Magazine article Black Issues in Higher Education

Diversity Plan Trends Aim to Meet 21st Century Challenges

Magazine article Black Issues in Higher Education

Diversity Plan Trends Aim to Meet 21st Century Challenges

Article excerpt

The current generation of diversity plans seeks to be more inclusive -- and we're not just talking about numerically

Campus diversity practitioners often complain that diversity initiatives aren't integrated into the core structures of their colleges or universities. They argue that until diversity becomes a central feature of strategic planning efforts, little will change substantively with regard to campus diversity, and diversity initiatives will remain marginal and vulnerable.

Educational researchers basically agree with this assessment. They suggest that issues of diversity permeate many aspects of a campus environment and each aspect is connected with the others.

Researchers such as Dr. Sylvia Hurtado, an associate professor of education at the University of Michigan, have concluded that simply recruiting a more diverse student body without attending to other aspects of campus diversity -- such as inter-group relations, curricular change, and faculty and staff professional development and diversification -- can result in difficulties for traditionally underrepresented students and can minimize the potential positive educational outcomes that a diverse environment can bring to all students.

Dr. Daryl Smith, professor of education and psychology at Claremont Graduate University, defines campus diversity as encompassing four dimensions:

* access and recruitment,

* campus climate and intergroup relations,

* curriculum and scholarship, and

* institutional transformation.

Smith argues further that "comprehensive institutional change in teaching methods, curriculum, campus climate, and institutional definition and culture provides educational benefits for both minority and majority students."

Research demonstrates that integrated efforts are more effective and that "the perception of a broad campus commitment to diversity is related to increased recruitment and retention of students from underrepresented groups and to positive educational outcomes for all students."

So, how do institutions committed to campus diversity achieve this coordinated kind of institutional transformation? More and more colleges and universities are developing comprehensive diversity plans to guide changes in campus policies and procedures. Some institutions, like the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the University of Michigan, have had diversity plans in place for a decade or so.

The Madison Plan and the Michigan Mandate are two examples of comprehensive diversity plans put in place in the 1980s. They provide vision statements, set broad goals, and make recommendations for change in a variety of areas. Madison Plan 2008 covers areas such as leadership and accountability, pre-college preparation, student retention, financial aid, campus climate, faculty and staff recruitment and retention, and community and alumni cooperation. The Michigan Mandate, launched in 1987 and led by the university's former president, James Duderstadt, addressed areas such as faculty and staff recruitment and development, student recruitment, achievement, and outreach, and improving the environment for diversity.

Diversity plans are being developed at a wide array of institutions around the country and not just at large, public research universities. North Seattle Community College, for instance, passed a diversity plan in 1992 that addressed such issues as staff and faculty professional development, faculty research, student and faculty recruitment, support services for students of color, and campus climate.

North Seattle's plan also included specific numerical targets for increasing the numbers of racial/ethnic minority students who matriculate and graduate from the institution.

When one reads through diversity plans from many colleges and universities, one is struck by how much they still focus on structural diversity -- i. …

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