Overview

We act in so much ignorance of each other, how things work, how things ought to be in a civil world that none of us are free until we are all educated to how it ought to be.”
– Mike Middleton 

In June 2020 President Gregory Crawford created a task force that was charged with advancing diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) at Miami University. The charge included five pillars that served as focus areas for the task force that would also result in recommendations to the President and the President’s Executive Committee in August 2020. After approximately 7-weeks of work, this report serves as the recommendations from the task force.

This report has three overarching areas. The first section of the report is directly from the co-chairs of the task force, explaining key processes and decisions related to the construction and work of the task force, as it relates to DEI at Miami University. The second part of the report consists of the recommendations from each of the five subcommittee teams, which align with the original five pillars for the charge. Finally, there are some concluding remarks in the final section of the report.

Section 1: Processes and Decisions

Prior to discussing recommendations from the task force, it is important to explain the processes and decision making that contributed to the task force recommendations.

Building the Task Force

The construction of the task force began on Thursday, June 11 through separate communications between the co-chairs and their respective division leaders (i.e., Vicka Bell-Robinson with Jayne Brownell; Anthony James with Provost Osborne), followed by separate then joint conversations with President Crawford. We each agreed to co-chair the task force. Over the next two days, there were several conversations about the charge and development of language to announce the task force. These conversations led to solicitation emails to division leaders requesting names of individuals who would serve on the task force. On Sunday, June 14 late in the afternoon President Crawford agreed to call a full task force meeting on Monday, June 15, 2020. Though Vicka and Anthony originally suggested a task force of no more than 15-20 people, by Monday the list had grown to approximately 60 individuals. Most of these individuals agreed between Sunday evening and Monday at 11 a.m. and attended the first meeting on that Monday.

It was decided that using a team approach would be best for allowing people to best utilize their DEI-related knowledge and skills but also be full participating members by providing the opportunity for them to select how they wanted to be involved. A formstack form was created that asked individuals to 1) rank order the pillars they were interested in focusing on and 2) note if they were willing to be a leader of a given pillar. The vast majority of members were placed into the pillar corresponding to their top choice, and the individuals who volunteered to lead a charge were chosen. The full task force membership, and corresponding leaders, can be found on DEI Task Force Members page.

The full task force met weekly for two hours, virtually. Typically, the first hour consisted of the full task force membership with the second hour reserved for meeting within the subcommittee teams. Vicka served as liaison for pillars 1, 3, and 4, while Anthony served as liaison for pillars 2 and 5.

A core team was also developed, which consisted of the co-chairs, team leaders, John Forren (regional representation), and Amy Shaiman who joined these meetings before the town halls to serve as host for those events. This group met 1-2 times a week for 60 minutes throughout the process. Finally, the co-chairs had a standing morning meeting, in addition to several other weekly meetings (e.g., President, President’s Executive Council, individuals/entities/offices).

We are grateful to each and every member of the task force. To be sure, no one was paid for this work. No single person or entity selected members to this task force, and the vast majority were included a few hours before the first meeting. Some may wonder why we have provided this context. Well, it has been a regular occurrence for people to ask the co-chairs how the task force came together. So, we wanted to address that process.

The Pillars of the Charge

As noted above, President Crawford’s charge was categorized across five pillars. These pillars served as the guiding structures of the task force. Each pillar was led by a member of the task force — named below in parentheses next to each pillar. Of note, pillar two was renamed from “cultural competence” to “cultural consciousness” to better reflect what we’re trying to achieve, and to align with the way that the Office of Liberal Education will define the intercultural perspectives requirements that students will take throughout their Miami career.

The first four pillars were developed by President Crawford, colleagues, and his team. He then presented them to the co-chairs for feedback, which we provided. We also suggested the addition of the fifth pillar to ensure that we have some accountability embedded in the process. The final versions of the pillars released to the Miami community are presented in turn below.

Pillar 1: Dialogue and allyship (Leader: Tarah Trueblood)

Moving toward positive change will require people to listen and engage in genuine, diverse conversations about differences. Modeling the work currently being done in the Center for American and World Cultures and Intercollegiate Athletics, the task force should explore ways to provide opportunities for more students, faculty, and staff to engage in structured, well-facilitated, open dialogues. How can the reach of these programs be extended to include more students, faculty, and staff? What training and structure are required to ensure their success? Can we engage communities of students in our residence halls? Can these be designed to expand on the baseline learning provided by the diversity, equity, and inclusion modules required of new students and employees? How can we include alumni in these conversations? How can our leadership institutes and programs be engaged?

As a university, we also need to engage our campus community on a regular basis and listen in ways that inform our planning around diversity, inclusion, equity, and justice. What structures and mechanisms can we build to gather feedback from our campus community on a sustained basis?

Pillar 2: Cultural consciousness (Leader: James Shiveley)

Our students arrive on campus with a wide range of backgrounds, experiences, knowledge, and beliefs – from all 50 states and 82 countries – that inform their perspectives on issues of race. As society evolves, as our education evolves, we must all commit to lifelong learning on this subject, updating our awareness, knowledge, and skills to enrich and renew our intercultural competence. Our graduates are entering a global and diverse workplace. This is an organic evolution, not a race with a finish line. As an educational institution, we believe everyone is capable of growth and change. Our responsibility is to provide opportunities for everyone – students, faculty, and staff – to continue their learning.

The task force should examine our efforts to date to ensure that everyone in our community advances their cultural competency over time. It should provide recommendations about areas for improvement. Some examples include a re-examination of the Intercultural Perspectives requirement of the Global Miami Plan to focus it more on issues of domestic diversity, equity, and inclusion. We should conduct a re-examination of Miami’s history to ensure the information we present includes the experiences of diverse students, especially the Black student experience at Miami and in Oxford.

Pillar 3: Advocacy and partnerships (Leader: Darryl Rice)

Beyond listening, dialogue, and cultural competency, we need plans for action and change. Students need to learn how to become effective advocates, responsible allies, engaged citizens, and future leaders who will bring about positive, lasting change at Miami, in Oxford, in their local communities, in the state, and in the nation. What steps can we take to help them learn the skills of advocacy and allyship and put those skills into action? How can Miami be more effective advocates for our students, particularly our students of color and others with often-marginalized identities? How can we partner with the City of Oxford for community change? How do we need to examine Miami University Police Department (MUPD) and Oxford Police Department (OPD) to ensure that incidents of police brutality can never happen here and to elevate trust between our police and our students?

Pillar 4: Structural and resource support (Leader: Spencer Izor)

Nearly every academic and administrative division at Miami has devoted energy and resources to improving diversity and inclusion on campus. There has been success in many areas with events, programs, curriculum, and extracurriculars developed by the students, faculty, and staff. However, we as a campus have not effectively coordinated all those efforts. That lack of coordination can create gaps or duplication in our efforts and keep us from learning from each other and utilizing our resources effectively. The task force will engage with each division and unit to explore and learn more about their work and to examine and evaluate our efforts as a whole. How can we re-envision our university structure to enable effective coordination of our DEI efforts? We acknowledge that not all our efforts in diversity and inclusion have worked. We will add, adapt, and advance with fresh ideas and a commitment to become as diverse, equitable, and inclusive as we can be.

Beyond our Miami University communities in Oxford, Hamilton, Middletown, and West Chester, how can we work with peer institutions and affiliated organizations to take more action and seek more change? Those include the Inter University Council (IUC) of 14 Ohio Public Institutions, the cohort of private and public institution in Southwest Ohio and Northern Kentucky, Mid-American Conference (MAC), National Collegiate Hockey Conference (NCHC), and our connectivity with Cintrifuse in Cincinnati and the many companies they support. We have many connections around the state, especially in Southwest Ohio, and the country, and already initiated interactions with them as well as our local communities to pool ideas and resources and effect more powerful change.

Pillar 5: Inclusion and accountability (Mark Taylor)

Every few years, Miami has completed a report, a survey, or a project about campus climate or diversity efforts. Those documents show what efforts we have implemented and completed as well as where we have not succeeded, not implemented but should reconsider, what we need to revisit or refresh, and what we may now need to discard. Are there gaps in our information that we must fill so we can move forward? How do we continually update, assess, and hold everyone accountable for the efforts and outcomes?

With respect to how to ascertain progress toward our goals, we must grade our programs against ourselves and others in higher education. The committee must explore recruitment, hiring, retention, and promotion actions for underrepresented groups and ensure they are fair, equitable, and always increasing. The task force should explore our retention and graduation rates for all students to make them equitable and constantly improving. We must explore and understand whether our curriculum is fully inclusive and reflective of all people. In all this, the task force should investigate possible best practices at peer institutions and other organizations as well as ideas and resources with proven success. We must uphold our values as our highest expectations and our mission to teach, serve, and send members of this community into a global and diverse society with dedication and passion to serve humanity.

Envisioning DEI at Miami University 

A major recommendation of this task force is for Miami University leadership to articulate a clear vision of, and strategic direction for, what DEI consists of at Miami. Aspects of this recommendation are also infused throughout our pillar recommendations, but we deem this so important that we wanted to highlight a few things here. A key question is what model of DEI do we want to institute? This task force, pillar 4 specifically, has examined several similar universities in the U.S. to help provide some options for varying structural models. The rationale in our thinking is that when there is clarity on the structure of DEI at Miami, units and entities within the community can better understand their role in the DEI vision. Because Miami University is such a large institution, there has to be clarity in roles across each of the elements in the community (e.g., administration, faculty, staff, students, alumni). Each of those examples has multiple levels within them with each having unique and essential roles to play in the process. Thus, we recommend the creation of a mechanism for mapping states of DEI and a clear organizational structure of DEI at Miami.

Mapping DEI uses available data to help members of the community better understand where the institution stands in a given area of DEI. The co-chairs of the task force had several conversations with William Knight (Assistant Provost for Institutional Research and Effectiveness) about such available data tools. It is important to note that this office does currently produce static reports regarding DEI; however, a more interactive approach would help propel Miami University into the cutting edge of institutions by providing mechanisms that allow interested parties to interactively access data based on a variety of identity characteristics (e.g., retention rates among Native American students from their freshman to sophomore years). Providing such mapping would not only help interested parties better understand the current or historical state of DEI in a given area, it would also aid in helping provide suggestions for change in an intentional way.

A related but distinct component to this recommendation is to create a clear organizational chart of DEI elements across the university. One of the more common questions posed to the co-chairs of this task force was “how is this different from [insert given DEI group here]?” At times, even we struggled to clearly articulate differences. The reason is because there has yet to be a clear strategic direction of DEI across units at Miami, specifying roles and responsibilities. A DEI organizational chart that visualizes horizontal and vertical connections among DEI elements across the community would be helpful. For instance, such a chart would allow individuals and offices to better understand how they can lend their support to DEI efforts because they can clearly identify on the chart DEI elements in a given unit and its role in the vision. We fully believe that building a welcoming and inclusive culture requires the knowledge and effort of a critical mass of people from the community. Providing a clear map of the DEI landscape would help transition people being ambivalent due to lack of clarity about process and vision to getting involved in a meaningful way, within a given area of the institution. An example of a particular structure the DEI core leadership team discussed is found below. Other structures may work better but we wanted to at least provide an example of how Miami University can better situate DEI work in a way that is understandable and effective.

Example Structure

  • Vice President
    • Staff (programming and administration)
    • Faculty (accountability)
    • Faculty (curriculum)
    • Students (2) (lived experience)
Notes of specific recommendations:
  • Use this structure of DEI for five years. At the expiration of this time period, the university will determine if this approach is effective and make an appropriate decision on moving forward.
  • The faculty and students positions are eligible for stipends and fellowships at one year, and renewable for one year.
  • The unclassified staff person will be a new hire.
  • One of the faculty and/or student positions MUST be an individual from the regionals.
  • This committee meets monthly.
  • The vice president will send out email updates no less than two times per month.
  • Responsibilities include:
    • Staff (programming and administration)
      • Connecting with university divisions to put events and programs on a centralized website.
      • Developing and maintaining content.
      • Interacting with Unclassified Personnel Advisory Committee (UPAC) and Classified Personnel Advisory Committee (CPAC).
      • Connecting with University Advancement on funding initiatives to sustain DEI efforts.
      • Acting as liaison to the Center for Student Diversity & Inclusion.
    • Faculty (accountability)
      • Maintain website that continually monitors and updates movement on DEI initiatives (e.g., MiamiRise, Presidential Working Group on Diversity and Inclusion, BAM 2.0).
      • Connect with the DEI representative from each division and coordinate quarterly meeting.
    • Faculty (curriculum)
      • Develop Global Miami Plan courses (levels 100-400).
      • Create podcasts of difficult conversations to help people learn how to be conscious and respectful while living in a community of disparate beliefs, cultures, and values.
      • Serve as liaison to the University Senate executive committee.
    • Students (2) (lived experience)
      • Represent graduate and undergraduate student viewpoints.
      • Coordinate University Communications and Marketing Fellows.
      • Coordinate programming and marketing with staff.

Sharing the DEI Narrative

One of the common themes to continually surface during the work of this task force is Miami University’s struggles with its narrative of advancing DEI. This is a significant part of why so many questioned this task force in the first place, in conjunction with institutional memory of the previous DEI-related groups and task force efforts. We have two thoughts on this issue. One way to address this is to be more accountable and transparent about DEI gains and losses in the institution. More specifically, be more forthcoming about the work that has been done and what remains unaddressed. We have learned a lot about the efforts and achievements of the many people who came before us that advanced DEI. We are appreciative of those individuals and those that continue to do the work. What we recommend is for the university to publish information that clearly addresses the recommendations of previous efforts to advance DEI here at Miami University and a mechanism for monitoring such future efforts.

Secondly, we believe that there is also a problem of visibility. There is a profound lack of knowledge about how processes and structures work at Miami University. The responsibility of this falls on both the university and the consumer. University leadership has a responsibility of explaining the processes and policies to the community, and the limits and potentials of alternative methods, but also it is the responsibility of community members to put forward sincere effort to understand the processes and policy, as well as the limits and potentials of changing them. Divorcing these two responsibilities from each other leads to a recipe of alienation, misunderstanding, etc. Thus, we recommend a continual process of helping to couple together these responsibilities.

Town Halls

One mechanism to create ongoing conversations related to DEI efforts is town hall sessions. As mentioned in the previous section, coupling responsibility of leadership and members of the community is critical to the success of advancing DEI at Miami. Thus, we recommend having a series of town hall meetings until July 2021 for several purposes: 1) to be accountable to the community, 2) follow up on recommendations from the committee, 3) to help explain some of the policies and processes that shape DEI at Miami University. We have tentatively scheduled several town halls over the next year to this end. As noted in the chart below, follow-up town halls for the pillars will be held quarterly, with town halls for individuals/entities/offices relevant to DEI efforts dispersed in between. Please stay tuned to future communications from this task force for opportunities to submit questions to the moderators and panelists of the town hall sessions. Future town halls will be structured, and recorded, similarly to our previous town halls.

 

Month Topic/Entity Host
July 2020 Subcommittee Updates Core Team
Aug 2020 OEEO Darryl Rice
Sept 2020 Office of General Counsel Spencer Izor
Oct 2020 Subcommittee Updates Core Team
Oct 2020 Institutional Diversity Darryl Rice
Nov 2020 Admission  
Dec 2020 President Anthony James
Jan 2021 Provost Anthony James
Jan 2021 Subcommittee Updates Core Team
Feb 2021 Center for Student Diversity and Inclusion Vicka Bell-Robinson
Mar 2021 Council on Diversity and Inclusion  
Apr 2021 Subcommittee Updates Core Team
Apr 2021 Advancement Amy Shaiman
May 2021 Finances Vicka Bell-Robinson
July 2021 Subcommittee Updates Core Team

 

Sustaining DEI Resources

Doing DEI work can be costly. Thus, university leadership must allocate resources to such efforts but there can also be mechanisms created to sustain this work over time. In conversation with university leadership, one recommendation the task force was prepared to put forward was a mechanism to create a fund to sustain efforts to advance DEI efforts. The announcement of the DEI Fund includes recognition of the generous contributions already made to the fund. We are grateful for such contributions. We should also look for opportunities to leverage already existing resources for DEI purposes. One example is the use of Alternative Dispute Resolution as an additional mechanism of response when a bias incident occurs between a known victim and perpetrator. Student Life is in an active recruitment process to hire someone for this purpose related to Title IX compliance. There is no reason that this or additional similar resources cannot be utilized in this way as well. This could assist us in addressing the current gap that exists between compliance and care when the situation does not rise to the level needed to result in a compliance response.

Building Naming

Currently, Miami University does not have any buildings named after a woman or a person of color. This does not match the diversity of community nor does it make people representing those identities feel welcomed. Having names of buildings may seem like mere symbolism to some, but to others it communicates a clear message of inclusion and what is valued. Naming a building that honors the diversity and experience of minority members of the community will be a positive step in the right direction of righting the DEI ship and creating a more welcoming environment. More discussion on this can be found in the pillar #4 recommendations.

Data Sources

The data informing the recommendations for this report derived from several sources: the knowledge and experiences of task force members, feedback from form stack participation, interviews the co-chairs had with various individuals/entities/offices, surveys of aspirational institutions, and the feedback from the town hall sessions. As this work moves forward, we urge members of the community to continually engage with leadership on ways to advance DEI at Miami in meaningful and transformative ways.

Task Force Transition

The membership of this task force was designed with the understanding that it would be temporary. The temporary nature of the membership has two purposes. The first purpose is to ensure that no one has to serve indefinitely. The second purpose is to allow an opportunity for new people to participate in these conversations in order to avoid groupthink and stagnation. The final meeting of the introductory task force was August 7, 2020. We are grateful to the individuals who provided insight and support in an intensive 7-week experience. While some of the members will likely remain, we anticipate that many will transition out of this process.

The next iteration of the task force is the implementation team. The implementation team is charged with working through the finalized goals, managing conversations with the corresponding offices, and eventually transitioning the work associated with goals to their rightful place within the infrastructure of the university. This group is designed to have less members than the task force and include offices that were not a part of the task force group. The group should be convened no later than September 1, 2020, and its work should be finished by the end of the spring 2021 semester. We have proposed the institutional and community representatives that should be included in the implementation team.

Upon completion of the implementation process, the final and most sustained version of this group is a diversity, equity, and inclusion advisory group. Per a recommendation from the Diversity and Inclusion Strategic Plan subcommittee, this campus-wide group will advise President Crawford on matters related to diversity, equity, and inclusion. This group will serve in a different function than the Council on Diversity and Inclusion (CODI) because its scope would be beyond the University Senate.

Section 2: Pillar Recommendations

Each pillar had a subcommittee that worked on recommendations specific to it from the original charge. Each set of recommendations are presented in turn below.

Each set of recommendations includes:

  • The specific recommendation
  • A rationale for it
  • Consequences of enacting such changes (where possible)
  • The party or entity accountable for changes
  • A mechanism for change (where possible)
  • A timeframe

There can be a tendency for DEI related changes to be overlooked or become “file cabinet decorations”, to avoid this we not only propose recommendations but to the greatest extent possible also provide a clear plan for enacting them.

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