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Creating an inclusive community

Friday, November 20, 2015

As the largest academic unit at the University of Kansas, the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences plays a significant role in the educational experience of Jayhawks. We educate the largest and most broadly diverse population of KU students. When inclusivity of all students is lacking at our university, we can’t deny that the same is true in our College. We must take notice, reflect, plan, act, and most importantly, we must consistently and vigilantly assess our progress and hold ourselves accountable to ensure diversity and inclusion are firmly integrated into the culture of our College.

The College will work closely with the Offices of the Chancellor and the Provost to partner in plans for change across the university. Additionally, we are taking initiative in designing a broad action plan for diversity and inclusion that will address issues specific to our College with a focus on combating racism and all other acts of intolerance.

Our planning is already underway and at the start of the new semester we will charge a working group comprised of stakeholders including students, faculty, staff, and alumni who will lead us into action. The working group will not be a one-time reactive committee but instead a proactive agent of change. Recommendations of the working group will be shared transparently, addressed with swift action and supported with necessary resources. We will utilize annual feedback to assess our progress and modify our plans moving forward, with clear communication as a core priority. The composition of our College – students, staff/administration, and faculty – should reflect the diversity we claim to value.  We must hold ourselves, and each other, accountable for the hard work necessary to realize this goal. We believe the strategies developed by the working group in the context of these guidelines for action will ensure we address current pressing issues while striving for lasting culture change.

Last week’s town hall forum showed us without question that acts of insensitivity and intolerance are present on our campus. The scope and breadth of these issues were apparent as student after student testified to experiences of discrimination and prejudice. The members of Rock Chalk Invisible Hawk and the Black Student Union, and hundreds of other voices, have implored us to take action. We take seriously the concerns of students, faculty and staff who spoke up and continue to speak up. We have an opportunity to create meaningful, enduring change that will stand as a turning point for our university and our College. The College will be a driving force in creating that change.

- Don Steeples, interim dean & Carl Lejuez, incoming dean