How colleges can back their diversity efforts

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Editor’s note: This article comes from the current issue of Community College Journal, published bimonthly by the American Association of Community Colleges.

The concept of diversity at any institution of higher education must encompass the acceptance, inclusiveness, engagement and mutual respect among students, faculty, staff, administrators and members of the broader community. It is a powerful mission and something to strive for, but how do you and your institution get there?

Here are five ways to support your college’s diversity officer and efforts.

Cabinet-level position

It is essential that your diversity, equity and inclusion efforts are led from the top. Your diversity officer must be a cabinet-level position within the institution who is supported by leadership and is a valued advisor. Leadership must be engaged and invested. As a member of your college’s leadership team, meet with and get to know your diversity officer. Learn from each other, one meeting at a time.

Budget is commitment

Allocate staffing and resources to your office of diversity. A sufficient budget is vital to supporting the effective execution of all duties and responsibilities associated with the office and allow you to fund training, strategic plan development, data collection and analysis, recognition events and more. Develop, invest in and sustain support for programs that work to effectively address identified barriers to student success.

Assess and advance

How do you know where you are going and how to get there if you don’t know where you’ve been? Invest in a diversity, equity and inclusion audit to take a deep dive into existing efforts at your institution. This must be done by a third-party agency/firm that will give an honest, comprehensive view of your operation. A diversity audit is designed to provide advice and guidance to successfully further your efforts. It will establish the foundation for your strategic plan and provide metrics for tactics to monitor the work on an ongoing basis.

Campus-wide commitment

Clearly communicate your diversity, equity and inclusion strategy to your students, faculty, staff and administrators to ensure they are oriented to your institution’s values and beliefs and that they understand their roles, responsibilities and behavior. This can be accomplished through a robust and coordinated marketing plan. Your institution should be viewed as welcoming to all, respectful of every individual and a place that celebrates differences. You could have the best diversity, equity and inclusion strategy on paper, but are you executing it? Set standards, provide support and drive individual accountability for your campus community.

Be a resource on and off campus

Don’t limit your efforts to only your campus population. As a college, your roots in your community run deep and your partnerships are constantly growing. Open your diversity, equity and inclusion events to the public, community organizations and other higher education institutions. Livestream your events and workshops to reach as many people as possible. Use your website to provide updates on your progress and information on diversity, equity, and inclusion events, workshops, and resources. Attend and/or sponsor events that align with your institution’s diversity, equity and inclusion efforts.

Visit www.sinclair.edu/diversity to learn about Sinclair Community College’s diversity, equity and inclusion efforts.

About the Author

Michael Carter
is senior advisor to the president and chief diversity officer for Sinclair Community College in Dayton, Ohio.