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Minutes

February 28th, 2011

  • Location: Sayles-Hill 251
  • Time: 4:15 pm
  • Present: Staff Members: Sarah Forster, Tami Little, Bev Nagel, Steve Poskanzer, Fred Rogers, Hudlin Wagner; Faculty Members: Mike Hemesath, Fernan Jaramillo, Beth McKinsey, Sam Patterson, Students: Jinai Bharucha, David Heifetz, Justin Jack, Henry Rownd, Charlotte Turovsky; Alumni Observer Lee Mauk.
  • Absent: Trustee Observer Jim Johnson
  • Guests: CEDI Co-Chair and Professor of Religion Michael McNally, CEDI Co-Chair and Director of Research and Curricular Support Andrea Nixon, Member of CEDI Leadership Board Noe Hernandez ’11.
  • Secretary: Laura Michel

The minutes from the January 31, 2011 meeting stand as submitted.

President’s Report

President Poskanzer reported that the Board of Trustees meeting held earlier in February was very productive. In additional to approving the 2011-2012 fiscal year budget that was passed by the College Council in January, the trustees also participated in a number of substantive and thoughtful conversations about the Climate Action Plan, the data dashboard project, and the strategic planning exercise. President Poskanzer noted that, after extended dialogue regarding strategic planning, the Board has truly come to understand and embrace the importance of the project. The process, by bringing the entire community together in discussion around a common series of questions and values, establishing clear priorities for futures actions, will allow Carleton to be better equipped to make decisions regarding how to allocate limited resources in the most meaningful and productive manner. These discussions regarding the purpose and importance of strategic planning are not, it was emphasized, to end with the Board. In the coming months, President Poskanzer will continue to engage in conversation with other groups on campus.

Student Jinai Bharucha asked what, if any, conversations were occurring among the administration in response to the recent Carletonian article about academic dishonesty. Dean of Students Hudlin Wagner responded that there are ongoing discussions between the Dean of the College Office and the Dean of Students Office regarding Carleton’s policies and responses to incidents of academic dishonesty. CEDI co-chair Andrea Nixon encouraged those interested in participating in additional conversation about the issue to look for an LTC event in the spring.  

CEDI Report

President Poskanzer introduced the meeting’s sole agenda item with the reminder that, structurally, the Community, Equity, and Diversity Initiative (CEDI) is a task force of the College Council. As such, the meeting provided an opportunity for CEDI to provide the College Council with an update of its major initiatives and, generally, how the organization has come to work with other groups or task forces on campus.  CEDI, President Poskanzer noted, and its ability to take on a variety of forms given the specifics of a situation, reflects a conscious choice to embrace issues of campus climate not as the job of one specific individual, but rather as a communal responsibility. As such, the College Council can also help CEDI identify and grapple with the shape and scope of future projects.

CEDI co-chair Michael McNally added that this meeting was an opportunity for CEDI to hear from the College Council. Halfway through its second year, CEDI is still working to find its voice in the overall governance structure. While CEDI’s institution-wide approach and membership allows it have institutional reach and to gain traction on issues that have, in the past for other groups, seemed intractable, this fluid nature creates a visibility issue. Particularly among students, large parts of the community are unaware the CEDI exists or, even if they have heard the acronym, are unsure what the group actually does. The CEDI Leadership Board is actively trying to combat this, through events like the recent Open House and an overhaul of the CEDI website. Additionally, while the fluid nature of CEDI allows the group to build momentum behind issues and instigate difficult, but important, conversations, this also creates uncertainty as to where exactly CEDI fits in the overall governance structure. At present, projects are being guided through various avenues and brought to different committees and groups on a case-by-case basis. 

Andrea Nixon added that CEDI’s fundamental goal for the meeting is to work with College Council, particularly regarding any topics members have encountered in their constituencies that relate to campus climate. As the rest of the campus soon will be, CEDI is engaged in a strategic planning process; in particular, an analysis the relationship between College Council and the diverse group of people working on CEDI-related issues.

The first area of discussion centered upon the theme of socio-economic status and related climate issues. Jinai Bharucha ’11 noted that although CSA tries to minimize situations that may cause stratification among those of different means, given rising tuition costs and a difficult economy, the issue of socio-economic diversity has become more and more significant in the student body discourse. Charlotte Turovsky ’11 noted that one point of entry into these issues is the work-study experience of first years – whether or not a student has to work eight hours a week can really affect academic and social adjustment to Carleton.

In response to these points, Professor Fernan Jaramillo emphasized the importance of differentiating between unnecessary stresses and inevitable outcomes of a diverse student body. No matter how great socio-economic diversity is, there will always students that have to work and students who do not work; diversity implies both ends of the spectrum.  Jinai Bharucha ’11 suggested that, in this particular instance, perhaps the role of CEDI is to create a space for discussion of the experiences of different socio-economic statuses, a subject that some seem to feel  is taboo. Dean of Students Hudlin Wagner added that this topic and related issues, such as the ability to purchase textbooks, are, in fact, being actively discussed in various forums, such as the “Class Act” programs and through TRiO events.

President Poskanzer reflected that the comments emphasize the consideration CEDI must give during their strategic planning to the question of charge; what happens if CEDI identifies an issue, but it may be more appropriately dealt with by another group? In such a case, perhaps, then, CEDI would best serve as more of a dispatcher, directing relevant issues to relevant groups.

Vice President and Treasurer Fred Rogers asked what was meant by ‘case-by-case basis.’ Co-chair Andrea Nixon answered that, given the breadth of CEDI’s task forces, there is not a single governance process that can be cited for all issues.  As such, CEDI’s role is really to route issues to the appropriate places. President Poskanzer noted that the more diffuse nature of CEDI’s structure makes it so that there is not one obvious answer where ideas go next. CEDI suggestions are not a mandate to act, but rather CEDI is part of a larger governance structure. This general concept was understood, however, it was emphasized that the forum-shopping connotations of ‘case-by-case’ should be avoided.

Fernan Jaramillo inquired as to actual examples of CEDI dealing with these ‘historically intractable’ issues. Michael McNally cited the streamlining of issues regarding sexual misconduct. Although, he noted, the Sexual Misconduct Committee will always be around, even if CEDI were to be dissolved, its position in the general CEDI structure allows it to undertake educational campaigns that SHARE did not feel they were able to accomplish. Dean of Student Hudlin Wagner added that CEDI allowed the sexual misconduct policies to be brought to a community conversation, instead of being wedded to certain historical mandates of structure.

Michael McNally also elaborated on the structure of CEDI, with four task forces and two action teams; he focused on the Campus Concerns and Procedures Action Team. They are currently assessing existing procedures regarding student concerns of bias and discrimination and trying to clarify what is currently a vague policy. Additionally, with the creation of the online reporting form, it reflects the desires of the stakeholders to have something that allows them to express a concern without completely starting down the process of adjudication. This process requires a lot of buy-in and imagination on the part of the group, and the CEDI structure and support allows this to occur.

Charlotte Turovsky ’11 noted that political diversity on campus has also emerged as an important topic, and that a town hall meeting is being planned for the spring term about the issue. Michael McNally said that the particular topic was not a big issue in the Campus Climate Survey, which is relevant to another issue CEDI has been grappling with regarding whether or not new and/or different data is needed? Dean Wagner said that, as well as working with the data from the Campus Climate Survey, CEDI should work closely with the community to understand tangible issues. Common goals can best be identified if there is a clear understanding of the community’s expectations of CEDI. Andrea Nixon noted that an important challenge CEDI faces is to identify the salient issues on campus and make sure that initiatives are not overly diffuse, but defined scope.

CEDI co-chair Andrea Nixon then asked the group to turn toward the second handout from CEDI, with the welcoming environment recommendations. She noted that this document has been part of a larger conversation within CEDI about reporting and how to best generate campus-wide discussions. President Poskanzer asked for clarification on a procedural issue as to why this document came from the Task Force for Learning Environment Outside the Classroom, when, perhaps, it seemed more appropriate to come from the Workplace Environment Task Force. Michael McNally responded that because all task forces report to the CEDI Leadership Board, there is a lot of cross-fertilization of ideas. In this particular case, the original momentum for the initiative came from the Outside the Classroom Task Force.

Professor Fernan Jaramillo noted that a lot of what determines the welcoming nature of an office is the faculty and staff; how and where does CEDI expect for the implementation of the recommendations to be evaluated? Michael  McNally responded that the major purpose of the document is to create a review process, to get people talking about best practices. Dean Hudlin Wagner noted that it became clear through the review process that there were some offices were students didn’t feel welcome, so they made some physical changes and also emphasized individual actions.

Jinai Bharucha ’11 asked about the issue of accessibility – for example, if there were plans to put a new elevator in Willis. Vice President and Treasurer Fred Rogers answered that there will be a new elevator in Willis, but the entrances to the building are, of course, still not accessible. President Poskanzer noted that this issue demonstrates how there are a lot of wonderful ideas for improving campus climate, but not enough money. He said he thought the report did a good job in walking this fine line, and came up with a practical approach. Of course, it was noted, in the end, the most important factor in creating a welcoming environment is having the right person sitting behind the desk, and that these recommendations should not lost sight of the importance of having a service-oriented, friendly, and accessible attitude.

Mike Hemesath raised a broader issue of how CEDI and Carleton can best determine what is a problem versus something that is just an institutional routine? What, further, is the best way to allocate scarce resources, most importantly, time? He noted that he had heard that some members of the community found the questions on the Campus Climate Survey to be leading. Michael McNally noted that while the Campus Climate Survey is certainly an important foundational document for CEDI, the role of the co-chairs is to guide issues that arise in organic conversation to appropriate venues. Further, he noted that these questions raised will be amplified in conversations surrounding strategic planning. CEDI is not only trying to fix problems, but also nudge along and celebrate the things that Carleton is doing well.

President Poskanzer added that there is a very delicate line to walk, and the CEDI leadership is doing a wonderful job. He continued that there is an important role for the College Council, the Tuesday Group, and others to work as an ally and pulse-taker for CEDI. CEDI has a very unique structure; one that can be incredibly productive and meaningful, but only if there is a high level of trust that allows CEDI to bring recommendations to various groups, as well as one that allows these various groups to feel that they have a choice in whether or not to act upon recommendations. Fundamentally, trust must exist that everyone is working in the best interest of Carleton and the climate of the community. This will help CEDI build the credibility to be an important voice in the campus discourse.

The meeting adjourned at 5:42 pm.

Respectfully submitted,

Laura Michel ‘12