Lawrence Anderson, Monica Villa Meza, Leslie Anderson, Matt Morrow, Clement Balasundaram, Simon Nogin, Ravyn Brooks, John Oke-Thomas, Gilbert Brown, Richard Todd Payne, Casey Buehler, Wes Pratt, Kelly Cabrera, Linda Ramey-Greiwe, Priscilla Childress, Mary Ann Rojas, Chris Craig, Ryan Reed, Janet Dankert, Devin Scherer, Lori Patton Davis, Clif Smart, Ryan DeBoef, Daezia Smith, Dominiece Hoelyfield, Elizabeth Sobel, Rachel Knight, Angela Totty, Samuel Knox, Jordan Upchurch, Denise Lofton, Peng Zhang
Call to order
The meeting was called to order by President Clif Smart at 3:30 p.m.
Welcome and introductions
President Smart began by thanking everyone for being a part of the council. He explained the members of this group either volunteered or were nominated. President Smart stated that there have been several diversity advisory groups over the last decade, but he wanted to view this one a little differently and intends to be an active participant to this council. He stressed the importance of hearing these conversations first hand. This council represents faculty, staff, administration, students and external members. President Smart read the charge of this council:
Charge. The Diversity Council will advise the president and senior university administrators on campus issues, initiatives and ideas related to diversity and inclusion. The council will meet regularly (anticipated frequency of meetings is twice during each fall semester and twice during each spring semester). At each meeting, the Diversity Council will receive a presentation about particular initiatives and/or issues at the University and provide feedback to the president and other senior administrators designed to keep the University on a path toward achieving excellence in diversity and inclusion.
Multicultural programming and culture centers discussion with Dr. Lori Patton Davis
President Smart and Dr. Gilbert Brown introduced Dr. Lori Patton Davis. Dr. Patton Davis then led the discussion. Dr. Patton Davis explained that she met with several people prior to this meeting and will meet with several more people before her departure to discuss the context of diversity and inclusion at Missouri State University. She wants to understand the challenges, opportunities and perspectives about what the University is doing well and where it needs to improve.
President Smart noted that during these discussions, it is important that as many people as possible provide their input and that all members of the council need to be respectful.
Dr. Patton Davis discussed culture centers. She stated that each university will have different criteria for their own culture centers. Due to size, need and available resources, some universities have one multicultural resource center while other universities have several different centers based on specific diverse populations. She said that criteria for each university is based on the commitment of the university. While many institutions are facing similar issues nationally, the response of each institution might be different.
Dr. Patton Davis explained that it is imperative to stick to the mission of the culture center in order to maintain the culture center. She discussed that dynamics on campuses tend to shift the mission from time to time. These offices tend to be most vulnerable because of limited resources, understaffing and over-programming. Most staff members in these positions do not have higher degrees or political clout. There also seems to be a national pattern of pushing students of color to one particular staff member.
Many of the consistent issues in higher education and culture centers include needs that students want a safe space that validates who they are because there are staff members who can relate to or understand students’ experiences. Dr. Patton Davis stated this is difficult to accomplish in predominantly white institutions.
Other issues include the lack of action. Many institutions have culture centers to display commitment, but there is no depth. Culture centers tend to be used as a marketing point to recruit students but lack the support needed to improve retention. These centers are usually expected to do all of the work related to diversity with very limited resources.
Dr. Patton Davis said that another common issue is a poor level of competence among faculty. She stated there are racial, gender and generational gaps that cause problems, and there is a much greater expectation of accountability that wasn’t previously there.
There is a recurring theme involving the lack of support and inclusion from institutions’ surrounding communities. People of color feel targeted by the community directly and indirectly. Dr. Patton Davis has not been able to find a good model to provide leadership to have the institution and surrounding community work together. She did provide a few ideas including an office of community engagement and community town hall meetings conducted by MSU. The key is for both the University and the community to be intentional.
Dr. Patton Davis explained that historically speaking, culture centers usually need to consist of a safe space for underrepresented students, diversity programming including their own Welcome Week and classroom/learning space. They tend to operate as a smaller student affairs division. These culture centers need to acknowledge that these underrepresented groups of people exist and that their experiences are important. Culture centers need to have collaborative work with the broader population.
Questions from Dr. Patton Davis
Dr. Patton Davis asked what prompted the need for this council. President Smart stated that the council was created to redesign the diversity administration side. He explained that there has been a change in leadership in the Division for Diversity and Inclusion because it was not previously working. He expressed that some students of color were not satisfied with the way things were going. He also addressed his own frustration that the progress of the Climate Study was not moving as quickly as he had hoped. With the local and national events surrounding the Black Lives Matter movement, it was time to start over to create a more inclusive campus.
Dr. Chris Craig mentioned that there is a need for a group that represents different backgrounds and finds common purpose. He said he hopes the feedback from this group provides opportunities for faculty perspectives.
Dr. Brown discussed the over use of the title “CDO” and emphasized that President Smart and all of the Board of Governors are “chief diversity officers.” He said he hopes this group can bring about change and be a unit that works on issues together.
Student Ravyn Brooks said that the Springfield Coalition for Minority Advancement provided a list of demands in the fall semester. She wants to see more diversity programs for faculty, staff and students and feels the University needs to be more proactive with the programs.
Community member Mary Ann Rojas said that she believes the recent changes within the diversity administration are positive changes and wants these positive changes to improve the community.
Student Jordan Upchurch expressed that there has been a mistrust with administration which has made it difficult to have conversations.
Dr. Elizabeth Sobel discussed the need to have a strong understanding of the University and the community’s past and to have that history addressed publically.
Ms. Brooks said that the University needs to stop being afraid to tell the truth and acknowledge systemic oppression.
Community member John Oke-Thomas emphasized the need to have a connection between the University and the community at large. The University becomes the instrument that allows the community to face whatever demons it has.
Community member Janet Dankert stated that the community needs to let students know they want to keep them in the Springfield community long after graduation.
Staff member Dominiece Hoelyfield asked how the current Multicultural Resource Center will fit into the Long-Range Plan.
Long-Range Plan presentation by Dr. Gloria Galanes
The Long-Range Plan is online. Five out of the six categories have been uploaded. The Diversity and Inclusion category has not yet been vetted by the Board of Governors. Dr. Galanes mentioned there are town hall meetings that are open to faculty, staff and students on Feb. 29 and March 1.
Dr. Galanes emphasized that the Long-Range Plan is still a work in progress and that it will be reviewed by the Board of Governors in late March followed by additional town hall meetings in early May.
Dr. Galanes stated that the goal of the presentation today is to see if the plan has the right tone and to look for things that might be missing. Ms. Brooks questioned if there is an accountability clause. Dr. Galanes stated that accountability is throughout the plan.
Ryan DeBoef stated that the Long-Range Plan consists of six topical areas with five specific statements below each category. Each department and academic unit is responsible with providing their own action items. Dr. Galanes added that the Long-Range Plan is intentionally broad so units can create their own specific objectives and fulfill priorities. The use of Diversity and Inclusion is intended to be included throughout the entire plan with an overarching goal that student success trumps everything else.
The Diversity and Inclusion category under the Long-Range Plan is still a draft and is meant to be broader than just a business case for diversity. Missouri State University is committed to diversity and inclusion as a core value and will not only focus on the recruitment of underrepresented students but the retention as well. It will strive to create a climate of inclusive excellence and desires to be the university that other institutions hope to be. The Vision Statement under the Diversity and Inclusion category states:
Missouri State University will be a university of choice and opportunity for all students, a beacon for diversity locally and nationally, and a university that welcomes all forms of diversity.
The strategic priorities under the Vision are:
- To be true to its values and achieve its goals, the University will embrace diversity in all its forms.
- The University will embrace a system-wide approach to create an environment where all groups and individuals can thrive and achieve academic and personal success.
- The University will develop accountability measures for supporting diversity and inclusion throughout the University system.
- Missouri State University will lead by example in promoting inclusiveness within the community, region and state.
- The University embraces curricular transformation as an approach to ensure that its undergraduate and graduate students have knowledge and competencies related to diversity and inclusion.
The University goals following the priorities are:
- Enhance recruitment efforts to attract and retain historically underrepresented groups as well as other diverse groups (e.g., first generation, low income, veterans, disabled, international, etc.) of students, faculty and staff.
- Implement effective training to increase competence in diversity and inclusiveness for students, faculty and staff.
- Develop effective mentoring programs that enhance recruitment and retention of diverse faculty, staff and students.
- Ensure that academic programs incorporate diversity into the curriculum.
- Assess leaders’ and units’ annual progress toward diversity and inclusion goals.
- Collaborate with other major businesses, institutions and organizations in the region to promote diversity and inclusion.
Ms. Brooks inquired about the definition of diversity and inclusion and asked for it to be defined. She feels that currently it is more of a melting pot instead of individual groups and would like to have individual elements and struggles appreciated.
Dr. Galanes also showed the four Key Performance Indicators (KPIs).
- Student Success and Progress
- Six-Year Graduation Rate
- Engendering a Supportive Learning Environment
Ms. Hoelyfield stated she is still trying to understand how the space for the Multicultural Resource Center will fit into the Long-Range Plan and how the Long-Range Plan goals translate into space. President Smart stated that specific initiatives for specific areas will not be found in the Long-Range Plan.
Ms. Brooks asked if the provided mission could be more specific or have supplemental documents. Dr. Galanes stated that specifics will be within each unit, and there will be supplemental documents.
Student Jordan Upchurch asked about funding and staffing for initiatives for the Multicultural Resource Center. It currently has two professional staff and one graduate assistant. Dr. Galanes stated that the goal is to seek stable funding and ensure responsible stewardship for all University operations while continuing to offer a high quality education and competitive prices.
Student Monica Villa Meza asked if these responsibilities will fall under the Division for Diversity and Inclusion or under Student Affairs. Dr. Galanes responded that these goals are broad and that not one entity is responsible. Academic units are responsible as well.
President Smart discussed that in years past, very specific tasks were assigned to be completed within a five year plan. Due to unforeseeable global and national changes, this is not practical so the process has been changed to create general strategic priorities with overarching goals for each until. By August, there will be university goals set out for the next year, and each unit will have to provide information about how they are going to complete their part of those goals. Each unit will have specific retention goals and will be required to provide metrics for those goals.
Ms. Brooks mentioned the need for transparency to be added to the plan and that policies should also change, specifically the addition of a hate speech policy. Job descriptions also need to be updated.
President Smart challenged all members to review the Long-Range Plan on the website and send in their feedback online. He also encouraged members to provide their thoughts about this meeting to him.
Community member Lawrence (L.A.) Anderson mentioned that defining the word “diversity” puts a limitation to the word and creates concern that someone might not be included.
The next meeting will probably be in April and will address Dr. Patton Davis’s report and the Climate Study priorities. It is possible that the Higher Learning Commission Diversity and Inclusion portion can also be discussed.
This meeting was adjourned at 5:25.