Memo to Students - Continuing Diversity & Inclusion Work in Trinity College - 4-27-2016

Valerie S. Ashby, Ph.D., Dean of Trinity College
April 27, 2016

Dear Undergraduate and Graduate Students,

I write to update you on Trinity College’s work towards diversity and inclusion. It has been my pleasure to engage in ongoing conversations with students, staff, faculty and administration throughout the semester. I view this time spent as critical to our success in cultivating a community where diversity and inclusion are valued and the norm.

In my address to the faculty in September 2015, I announced that diversity—in all its forms—is one of the school’s three strategic planning themes. What this means is that we will consciously work to ensure that diversity is central in our teaching, research and service because it is a core value of a liberal arts education. Diversity drives innovation and creativity.

I think it’s also important to define what the term diversity means to us. We believe that to be a truly educated person, you must embrace and practice an appreciation for different disciplines, thought processes, modes of expression, and histories. This is often times challenging and not always easy. But we learn the most from those who are most different from ourselves. With this definition of diversity as our guiding principal, our goal is then to create and sustain a learning environment where difference is valued regardless of a person’s academic background, race, ethnicity, sexuality, gender identity or economic standing.

Trinity’s implementation will take three forms: education, conversations and communications.

Education
On the education front, we are exploring the needs of our entire community—faculty, students and staff. You have already heard, I’m sure, that Implicit Bias Training has been required for each faculty search committee since early spring 2015. We are working with the Provost’s office on a new faculty orientation that will include implicit bias training. And, more than 90 faculty and staff reporting to the Office of the Dean have voluntarily taken the training. The awareness gained by this training will help us to diversify our faculty, and to better support each other day to day.

Provost Sally Kornbluth and I also funded a year-long pilot project called Teaching for Racial Justice. This initiative is a response to students who reported feeling isolated and marginalized in classrooms taught by professors who were unable to address issues of race due to a range of reasons—lack of specific skills, fear of not having the right language, or fear of not knowing how to approach the topic. This successful pilot program was designed to teach faculty members skills and strategies to successfully engage diverse students on issues of race, racism, power and privilege in the classroom—regardless of the course topic. We plan to expand and continue this intensive, experiential faculty training in the fall.

For students, we are on track to offer a University Course in spring 2017 that will be titled Race and the History of Higher Education in the South. The course will be convened by Professor Sandy Darity, the Samuel DuBois Cook Professor of Public Policy, African and African American Studies and Economics. We are also exploring how to offer more courses on Asian American studies.

Conversations
I, along with Provost Kornbluth and Larry Moneta, vice president for student affairs, have continued productive conversations with the Concerned Students 1969, Mi Gente, the Asian American Alliance, the Asian Student Association, and Duke’s South Asian student organization.

As you may know, Vice President Moneta announced in early March that New Latinx, Asian American and Native American groups will have spaces in the Bryan Center starting next fall. Program coordinators will be hired to support the Latinx and Asian American centers, and a graduate student staff member will be hired for the Native American space. A national search will be conducted to find the new coordinators. In addition, Duke will fully fund the Latino Student Recruitment Weekend.

We cannot create positive change without talking and sharing perspectives. These are investments in our community and I think we have made wonderful progress. These conversations will continue and take on new forms as we roll out new programs in the fall. I have also constituted a Student Diversity Advisory Group that includes 16 first year, sophomore and juniors. These students span majors, ethnicity and nationality, and have agreed to work with the college on issues of diversity and inclusion in the coming year.

Communications
The Task Force on Hate & Bias is wrapping up its listening tours and research and will make recommendations to the university sometime within the next week. I encourage you to follow this work on the task force website: https://spotlight.duke.edu/taskforce/. In addition, my Trinity Diversity Advisory Committee, which has been meeting regularly, will make Trinity-specific recommendations. We will post this information on our committee website here: http://trinity.duke.edu/diversity-inclusion in the next couple of months. We will be rolling out new programs in the fall.

In addition, I will continue to communicate with the student body through these kinds of emails. Not too many—I know your inboxes are flooded, but it’s important that you feel informed and connected to what we are doing.

For now I will say good luck to each of you in your final exams, and I hope your summer is productive and enjoyable.

Sincerely,

Valerie S. Ashby
Dean of Trinity College of Arts & Sciences