Midway through the fall semester, I want to take a moment to appreciate and express the gratitude of the Council of Social Justice & Inclusion Steering Committee (CSJ&I) for the work and dedication of the entire campus in elevating Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DE&I) over the past year, especially in raising difficult topics to the forefront and identifying ways we can improve our campus culture, climate and experience. While our focus on DE&I is not new, this is foundational work that will help us propel our goals forward.
In Fall 2020, the Diversity, Equity & Inclusion and Gender & Sex-Based Discrimination Prevention Task Forces were formalized under the Council with over 125 faculty, staff and students collaborating to identify concrete ways in which the university can act on its commitments to Social Justice and Inclusion. Committees have discussed a range of issues including how to clarify our institutional values, address disparities in persistence and retention across diverse groups of students, support a culturally responsive environment, ensure visibility of our DE&I and GSDP initiatives and sufficient resources to support these initiatives, evaluate our existing practices, continue efforts to increase diversity representation at all levels, increase training, education and knowledge of resources, ensure equitable access to all aspects of campus life, and many more. The CSJ&I expects to finalize a draft of our DE&I Action Plan this calendar year based on recommendations developed during the 2020 Strategic Plan implementation, and the work of the CSJ&I task forces.
The CSJ&I has proposed five Pillars of Inclusive Excellence
that will shape the DE&I Action Plan and focus strategic initiatives that contribute to advancing a more inclusive campus culture and improving the experiences of all members of the university community:
- Institutional Commitment & Alignment: Examine, establish, and enact university policies, structures, and practices and align them with UML’s commitment to DE&I.
- Recruitment & Retention of Diverse Faculty, Staff, & Students: Prioritize the recruitment and retention of diverse faculty, staff, and students in order to build a more diverse, inclusive and equitable institution.
- Culturally Responsive Academic Excellence: Provide students, staff, and faculty with a culturally responsive education and learning opportunities that incorporate our campus DE&I values.
- Equitable Access and Success: Monitor, track, and promote diversity of participants in all aspects of campus life to achieve an inclusive community with outcomes and success dictated by character not privilege.
- Inclusive Culture and Climate: Create an inclusive environment where individuals and groups can feel welcomed, valued, respected, and supported to thrive on campus.
CSJ&I subcommittees have proposed many strategic priorities for each of the pillars some of which are included as examples at the link above.
UMass Lowell’s Diversity Action Plan is about ensuring resources, training, communications and best practices are in place because we recognize that even among well-intentioned individuals, an inclusive organization does not happen by chance.
Inclusive communities prioritize diversity. They communicate and demonstrate institutional expectations and they work continually to improve. In our drive as a university to create a campus community that is welcoming to all, I am confident that the recommendations, strategies and resources that will make up our Plan will only strengthen our commitment to inclusion.
Thank you for all you do every day to support each other.