Diversity and inclusion are central to the University of Nebraska–Lincoln’s mission and its pursuit of excellence. The university is continually reviewing its efforts for enhancing diversity and inclusion.
During 2014-15, several meetings and small focus groups were organized with faculty, staff and students from a variety of backgrounds to discuss the current status of our diversity efforts and to solicit input on what issues were not being addressed and what actions could be taken. From these focus groups, it was clear that what would be most productive is a long-term plan for systematic change rather than short-term events organized in reaction to campus incidents. We have adopted this course of action.
In the Fall of 2014, the Office of Academic Affairs commissioned a study about best practices in the academic enterprise for diversity and inclusion. Based on this study, the chancellor’s office and academic affairs are hiring an outside consulting firm to conduct a diversity analysis of the institution and to assist us in formulating a new plan for diversity and inclusion.
The consulting firm is also helping the university to define job descriptions and an associated reporting structure and resource plan for an office that would lead diversity and inclusion efforts at the campus level. An important insight gathered from observing similar efforts at other institutions is that those that have more clearly defined organizational structures and resources around their diversity and inclusion efforts have seen greater success in creating change. This approach requires more time, but we are convinced it is the right approach.
The Chancellor’s Diversity Council
This group was created during the Fall 2014 semester and first convened in Spring 2015 to provide the chancellor and his leadership team with input and guidance on high-level issues of diversity and inclusion. The council endeavors to communicate with the many individuals and organizations on campus and in the local community that are engaged on these issues. The council created and maintains the website diversity.unl.edu as a central repository of information and events related to diversity and inclusion. The council is currently coordinating the university's interaction with Halualani and Associates, a consulting firm that specializes in diversity issues in institutes of higher education.
The current members of the Chancellor’s Diversity Council are:
- Charlie Foster, Interim Assistant to Vice Chancellor, Student Affairs (Chair)
- Mark Balschweid, Interim Associate Vice Chancellor, IANR
- Lawrence Chatters, Diversity & Inclusion Coordinator, Athletics
- Christy Hyman, GSA Student Representative
- Karen Kassebaum, Director of Staff Diversity and Inclusion
- Leemah Nasrati, ASUN Student Representative
- Bill Nunez, Associate to the Chancellor (Ex officio)
- Lauren Segal, GSA Student Representative
- Tami Strickman, Assistant to the Chancellor, Institutional Equity & Compliance
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Several campus-wide initiatives have taken place since 2013.
- We have provided professional development for faculty and staff to build expertise for engaging in and facilitating discussions about diversity. For example, the Dine, Dialogue and Pass it On program.
- We have refocused the Office of Equity and Compliance to meet our responsibilities in this area.
- We have given priority at new student orientation to the relationship of diversity to academic excellence, including common examples of speech and conduct that may be regarded by others and insensitive or disrespectful.
- We have adopted the TIPS reporting system to include incidents of bias that allows another way for students to record — and for the university to respond to — such reports.
- We have reestablished the Chancellor’s Commission on the Status of People of Color.
- Made up of faculty, administrators, staff and students.
- The commission advises the chancellor through regular, thoughtful dialogue on issues pertaining the specific concerns of faculty, staff and students of color at NEBRASKA.