From: Tom Sullivan, President; David Rosowsky, Provost and Senior Vice President; Wanda Heading-Grant, Vice President for Human Resources, Diversity & Multicultural Affairs; and Annie Stevens, Vice Provost for Student Affairs
On October 10, 2017, you provided feedback to us on our September 29, 2017 document in which we addressed the concerns you have raised regarding diversity and inclusion at UVM. Below is additional information and action steps based on the feedback that you provided.
On Item 1:
We believe in the importance of professional development on diversity and inclusion for faculty, staff, students and administrators. We are wholly committed to continuing to expand our existing training in this area. You have highlighted the importance of the student experience in the classroom and the need for required or incentivized training for faculty.
We understand that the multitude of experiences and various backgrounds of our students require adjusting and modifying traditional approaches to instruction, assessment and collaboration in the classroom and beyond. This reality generates the need for diversity understanding and training that supports and prepares faculty to select content that is culturally aware and which fully appreciates the nature of a diverse student body. In addition, we want to honor student voices in their classrooms or learning spaces so that they feel visible and valued.
With these objectives in mind, and in order to fully consider your request as we noted in our first response, it is critical that we include other key shared governance leaders and stakeholders to further this conversation and determine the best possible approach going forward. To that end, as a next step, Vice President for Human Resources, Diversity, and Multicultural Affairs Wanda Heading-Grant will meet with key shared governance leaders and stakeholders early next week for their input and ideas. Subsequent to those conversations, she will develop recommendations regarding the expansion of professional development and training for faculty related to race, religion, gender, sexuality and other identities.
Dr. Heading Grant will ensure that her conversations with shared governance leaders include a discussion of ways in which student voices can be considered in developing training materials, and ensuring that training opportunities are presented by scholars with expertise in the area of diversity and/or cultural competency. She will present her recommendations to the President and Provost for their consideration and further action.
On Item 2:
We have initiated a series of discussions with the Council of Deans about expanding the recruitment of diverse faculty. This is a focus for us this year. We are exploring best practices, recruitment and retention strategies that have been used successfully elsewhere and examining how we can best enable and incentivize the recruitment of more diverse faculty. Additionally, we have taken a hard look at our past recruitment practices and lost opportunities. We are taking corrective measures to address blind spots and shortcomings.
Provost David Rosowsky and Associate Provost for Faculty Affairs Jim Vigoreaux are the lead persons on this topic.
On Items 3 and 4:
Provost Rosowsky has met with the Faculty Senate president and vice president, as well as the Diversity Curriculum Review Committee (DCRC) chair. We can confirm that efforts are already underway to engage students in the work of the DCRC.
The mandatory training issue will require further discussion, starting with assessment of what is currently offered, required, recommended, or possible. Jim Vigoreaux, in his capacity as Associate Provost for Faculty Affairs, is working closely with Associate Provost for Teaching and Learning Brian Reed and Vice President for Human Resources, Diversity, and Multicultural Affairs Wanda Heading-Grant to survey offerings, assess strategies for engagement of faculty, and make specific recommendations as they pertain to faculty teaching D1/D2 courses. This, too, will require close coordination with the Faculty Senate and the DCRC.
Provost Rosowsky and Associate Provosts Reed and Vigoreaux are engaged in these discussions.
On Items 5 and 7:
The incident of the Black Lives Matter flag was investigated and reviewed both on and off campus. As we said previously, we already have properly addressed and responded to this incident, based on the facts of the case and using all appropriate University processes.
On Item 6:
We support the collaborative approach of working with staff in the Fraternity and Sorority Life Office to ensure that all incoming fraternity and sorority members have racial/diversity educational training.
Vice Provost Annie Stevens and Director of Student Life Pat Brown will continue to work with the Fraternity and Sorority Life staff to support this initiative.
On Item 8:
The Student Government Association is a separate, independent governing body of the University. As such, the University cannot compel the SGA to change the funding allocations for student clubs and organizations. However, we will explore how best to provide financial support for ALANA-sponsored events that have become campus-wide institutional programs.
We also will continue to work closely with SGA leadership to determine if ALANA/student of color organizations have received equitable treatment during the budgeting process.
Vice Provost Annie Stevens and Director of Student Life Pat Brown will be the contacts for this item.
On Item 9:
A University of Vermont Foundation officer has been assigned to focus on additional fundraising for diversity initiatives, working closely with Human Resources, Diversity & Multicultural Affairs to better identify all the needs of the identity centers and to explore the best ways to support them. These fundraising initiatives have the potential to address the ongoing operating budget increases you cite.
In addition, Human Resources, Diversity & Multicultural Affairs is restructuring an existing position to work with the Foundation and the identity centers on fundraising initiatives, and improve transparency of all funds available.
On Item 10:
We have communicated already that it would not be appropriate to remove the name of George Perkins from Perkins Hall, as he was not to our knowledge involved in the eugenics movement. However, we are considering the following:
1. George H. Perkins Hall will keep that designation, with its present signage to that effect, but we are exploring educational ways to better clarify that the building is not named for Henry Perkins, who was involved in the eugenics movement.
2. We are considering methods and a process to develop criteria and principles to help all in our UVM community to better understand and illuminate the basis for examining issues around UVM history, including the renaming of buildings.
3. Once these criteria and principles are approved, an ongoing process will be established for receiving, assessing, and recommending to the Board of Trustees, requests for renaming buildings/facilities, and other ways of recognizing, educating and informing the community about people and events of concern or interest from UVM’s history.
Vice President for University Relations and Administration Thomas Gustafson is the lead person on this issue.
We appreciate your continued interest regarding these important issues. We seek your willingness to work collaboratively with us to ensure continued progress.