Dear Campus Community:
As we prepare to return to campus this fall and begin the 2020-21 academic year, I want to update you about the plans and progress we have made in our efforts to become a richly inclusive campus. We have made a concerted effort to align our efforts with national best practices. I am grateful to everyone who has joined this journey with an open heart and a willingness to learn.
The Spring semester started painfully, particularly for our students, and the move to remote learning as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic meant that we did not have an opportunity to heal as a community as fully as we would have hoped or wanted. Nonetheless, while COVID-19 affected the mode of our work in this area (remote learning, etc.), it had no effect on our commitment to change.
Central to the work of EDI is reframing our vision for Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion at Brockport, while paying respect and homage to the work that went into the EDI plan in 2016-17. On March 25, Cabinet reviewed and endorsed a vision for EDI, which is set forth below:
“Our vision for EDI is that the Office of Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion acts as a support structure to assist all areas of the campus to infuse EDI into their first line of thinking. The OEDI should lead on the process of training and development practices and work to ensure that we address issues of campus climate proactively. Within the OEDI, the CDO should act as a resource for our organization, assisting offices and divisions in their capacity building but also in ensuring that EDI is at the forefront of our thinking. The CDO should not be the most visible proponent of EDI—the one we point to or at—we should equally stand together. At the same time, we must avoid the diffusion that might come if we say ‘EDI is the work of everyone’ (so that we can avoid a situation where it becomes no one’s business by default). Within this structure, the CDO should act as a funnel to resources and as an agent of positive change, affirming best practices, helping us to address areas of improvement, and seeking to work with influence across the campus.”
Over the course of the Spring and summer Cabinet and I have been actively engaged in making structural changes to improve campus climate and to hold ourselves accountable for building an inclusive Brockport community. While this update to campus cannot possibly include all aspects of what we are focusing on, I did want to highlight some significant progress that has been made in addressing our desire to be a richly inclusive and anti-racist campus community.
- Brockport’s Five-Point Plan: These have been comprehensively addressed on campus. Ongoing elements, such as training, will continue to be a focus in the months and years ahead. Other elements, such as improvements to the bias reporting mechanism, are already complete. Updates on the plan progress can be found in the Strategic Plan for Equity, Diversity, & Inclusion .
- CDO Search: We will be commencing our search for a new CDO this fall, once our faculty, staff and students return to campus. We will be using Storbeck Search and Associates, part of the Diversified Search Group, to conduct a national search. Our Interim CDO, Dr. Lorraine Acker, has agreed to chair the committee, and a call for members—including student members—will go out shortly. We will prioritize search committee members who have not previously had a chance to sit on a high profile search, and ensure that each division is represented.
- New Hires:
- We have hired Christiana Ortiz, Diversity Recruitment and Retention Specialist in Human Resources who will assist us in finalizing our annual Affirmative Action Plan.
- We have hired Terrian Garvis, Transition and Success Coordinator in the Academic Success Center who will work specifically with Talon Academy (men of color initiative), emerging scholars, first generation students, and veteran and military students.
- New Intercultural Center: We have listened to our students, through BSG, our Student Advisory Board, and others,
and we have committed time, energy, space and resources to a new intercultural center,
which will open this fall. Our role on campus is to help our students be comfortable
with their voices, to ensure that they are practicing critical thinking, and to educate
them on how systems and shared governance works. We want our students to engage in
critical, civil discourse and to know that their voices matter, and we know that we
have an important role to play in ensuring that we support their academic and civic
- The Center will foster an inclusive and supportive environment that inspires students to become engaged members of the SUNY Brockport Community and beyond. The Center will be dedicated to providing students from underrepresented groups, and their allies, with opportunities for leadership development, celebration, collaboration, education and reflection on a range of issues related to inclusive excellence.
- The Center will be added to Community Development under the leadership of Karen Podsiadly. During the fall semester, several listening sessions will be held to present concepts and gather thoughts from the campus community around activities within the Center.
- We are actively recruiting a Program Coordinator to support the work in this area.
- Divisional EDI Plans: Cabinet is continuing to operationalize new divisional EDI plans, which stress accountability across all areas. This includes communicating these goals throughout each division and threading EDI goals into performance plans for all campus leaders.
- College Senate Ad Hoc EDI Committee: The work of aligning equity, diversity and inclusion with our practices does not lie solely with the cabinet, though we take our roles in culture change seriously. Each and every one of us has a part to play. That’s one reason that I am so grateful to see that College Senate has made a strong statement in support of EDI work, and will be implementing a new Ad Hoc EDI committee this fall, with the hopes of transitioning this committee into a Standing Committee by changing Senate By-laws. This is in response to the University Faculty Senate (UFS) resolution and ensures that the Senate EDI committee is a place for sharing best practices as well as areas for needed improvement, all the while focusing on shared governance and accountability.
- The Mission, Vision and Values Subcommittee of the Strategic Planning Committee was reconvened, for the sole purpose of reviewing currency of our four values and seeking to add “Inclusion” as a fifth value. VP Dave Mihalyov is leading this process. If our academic community desires this change, it could be enacted during the fall semester. In this case, we would look for resolutions of support from College Senate as well as other bodies (Brockport Student Government and College Council).
- Tenure and Promotion Full Review: This fall, we will be implementing a full review of tenure and promotion for all faculty, and recruitment and retention for all faculty and staff, to assess for bias.
- Community Advisory Board: We have held our first meeting, with the next one planned for early August. I was grateful to see the support of community leaders for the work we are undertaking. Their advice and guidance will prove invaluable over the next year and beyond.
- Rochester Black Agenda: We have signed the Greater Rochester Black Agenda Group’s declaration, “Racism is a Public Health Crisis,” and have committed to six major action points as a result.
- Policy Review Committee: We have made substantive changes to our policy processes, including adding EDI considerations and an inclusive policy review process into all policy changes. This was done to embed accountability into our decision making, and to focus on the structural changes we might implement as a result. We have also added the CDO as a member of the policy steering committee.
- EDI Websites and Communication: We are updating our website with more information about our commitment to EDI, consolidating our EDI microsite with other areas of our new look website. Please note that this will be a continually evolving webpage. In addition, the Daily Eagle now has a new EDI heading so that all faculty and staff can be updated regularly on EDI programming, plans and activities. In addition, we actively adding to our anti-racism resources, not only through OEDI’s website, but also in partnership with Drake Memorial Library on campus
- EDI Student Advisory Board: The student advisory board was implemented during the spring semester. The group spent the majority of their time learning about the college governance structure and providing feedback on college-wide initiatives. The group will continue to be active this fall in providing guidance on campus EDI initiatives.
- EDI Strategic Plan: We have finalized and published the EDI Strategic Plan Progress Report 2018-19 and we will complete the 2019-20 update by the end of the summer.
- OEDI Peer Review: We have undertaken a comprehensive review of peer and aspirant OEDI offices to ensure that we are benchmarked appropriately; we appear to be generally well positioned at Brockport with our array of support for students, faculty, and staff. We will continue to review additional support for students.
- Bias Response Coordinating Team: We have expanded our Bias Response Coordinating Team with new members, new training, and new responsibilities for communication and outreach.
- OEDI Budget: The financial impact of COVID has caused us to reevaluate institutional priorities. However, Cabinet and I have reaffirmed our strong stance in support of diversity, equality, and inclusion and will work with VP for Business and Finance to set aside funds that will be used to advance the college EDI goals.
SUNY Brockport and Cabinet are committed to the principles of equity, diversity, and inclusion, and we are committed to the accountability that change requires.
I look forward to welcoming everyone back to campus this fall. While some of you will be working or studying remotely, many of you will be back on campus, and together, we can make a difference. In 2020-21, we have the opportunity to embrace the challenges we face, and to live the work we do: to be a learning community. Each of us plays a part in this transformation, so that we are truly Building a Better Brockport for everyone.