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K-State Today

December 19, 2014

From the Provost’s Desk: Our core commitment to diversity and inclusion

Submitted by Provost April Mason

April Mason

The commitment to diversity and inclusion has been very much in the forefront at Kansas State University this fall. We are engaging in our first ever university climate survey for all faculty, staff and students. The Diversity Summit in November was outstanding, providing a venue for dialogue and to celebrate our multicultural diversity and the award-winning success of our diversity efforts. The K-State 2025 planning process and the draft diversity strategic plan released for comment last spring has led to rich discussions about what we mean by diversity and inclusion at our university.

More recently, events in Ferguson, Missouri; Staten Island, New York; and Cleveland, Ohio have prompted wide-ranging dialogue on racial tensions nationally and within our university family. As these recent events and our own responses to them make clear, it is incumbent on all of us to maintain a focus on multicultural affairs and the work that remains to be done.

I have learned much from the discussions about diversity and inclusion I have had with many of you over the past months. Historically at K-State and elsewhere, we have defined "diversity" in the context of gender, race and ethnicity. "Inclusive excellence" at K-State speaks to a much broader definition that reflects all individuals who are part of the K-State family — reflective of gender, race and ethnicity, but also socioeconomic status, sexual orientation, gender identity, disability and special needs, age, religion, veteran status and national origin. Indeed, this is how we defined diversity and inclusive excellence in our 2012 report to the Higher Learning Commission.

President Schulz and I heard clearly from the comments we received on the draft diversity strategic action plan and the discussions we have had this fall that our K-State 2025 diversity strategic planning must speak to everyone but also maintain a clear focus on multicultural diversity, race and ethnicity.

President Schulz and I have accepted the K-State 2025 strategic plan put forth by the Office of Diversity and the President’s Commission on Multicultural Affairs (PCMA) as a unit-level plan embodying our institutional commitment to multicultural diversity. Dr. Myra Gordon, the Office of Diversity, the PCMA and our diversity point people across the university will continue to provide the leadership and focus for our multicultural diversity strategies, plans and accountability reporting as they have successfully done for more than a decade. I thank them.

Kansas State University remains fully committed to multicultural diversity. It is essential, but it is not in itself sufficient.

Describing our K-State 2025 common element of "diversity" as we plan our future, it is appropriate to refer to both our historical definition and inclusive excellence that values diversity broadly and promotes success for all. In addition to our Office of Diversity strategic action plan focused on multicultural diversity, we need a K-State 2025 university common element strategic plan addressing diversity and inclusion broadly. Such a plan must speak to all individuals and communities who are part of our K-State family, whether they are served by the Office of Diversity, the Student Access Center, the Center for Advocacy, Response and Education, the LGBT Resource Center, the Office of Veterans Affairs, International Programs or others.

President Schulz and I will appoint a K-State 2025 Diversity and Inclusion Planning Committee this spring after seeking nominations from representative groups at the beginning of the semester. Consistent with the model of our previous K-State 2025 university planning efforts, the committee will have 12 to 15 members, including faculty, unclassified and university support staff, graduate and undergraduate students, administrators and an alumnus. Facilitators will be provided as with our other committees. We expect the work to begin in March with a draft plan ready for university review by mid-fall. We will receive the results of the university climate survey in late spring and the committee will be asked to consider those results in their planning.

Strategic planning at its best is not about the actual plan, but the dialogue and learning we have as a community. The issues being discussed are complex and conversations around them raise heartfelt emotions. Often these conversations can be insightful and inspiring as we learn to value each other and our differences. These conversations also can be difficult but they are necessary for us to continue to grow as individuals, a university community and a nation.

In thinking about our diversity and planning work, I am reminded of a quote from Albert Einstein:

 "In matters of truth and justice, there is no difference between large and small problems, for issues concerning the treatment of people are all the same."

We are on an important journey together as faculty, staff and students. I am glad and proud to be with you on that journey.

April Mason
Provost and Senior Vice President