgeting, staffing, facility management, and other areas of university operations.
University-Wide Diversity and Inclusion Committee
Northwestern regularly appoints a University-Wide Diversity and Inclusion Committee. This committee is comprised of students, faculty, and staff. Its charge is to monitor and enhance the overall progress of the university in carrying out its commitment to foster a diverse and inclusive community for students and employees. In the recent past, the committee conducted a diversity survey, and it routinely provides reports to the administration on its monitoring of the campus community and on best practices. A subgroup of this committee assists the Center for Inclusion and Diversity in planning and carrying out the mission of the Center. Reports and activities of this committee are guiding the Diversity and Inclusion Planning Team in development of the plan for Northwestern State University. The work of this committee also informs the Student Experience in strategic planning. Members of the University-Wide Diversity and Inclusion Committee also sit on the Diversity and Inclusion Planning Team.
African American Advisory Committee
Over the past two weeks, Northwestern convened a committee of local leaders and alumni in the African American community. We believe that successful dialoguing is paramount in understanding and developing ideas to move toward justice and inclusion. NSU will continue to assemble this group regularly in an advisory capacity. Through the Diversity and Inclusion Planning Team, we hope to continue to develop more formal ways for the African American Advisory Committee to participate in the NSU community.
Beginning this fall semester, we will initiate a campaign of dialogue, learning, programming, and workshops that will help our campus continue to build a community that is safe, just and transformative for all students, staff and faculty. Our NSU community, our nation and the world are facing new challenges, and this conversation is imperative. One of our most essential and important goals as educators is to find ways to promote respect, civility, inclusivity, and responsible decision making.
The Student Experience is contracting with Carrie Zimmerman, the founder of Uncommon Programs and Consulting, who, through training programs, workshops, and other learning opportunities, will lead us to the following:
- A commitment of long-term work to equality and justice on all levels
- An understanding that this is complex and uncomfortable work
- A commitment of time, staff, space, and resources
- A place at the table for all, and inclusion of all campus partners, offices, and programs.
Northwestern will conduct a review by faculty, staff, students and legal counsel of the Student Code of Conduct to improve our ability to legally and justly monitor and sanction student behavior. The Office of Student Conduct and Accountability is currently working with the Office of Admissions to ensure that upon being admitted, all new students are aware of the Student Code and the expectations of respect and civility in the Northwestern community.
Through inclusive excellence, we will increase the number of minority professionals in academic areas. Beginning in Spring 2020, all academic searches are posted on higheredjobs.com, and utilize the Diversity and Inclusion email listserv option as well as the Diversity and Inclusion Spotlight. Both features send all of our open positions to more than 340,000 job seekers who want to be part of a community that is actively seeking diversity, inclusion, and equity as part of their job searches. Our Provost and NSU Human Resources Office have crafted a statement describing the University’s commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion, and that statement will be included in each open job posting on campus. The statement asks applicants to address their potential in contributing to and engaging with our diverse community, and how they will assist in broadening our curricular offerings.
University leaders are working with the NSU Foundation in seeking donors to establish an Endowed Professorship in African American Studies. It is hoped that the establishment will lead to other Endowed Professorships including representation of other minority groups on our campus including Native American Studies, LGBTQ+ Studies, and Hispanic Studies.
The Faculty-Staff institute during on-call week in August will center around the themes of diversity, equity, and inclusion, and will present approaches to engage students, faculty, and staff in ongoing dialogue. The dialogue that begins during on-call week will remain part of our collective academic conversation throughout the academic year.
The Provost has issued a challenge to all Academic Deans to think strategically and work collaboratively with Directors, Department Heads, faculty, staff, and students in their colleges to embed relevant questions and conversations in all classes, and to use that opportunity to initiate new designs that assist us in aspiring to be a more inclusive and open environment for all humankind.
I appreciate the openness and commitment of our outstanding African American student leaders, faculty, staff, alumni and community members and look forward to continued extensive conversation with these groups and others who have offered valuable and meaningful guidance during this pivotal moment in the history of our cherished university.
We see progress already in the creation of a more diverse climate and spirit of unity across our campuses. We also sense an increased commitment from faculty, staff, students, alumni, partners, other stakeholders and the community to establishing an atmosphere at the university in which every individual at Northwestern and all of those served by and associated with the school will be treated equally, fairly and with dignity and respect regardless of race, creed, color or sexual orientation.
I hope that all of you will join in our sincere, vigorous efforts toward that goal.