In the months following the debut of Elon University’s diversity, equity and inclusion action steps, efforts to create a more inclusive environment for faculty and staff continue.
The working group for diversity, equity and inclusion of the academic council — the governing body over faculty — is working to include information addressing bias in the faculty handbook, particularly with regard to evaluation for faculty. The university is also working to redesign the bias response system and will debut a new training program for all university employees.
John Robinson-Miller IV, assistant director of the Center for Race, Ethnicity and Diversity Education, said because faculty and staff members all come in with their own professional standards, it can be difficult to ensure all standards are DEI-focused.
“When you then put all of those things into this higher ed context where we are prioritizing that, I think there has to be some unlearning and some integration into what your professional standards are … and what the expectation is for campus culture,” Robinson-Miller said. “That’s where a lot of the gaps are.”
Randy Williams, vice president and associate provost of inclusive excellence, said faculty and staff DEI initiatives range from online training for preventing harassment and discrimination to improving the bias response system, a tool faculty, staff and students can use. These efforts not only promote a more inclusive environment for faculty and staff, but impact students as well, making sure they engage with DEI curriculum during their time at Elon.
“When you see initiatives where faculty are infusing this in the curriculum and finding ways to add it as a part of coursework, and as that continues with the student life side and other areas on campus, now the chances of one getting through Elon without engaging with this content becomes much more challenging,” Williams said.
According to Rosemary Haskell, a member of the DEI working group, the faculty handbook is continually being revised, and the revision relating to diversity, equity and inclusion was one of the tasks of the working group.
The working group was formed last summer and includes five faculty members. One goal of the working group is to help faculty members with their professional development in terms of DEI and anti-racism in their scholarship. The group also works to provide training for people such as the academic council, promotion and tenure committee and department chairs.
“We also work to institute regular awareness training … to help those people, those groups, avoid implicit bias and be more alert to the needs of people from underrepresented groups,” Haskell said.
The group instituted two training sessions for the academic council in the fall to help the council be “alert” to the needs of underrepresented groups among faculty and how to address those needs. The academic council is made up of 19 faculty members who serve three-year terms. Haskell said all of the faculty members on the academic council this year are white, unlike past years.
“Our working group and other working groups asked faculty who are not white or … members of underrepresented groups to work with us as consultants,” Haskell said. “We had one or two people from outside academic council work with our group.”
One of the group’s tasks, as outlined on the academic committee’s website, is to recruit more faculty of color to the academic council. Haskell said after many discussions, a new committee was formed to focus on bringing diversity to the academic council called the professional development and faculty evaluation group. This group will work on guidelines for faculty on how to make their teaching and scholarship more attuned to the importance of DEI efforts.
A new version of the training for preventing harassment and discrimination Elon faculty and staff take when they are hired was launched in November. Williams said that all faculty and staff members, regardless of their type of employment, will complete the program upon the time of hiring. The university hopes to see a “significant improvement” in the number of people who have completed the training. Currently, not all faculty and staff members have completed the new training.
Williams and Vice President for Student Life Jon Dooley are working with the bias response system working group as well as consultant groups — which include students, alumni and administrators — to redesign the bias response system.
The goals of the working group for the bias system are to have “clear follow up and communication on actions taken” and a process for faculty of color to “report and receive support” from the provost’s office.
Williams said the working group is currently identifying and researching other universities’ bias response systems. Following their research, which is scheduled to be presented in April, the group will provide recommendations to Williams and Dooley to improve the system at Elon.
Williams said the working group had to “regroup as far as the timeline” after Center for Equity and Inclusive Excellence director Leigh-Anne Royster left Elon in January.