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State of Inclusive Excellence at the University of Denver

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Rebecca Chopp

Letter  •

Dear Friends,

As we welcome the summer, I want to share with you some important information about what we have achieved and where we are headed in terms of creating a more diverse and inclusive campus.

Building a stronger culture of inclusive excellence at the University of Denver is a shared vision and a shared responsibility. As we build upon the progress others have helped us to achieve, we must also recognize that there will always be more to do—and that we must continue to advocate for and create positive change.

Over the last several years, faculty, staff and students have worked successfully to achieve greater diversity and make DU a more inclusive environment. Specifically, from 2013-2015, members of our community created the following reports and statements that analyze the evolving state of diversity and inclusivity on campus and make recommendations or commitments for next steps:

  • Status of People of Color Report, May 28, 2014
  • Status of Women Report, May 28, 2014
  • Diversity and Inclusion at the University of Denver, Aug. 20, 2014
  • Campus Climate for Students Working Group Report, Jan. 22, 2015
  • New Chancellor's Statement on Diversity, Equity and Inclusive Excellence, Jan. 23, 2015
  • Equity, Diversity and Inclusive Excellence Task Force Report, Feb. 13, 2015
  • Engaging Community Implementation Plan: 2015 Action Items, March 24, 2015 (significant updates of the status of these tasks will be posted very soon)
  • Findings of Fact, Independent Investigation in EEO Complaints, April 20, 2015

Several other documents have been produced within our individual schools and units. Various departments and organizations on campus have hosted numerous events to recognize and continue our work on diversity. A successful Diversity Summit was held on January 22-23. A twenty-year anniversary of the Center for Multicultural Excellence was held on May 7. These reports, statements and events represent the work of many on this campus to make sure all our students, faculty and staff can thrive and that we create an inclusive community that embraces all its members, provides equality of opportunity for all and actively encourages all voices to be heard.

Some of this work, such as the CME anniversary, is celebratory in nature, while other work is more difficult, as with the Campus Climate for Students Working Group Report. But all of it has helped us to have open conversations about diversity and inclusive excellence on our campus. I believe this work has all contributed to our ability to look forward with determination and with hope.

As we look forward to the next academic year, I want to highlight a few of the many important steps we are taking to implement the recommendations and ideas stemming from these reports and conversations. I want to underscore some key items so we can work together and hold each other accountable on these items.

  1. Dr. Liliana Rodriguez will join the DU community at the new Vice Chancellor for Campus Life and Inclusive excellence, a position designed to ensure an inclusive community that supports all students. Dr. Rodriguez will serve on the senior staff of the University and oversee the new Division of Campus Life and Inclusive Excellence.
  2. Dr. Frank Tuitt will become Senior Advisor to the Chancellor and Provost on Diversity and Inclusion. In this role, Dr. Tuitt will serve on the senior staff; help us to create the position of Senior Associate Provost for Diversity, Equity and Inclusive Excellence and Senior Advisor to the Chancellor for Diversity and External Relations; oversee implementation of a variety of recommendations from the Task Force on Diversity, Equity and Inclusive Excellence; oversee an external review on diversity; plan for the Academic Diversity Council; and, with Dr. Rodriguez's help, create the Chancellor's Diversity and Equity Advisory Committee.
  3. Human Resources will hire a new Diversity Recruitment and Retention Leader responsible for building a strong and thriving inclusive environment by assisting hiring managers in attracting the best and most talented diverse candidates for open searches, working with division heads on retaining their diverse talent and providing diversity training across the institution.
  4. The Chancellor's Diversity and Equity Advisory Committee, a Universitywide committee with representatives from schools and administrative units, will serve as a major advisory body for the chancellor on issues pertaining to diversity, equity and inclusive excellence.
  5. The Senior Advisor to the Chancellor and Provost on Diversity and Inclusion will lead seminars on diversity, equity and inclusive excellence at DU for senior staff, the Deans' Council, the Faculty Senate Executive Committee and other leadership groups at DU.
  6. Human Resources and the Provost's Office will collect data on faculty and staff candidate pools and recruitment practices to identify successes and change ineffective procedures.
  7. Human Resources and the Provost's Office will better emphasize diversity education and awareness on first day of faculty/staff orientation and provide follow up during the first year of employment.
  8. Human Resources will incorporate inclusive excellence into training and development opportunities offered to University employees.
  9. Student Life and Graduate Studies will incorporate diversity awareness into first-year experience for all students at the undergraduate and graduate level.
  10. Staff Development Week will include sessions related to diversity and inclusion for individuals to broaden their understanding of these subjects.
  11. The Senior Advisor to the Chancellor and Provost on Diversity and Inclusion will work with key leaders to develop a Diversity Dashboard, similar to other administrative dashboards, that will allow a clear picture of the status of diversity efforts in each unit.
  12. DU will provide education and counseling for members of our community who do not speak English or for whom English is not their primary language.
  13. Human Resources will implement Employee Resource Groups that are designed to join together employees based on shared characteristics or life experiences to provide support, enhance career development and contribute to personal development in the work environment.
  14. Human Resources will conclude the compensation study for all staff positions across the University.

Though these items are important, I recognize we need to accomplish much more to achieve the culture of inclusive excellence to which we aspire. I hope that we can begin a community-wide conversation so that all our decisions and interactions are made in light of a shared mission, a common purpose and clear values. We need stronger education and training, more equitable policies and fair practices and a robust system of accountability for our commitments. But through and above all the education, practices and systems of accountability, we need to embrace a common mission to be an inclusive community that fosters respect and dignity for every person and embraces both individuality and the common bonds that tie us together.

All universities and colleges struggle to provide access and support to students. All universities are challenged to provide real equity of opportunity. All universities long to create morale among community members that welcomes new members and supports existing members.

The University of Denver is on a journey to create a community where each person can thrive. In the path-breaking spirit I have come to love about DU, I invite you to join me in making our university one in which each one of us is proud to belong and one which others lift up as a model in American higher education.

As many of you embark on exciting summer internships, research opportunities or personal vacations, know that many of us on campus will continue our work over the summer and look forward to continued updates and conversations next academic year.

Rebecca S. Chopp
Chancellor, University of Denver