August 2016 Update on Diversity, Inclusion, and Cohesion at Sewanee

The 2012 Strategic Plan, through its fourth strategic direction, expressed the University's commitment to foster a more diverse, inclusive, and cohesive community. An assessment of progress on that plan, nearly four years into implementation, noted that while the University had taken significant steps in this direction, more work was needed. The University can take pride in receiving national recognition for the socioeconomic diversity of its students, with a relatively high percentage, among other national liberal arts colleges, of Pell-eligible college students at a relatively low net price. The College and the School of Theology have also recently increased the diversity of their respective faculties. Moreover, the University brought in-house its food service operation, welcoming as employees with full benefits nearly one hundred long-standing workers at the University. As the assessment made clear, however, work on diversifying the campus community further, and developing an inclusive community for students, faculty, and staff remains in its early stages.

During the 2015-2016 academic year, students, faculty, and staff engaged more fully in issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion, especially concerning race. A Stand with Mizzou solidarity gathering, a Sewanee Responds faculty panel, and two planning sessions on diversity, equity, and inclusion led to the launching of ten task forces in the spring of 2016. These task forces studied a variety of topics and made recommendations for campus development. The University further appointed the Committee on Diversity, Inclusion, and Cohesion to evaluate and guide initiatives.

As of August 2016, a variety of initiatives are underway, due to the engagement of an increasing number of students, faculty, and staff. Thanks to their work, and those who may join in time to come, much can be accomplished. Recent initiatives toward the fourth direction of the Strategic Plan include the following:

  • Task force reports. At the end of the 2015-2016 academic year the Committee on Diversity, Inclusion, and Cohesion received reports from the ten task forces on Campus Infrastructure; Diversifying the Faculty; Diversifying the Staff; Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in the Classroom; Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in the Curriculum; Extending the Effects of the Posse Plus Retreat; History and Symbols; Orientation/FYP/PRE; Recruiting and Supporting Diverse Students; and Safe Spaces.

  • Potluck discussions. The Office of Admission held a series of conversations on culture and background for students, faculty, and staff.

  • Conversations with Dr. Alma Clayton-Pedersen and Sonja C. P. Armstrong.  Clayton-Pederson, Senior Scholar in the Office of the President at the Association of American Colleges and Universities, and Sonja Armstrong are principals of Emeritus Consulting Group. Their campus activities have included presentations to new faculty, to the College faculty as a whole, and a workshop on the inclusive classroom.
  • Center for Teaching workshops and discussion groups. Dr. Hsiao-Wen Lo, licensed psychologist and experienced workshop leader on diversity, equity, and inclusion, presented to faculty an afternoon session on "Creating an Inclusive Classroom Environment: Barriers and Strategies." Moira O’Neil, Senior Researcher and Director of Interpretation at the FrameWorks Institute, and Sewanee faculty presented two sessions on strategic social issue framing to faculty. This fall the Center for Teaching will also host a faculty study group on the community book.
  • Compensation study. The administration completed a compensation study, updating market and salary information from a similar study two years ago, and then adjusted employee salaries to eliminate gender inequities, in both directions, revealed by the analysis.

  • Community book. The Vice-Chancellor designated Ta-Nehisi Coates' Between the World and Me as a common book for the community and asked all members of the community to ask themselves how they will participate in the efforts of the upcoming year. In his message John McCardell wrote, "Our focus, as individuals and as a community, must be – must be – resolutely forward.  And that focus demands of us not more words, but actions, constructive actions, things that each of us might do to mend and strengthen a weakened social fabric: stepping away from the keyboard, putting down the pen, laying aside the placard, making a commitment to act."
  • Project planning. The Committee on Diversity, Inclusion, and Cohesion began project planning for the recommendations of the task force reports as well as the recommendations of organizations such as the Association of Governing Boards and the College Board. Over 100 proposals are now under consideration.

  • Archives acquisition. The University Archives added to its holdings a bishop's chair made by slaves and earlier used as the chancellor's chair in University ceremonies. The Archives encourages study and understanding of all of its artifacts related to diversity, equity, and inclusion.

  • Study of slavery. The University joined Universities Studying Slavery, a consortium of universities associated to the University of Virginia's President's Commission on Slavery and the University. Through this consortium faculty and students will engage in scholarship on the history of the University.

  • Opening retreat. The opening College faculty/staff retreat addressed Between the World and Me and included training on conducting conversations that respect diversity of people and ideas and promote inclusion.

  • Orientation. All first-year students discussed Between the World and Me with faculty and student orientation leaders, and heard a presentation from Dr. Micia Mosely, performer and educational trainer, on diversity, equity, and inclusion.

  • Sewanee Symposium. The University will host a symposium entitled Incorporating Equality: The First 150 Years of the Fourteenth Amendment, featuring Dr. David Blight of Yale University, Dr. Annette Gordon-Reed of Harvard University, and other leading constitutional scholars.

  • Terrell Strayhorn lecture. Director of the Center for Higher Education Enterprise at the Ohio State University and author of Theoretical Frameworks in College Students Research (2013), College Students' Sense of Belonging (2012), and The Evolving Challenges of Black College Students (2010), Dr. Strayhorn will speak at Sewanee on diversity and inclusion in college.

  • Bob Herbert lecture. The noted former New York Times columnist and distinguished senior fellow at Demos will speak at Sewanee.

  • Pilot of additional Posse program. Deborah Bial and Rico Blancaflor of the Posse Foundation will come to Sewanee to pilot a new workshop for student leaders and for faculty that other Posse Foundation partner schools may consider hosting on their own campuses.
  • Mayor Riley at Convocation. Mayor Joseph P. Riley, Jr., of Charleston will be the speaker for the University's Founders' Day Convocation.

  • Jennifer Hochschild lecture. Professor at Harvard University, president of the American Political Science Association, and scholar on the intersection of American politics and political philosophy, especially in the areas of race, ethnicity, and immigration, Dr. Jennifer Hochschild will give the University's Phi Beta Kappa lecture.