Campus Climate

Community Update - August 26, 2016

Dear Students, Faculty, and Staff,                      

Nurturing and sustaining a healthy campus climate is of profound importance to Carleton. We seek to build a truly inclusive and intellectually robust community here. This is hard and necessary work that we must diligently pursue. Indeed, as we hope you are aware, a variety of initiatives are already underway to strengthen bonds of mutual respect and understanding across our College.

These include the highly visible “Community Conversations” held last academic year, whose results were the subject of our June 2 email. Since June, we have already completed several of the identified action items. We have hired additional Student Health and Counseling (SHAC) staff; created the Office of Health Promotion (OHP) and hired a director to work proactively with students on stress management, time management, mental health, and nutrition; and created a new Living Learning Community centered on “Civil Discourse on a Diverse Campus.”

Other initiatives will come to fruition in the year ahead. For instance, the entering Class of 2020 will experience a New Student Week that gives heightened attention to socioeconomic diversity. There will be added programming in the residence halls regarding issues of race relations and social justice. Furthermore, as we address sexual misconduct, we are expanding the “Green Dot” bystander intervention training program aimed at reducing violence. We’ll also be enhancing education for all students, faculty and staff on Carleton’s sexual misconduct policies and disciplinary procedures. In the curricular realm, the College plans to hire new tenure-track faculty in Political Science (with a focus on the struggle for representation and power by minority groups in American politics), Africana Studies (with a focus on African-American issues), and Women's and Gender Studies (with a focus on LGBTQ Studies). Detailed information about the central themes that emerged from the “Community Conversations” and the ensuing action steps.

Today we also write to share the outcomes of several other reports and analyses commissioned in 2015–16 to assess and make recommendations on issues of Carleton campus climate.

The “Friday Group” and the Faculty Retreat

Dean Nagel has convened a group of faculty leaders for regular discussions about how Carleton professors could further develop their skills at navigating difficult topics in the classroom. Last year, focus groups were conducted with faculty to gather more information about the kinds of occasions when new or different pedagogical tools would be helpful to respond effectively to—or even to intentionally create—learning opportunities about race, gender, class, privilege, and other aspects of identity. In light of these dialogues and in response to faculty and student calls for in-depth exploration and further training about diversity and teaching, the annual Faculty Retreat in September will focus on this vital topic. And, in the following months, the Friday Group will continue to explore the circumstances and topics around additional support and professional development.

Community, Equity, and Diversity Initiative (CEDI) Action Teams

CEDI is a campus committee reporting to College Council that works closely with the President, the Vice Presidents, and other campus leaders to assess campus climate and help attend to community concerns. In 2015–16, led by co-chairs Associate Professor of English Adriana Estill and Development Operations Coordinator Mary Amy, CEDI appointed three Action Teams to address several areas of concern that emerged from tensions on campus in the spring of 2015:

The CEDI Structure and Functionality Action Team considered how CEDI might best be structured to assess and respond to campus climate concerns. Endorsed by College Council in June, the new structure augments the communication between CEDI and College leadership and strengthens the process for selecting and engaging CEDI’s rotating faculty and staff co-chairs. We are pleased to report that, in accordance with these new processes, in 2016–17 Adriana Estill will continue as CEDI co-chair, joined by Kathy Evertz, Director of the Academic Support Center. A larger CEDI Leadership Board will help all individuals, groups, committees, and offices recognize that their work contributes to and is impacted by issues of campus climate. The Board will also be reaching out to the campus more broadly through regular fora seeking community input and helping give voice to inclusion and diversity concerns.

The CEDI Faculty Diversity Training Action Team sought to deepen our understanding of students’ desire for faculty diversity training. This group commissioned focus groups with students, and shared its findings with the CEDI Leadership Board, the Dean’s Friday Group, and Faculty President Jeff Ondich. The Action Team’s findings and recommendations have helped shape the Faculty Retreat in September, which will engage student perspectives in exploring diversity challenges and best practices.

The CEDI Carleton Culture Action Team was asked to examine and assess how Carleton publicly builds community. This intentionally broad and representative Action Team studied Carleton’s website, paying particular attention to whether key “landing pages” clearly demonstrated and explained Carleton’s commitment to diversity. The Team’s recommendations have been shared with College Communications and other relevant departments.

Dean of Students’ Working Groups

In 2015–16 Dean Livingston empaneled three Working Groups to offer advice on specific issues of campus climate for students. The Dean will share more detail about the organization and upcoming work of the Division of Student Life in a separate communication later this month. But because these respective Groups have now completed their work, we wanted to share a comprehensive update on all campus climate task forces/projects, of which these are some highlights:

The Dean’s Working Group on Low-Income and First-Generation (LIFG) Students examined the challenges facing LIFG students and recommended ways to improve their educational experiences and outcomes. Tuesday Group endorsed key recommendations from this Group, which will now be implemented by the Division of Student Life and campus partners:

  1. As previously noted, New Student Week programming for all entering students that emphasizes socioeconomic diversity at Carleton;
  2. New websites, publications and other outreach to raise awareness among eligible students about the opportunities and support services available through TRIO/SSS;
  3. A laptop lending program for some LIFG students;
  4. Simplifying and publicizing the process for obtaining student break housing and dining for students whose finances require them to remain on campus during breaks; and
  5. Greater transparency and information about resources available to LIFG students

The Dean’s Working Group on a Possible Bias Concern Response Team (BCRT) debated the potential scope and utility of such a Team, launching robust community-wide discussions on this topic. The Working Group met with the Carleton Student Association Senate, the Faculty Affairs Committee and the full faculty, and facilitated a community “town hall” meeting. These rounds of conversations elicited much debate and feedback, which in turn led to substantial revisions in the Working Group’s recommendations (e.g., any BCRT would address only student-to-student exchanges outside of classroom or academic contexts). Discussions about a BCRT will continue in the fall, and any formal proposal to create a BCRT would require the approval of the College Council.

The Dean’s Working Group on Creating an Inclusive Community was charged with creating a plan to enhance the cultural competency of students over a four-year period, expanding student awareness and providing training for students on how we treat and respond to one another. Key recommendations from this Group that have been endorsed and will now be implemented by the Division of Student Life and campus partners include:

  1. Pre-New Student Week diversity training for all entering students (e.g., DiversityEdu);
  2. Enhanced diversity education and awareness for New Student Week peer leaders;
  3. Facilitated discussions about diversity during New Student Week;
  4. New Student Week programming in which students of all backgrounds talk about their struggle to “fit in” at Carleton;
  5. Reviewing the impact/effectiveness of the A&I Convocation;
  6. Considering re-instituting a common first-year reading;
  7. Ensuring that meetings before students leave for off-campus study (OCS) address relevant issues of diversity and paying attention to students’ readjustment to campus following an OCS experience; and
  8. Enhancing opportunities to gain exposure to issues of power and privilege, e.g., through the Critical Conversations program (ISDC 103/203).

In the coming year, we anticipate implementing ideas that emerged through all of these important campus climate assessment initiatives and groups. We also intend, however, to be mindful of the value of working through extant governance bodies and consultative channels as we engage in further conversations and take up the substantive work of improving the health and intellectual robustness of the living/learning environment. Together, we will work to build deeper understanding, and both encourage and take actions that affirm Carleton as a truly inclusive and nurturing community.

Sincerely,

Steve Poskanzer, President
Bev Nagel, Dean of the College
Carolyn H. Livingston, Vice President for Student Life and Dean of Students
Tiffany Thet ’17, CSA President
Jeff Ondich, President of the Faculty
Adriana Estill, CEDI co-chair
Kathy Evertz, CEDI co-chair

 

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