Report urges steps to promote diversity at UI

Report urges steps to promote diversity at UI

CHAMPAIGN — The University of Illinois should create a new vice chancellor to better coordinate wide-ranging — and sometimes redundant — efforts to promote diversity on campus, a new report says.

The report from a team of outside reviewers hired by Chancellor Robert Jones also said a campuswide diversity council should be appointed to organize numerous committees that have similar, if not overlapping, roles and operate with little collaboration.

The council would report to the new vice chancellor for diversity, equity and inclusion, who would also develop a strategic plan for diversity and be accountable for efforts targeted at students, faculty and staff, the report said.

The reviewers said a more centralized structure could help the campus make "significant" progress in recruiting students, faculty and employees from diverse backgrounds and providing a more inclusive campus.

"It's clear that we have a gap to close, and this report identifies tangible actions that will move us closer to our shared vision," Jones said in announcing the report Tuesday.

More than two dozen committees and offices already engaged in diversity efforts were asked to do a self-study in advance of the reviewers' two-day visit in February. The consensus was that a new model is needed, the report said.

Based on its interviews, the review team concluded that the campus takes pride in the success of its diversity efforts and is clearly committed to the goal. It cited the Disability Resource and Educational Services program and the Office of Inclusion and Intercultural Relations as strong examples.

The campus spends about $60 million to promote diversity and inclusion, with 80 percent of it going toward student scholarships, according to the report.

But it's unclear how that money is prioritized, how programs are assessed or how units are held accountable, it said.

Much of the work is decentralized, based on long-standing campus tradition, which is not necessarily detrimental, the report said.

However, decentralization also leads to unnecessary redundancy, communication problems and a lack of coordination, and makes it difficult to assess programs, the report said.

The team said those interviewed cited concerns about funding and the lack of stability from recent turnover in the chancellor's and provost's offices. That was mentioned particularly by committees unsure whether administrators understood their role or could provide leadership to advance diversity in a coordinated way, the report said.

The campus has had "modest success" in recruiting students of diverse backgrounds, with cultural centers playing a significant role, the report said.

But with African-American high school graduation rates decreasing, the UI should reassess its recruiting strategies to attract diverse Illinois residents and students from varied socioeconomic backgrounds, and explore stepped-up recruiting of nonresident minority students, the report said.

Retention and graduation rates exceed national averages at the undergraduate level, which reviewers attribute to strong orientation, advising and mentoring programs for under-represented students. But those interviewed also raised concerns about "students feeling isolated and at risk in light of scattered acts of bias throughout the campus."

The new vice chancellor would share some functions of the vice chancellor for student affairs, with the Office of Minority Student Affairs and an existing associate vice chancellor for inclusion and intercultural relations reporting to both vice chancellors. The current associate chancellor for diversity, equity and inclusion would be renamed to associate vice provost or associate vice chancellor and also report to the new vice chancellor for diversity. The review team recommended creating a comparable position focusing on student diversity.

The diversity council would appoint subcommittees that would take on some of the roles of existing stand-alone committees, which "appear to compete for limited resources and may have some concerns about 'turf,'" the report said.

The review team also recommended:

— A more thorough study to assess the climate and recruiting programs for diverse faculty groups, which said they often "felt isolated professionally and personally on the campus." Postdoctorate programs offer great opportunities for increasing faculty diversity, but the transition to tenure-system faculty has not been as successful, perhaps because of a lack of funding, the report said. It suggested a "diversity research institute" to bring diverse faculty together to enhance research and encourage interdisciplinary work.

— A review of the compliance and equity functions carried by multiple offices — such as Disability Resources, Equal Employment Opportunity, and the Title IX and Americans With Disabilities Act coordinator — to ensure that campus interests are addressed, that money is allocated appropriately and that they have what they need to carry out their responsibilities.

— A closer analysis of concerns of graduate students, given concerns about climate and "alleged bias behavior" on campus. A perceived lack of funding and support for minority students, and those with families, is "affecting graduate student success and the desire for some to continue with Illinois," the report said.

— More resources for the systemwide program that promotes diversity among UI suppliers and contractors. It is "fundamentally sound," but could be more effective with additional staff and funding and needs to place more emphasis on construction contracts, the report said.

Jones requested the self-study and external review shortly after being named chancellor last fall.

The review team included education Professor Nancy Barcelo of Northern New Mexico College; Archie Ervin, vice president and chief diversity officer of the Georgia Institute of Technology; Paulette Granberry Russell, director of the Office for Inclusion sand Intercultural Initiatives at Michigan State University; and D. Craig Taylor, executive director of community planning and economic development in for the city of Minneapolis.

The review team was paid $6,500 plus travel and lodging, according to campus spokeswoman Robin Kaler.

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cjw61822@hotmail.com wrote on April 25, 2017 at 3:04 pm

At a time that the U of I is broke, the state of Illinois is broke, bob wants to throw money at some Vice Chancellor for feel good.

 

He is either an idiot or a fool..... but it is clear that the culture at the U of I to hire more administration is full steam ahead.

UIUCHoopFan wrote on April 25, 2017 at 4:04 pm

From top heavy to top heavier.  For the love of God and all that is holy thin the herd at the top!  The "Do more with less" mantra currently swirling in the heads of departments across campus obviously doesn't apply to the ivory towers.  Another $100K position ready and waiting for one of the many ineffective members of the old boy network on campus. 

Failing up the ladder of success is alive and well at UIUC!

BruckJr wrote on April 25, 2017 at 6:04 pm

This makes absolutely no sense when the university is constantly crying poor mouth to the folks in Springfield.  $60,000,000 and they want more?

fuddrules wrote on April 26, 2017 at 3:04 am

Already in the $ hole, the solution to redundancy is.......to hire more people to coordinate the redundancy.  Waste U knows nothing else.  

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