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DU's Historical Efforts at Inclusive Excellence

By Kara Roberts

Previously published in the Department of Media, Film & Journalism Studies' Multicultural Journalism course's special issue of the DU Clarion, November 2017.

Over the past 20 years there has been an increase in DU's institutional efforts to create a more diverse and inclusive campus. In the 1990s, the Office of Minority Affairs was primarily in charge of operating support services for students of color on campus. In 2001, with Dr. Robert Coombe as provost, the office was renamed the Office of Multicultural Affairs (OMA). During this time, more staff positions were created and the office's responsibilities expanded to include supporting diversity and inclusion for the entire campus.

The idea of "Inclusive excellence" was launched through a campaign run by the Center for Multicultural Excellence (CME) in 2006 to move DU beyond the "simplistic definition of diversity to a more inclusive, comprehensive, and omnipresent notion of diversity that transfers the responsibility for diversity on the campus to everyone. . . as opposed to one unit or department shouldering the work of diversity." With this understanding, the responsibility for inclusiveness of everyone is placed on administrators, faculty, staff, students and alumni. Further, the idea of diversity as a numerical goal was shed. In its place is the goal to transform the institution so that diversity pervades every area of university life, including demographics, curriculum, policies, pedagogy, financial resources and leadership, among other things.

Though CME was originally the Office of Multicultural Affairs, its name was changed in 2002 to reflect the philosophical premise of an "asset-based validation model" versus the previous philosophical premise of a "deficit model" when it comes to campus diversity. To elaborate, the "deficit model" conceptualized diversity "as a problem involving disadvantaged, under-prepared, and culturally deprived people." In contrast, the "asset-based validation model" conceptualizes diversity as an "asset involving talented and gifted individuals who contribute to the very teaching, learning, service and research mission of the University." Since 2012 and Dr. Frank Tuitt's appointment to the role of associate provost for Inclusive Excellence, CME has worked to create goals that prioritize campus diversity and that create an inclusive environment.

More information on this topic can be found at the University of Denver Campus Climate for Students Working Group Report of Findings and Recommendations from January 22, 2015 and DU's Center for Multicultural Excellence.