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AU commits to investing another $61 million toward diversity and inclusion initiatives

One-year progress report lists accomplishments of Inclusive Excellence plan

AU commits to investing another $61 million toward diversity and inclusion initiatives

A year after President Sylvia Burwell released her administration’s Plan for Inclusive Excellence, AU has released a one-year progress report and committed to investing $61 million toward diversity and inclusion initiatives in 2019.

“Inclusive excellence is a more systemic approach and it’s a comprehensive approach,” Fanta Aw, the University’s vice president of campus life and inclusive excellence, told The Eagle. “For anyone who does this work on any campus, you know that this is a long haul.”

In a tweet addressing the report, Burwell also said that the process of implementing inclusive excellence is an ongoing process.

“We’re seeing some promising signs of progress, but we still have work to do,” she wrote. “We are on this journey together, and we’re learning together.”

The report outlines efforts made to improve inclusive excellence since the plan’s launch, stating that 14 faculty members completed training in inclusive teaching practices. Those faculty went on to train 500 additional faculty members, according to the report. 

In addition, the report found that of the faculty who earned tenure in the past two years, 39 percent are people of color and 43 percent are women. The University has been under pressure to address faculty diversity for years, particularly after several women accused a former provost of discriminating against them during the tenure application process. 

Along with addressing inclusion in the tenure process, the progress report highlights that the University’s “AU Experience” or “AUx” program, a core curriculum course which includes addressing themes of “diversity, bias, and privilege,” was required for first-year students for the first time this academic year.

AUx2, which is also now required for first-year students, specifically focuses on issues related to “diversity, inclusion, free speech and freedom of expression.” An AUx2 Council was created last summer to collect input to enhance the core curriculum, according to the report.

Last year, the University invested over $60 million for diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives, $53 million of which went to scholarships, such as the Federal Pell Grant, Frederick Douglass Distinguished Scholars and Veteran’s Yellow Ribbon Program. Another $7 million went toward funding AUx and other academic programs, according to AU’s website.

The $61 million allocated for this year will mostly go toward financial aid and the “continuing operations of centers and service units,” AU spokesperson Kelly Alexander told The Eagle. 

Aw said that the goals for implementing the plan arose in part from data that had been collected, some of which came from the 2017 campus climate survey.

The survey, which was conducted by AU’s Office of Institutional Research and Assessment (OIRA), found that only 55 percent of students felt that their peers contribute to a sense of belonging on campus and 33 percent of black students said that they felt included on campus. 

A sense of belonging among first-year students has improved from fall 2017 to fall 2018, according to the report. The plan does not address a sense of belonging among black students or any other specific demographic groups. 

The progress report’s release came after Aw and Provost Daniel Myers addressed the discovery of past yearbook images “of concern” in an email to students on Feb. 11, stating that reflected “racism, bigotry, and ignorance toward African Americans, Native Americans, and Asian Americans.” 

Aw told The Eagle that the University should maintain a commitment to raising students’ awareness of biases and lead them to ask questions about how those biases are influencing policies and practices. 

“You cannot undo the past,” she said. “You need to have that past inform your present and your future. And the way you go about that, first and foremost, is acknowledging it, and, second, is leveraging the tools that we have which is really education.” 

In regards to the inclusive excellence plan, Aw said that the University will work towards improvements in the coming years.

“We need to stay the course and we need to continue to make progress each and every day in this work and we need to remain fully committed,” Aw said.

saustin@theeagleonline.com 


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