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K-State Today

June 29, 2016

From the provost's desk: Diversity, inclusion, and our university climate

Submitted by April Mason

Dear colleagues and students,

We at Kansas State University — faculty, staff and students — aspire to work, live and learn in an environment that encourages creativity, excellence and high morale; responds to changing needs; embraces diversity; values communication and collaboration; and is respectful, trusting and fair. The horrific tragedy in Orlando in which a terrorist targeted members of the LGBT community at a nightclub was the most recent reminder of why we all must foster tolerance, acceptance, diversity and inclusion as values core to who we are.

I am extremely proud of the work being done by many of you to advance one goal: to make our university more diverse and inviting for all. I want to take this opportunity to provide an update on some key efforts related to the important issues of K-State's climate, diversity and inclusion.

University Climate Survey

In the fall of 2014, the university conducted its first comprehensive Climate Survey for students, faculty and staff. This survey came after very careful planning by a diligent committee working with Dr. Susan Rankin of Rankin and Associates Consulting. Results of the survey were shared in the spring of 2015. Last fall, six Action Item sessions were held and a webpage was made available to the university community to provide ideas to address the challenges and opportunities identified in the University Climate Survey final report. Approximately 100 people participated in sessions on the Manhattan, Olathe and Polytechnic campuses or submitted suggestions online.

The University Climate Survey Committee compiled and reviewed all of the input and after careful evaluation, identified four priority categories for consideration of action items for implementation:

    • Pay/Benefits
    • Communication
    • Inclusiveness
    • Professional Development

In November, the committee forwarded a report including these four priority categories and associated action items, along with the compiled suggestions to the president and me for consideration. Both the University Climate Survey results and the recommended action item categories have been considered by the president and the president's cabinet and this work is now helping to inform a number of initiatives at our university currently in progress.

We value the rich data collected as part of the University Climate Survey and know some of you are interested in conducting research with the data. A process for proposing research projects using the quantitative survey data has been put in place. You can find the form and submission instructions for research project proposals on the Office of Planning and Analysis website.

Proposals will undergo an initial screening, and if no additional information is needed, they will be sent to the Institutional Review Board, or IRB, for review. Once IRB approval is granted, the requested quantitative data will be provided to the researcher by the Office of Planning and Analysis. Questions regarding the proposal process can be directed to Dr. Brian Niehoff, associate provost for institutional effectiveness at niehoff@k-state.edu.

Thank you to an incredible group of individuals who worked harder than they thought they ever would on this important effort over the last two and a half years. I want to recognize and commend the dedicated co-chairs, Ruth Dyer and Tom Vontz, and the committee members who invested many hours of their time and provided careful, thoughtful input throughout the entire process. The committee members were:

    • Nancy Baker, Office of Planning and Analysis 
    • Fred Burrack, Office of Assessment 
    • Lynn Carlin, Office of the Provost 
    • Clive Fullagar, Department of Psychological Sciences 
    • Myra Gordon, Office of Diversity 
    • Kerry Jennings, Housing and Dining Services 
    • Kaleen Knopp, K-State Polytechnic 
    • Gary Leitnaker, Division of Human Capital Services 
    • Steve Logback, Division of Communications and Marketing 
    • Jan Middendorf, Office of Educational Innovation and Evaluation 
    • Brian Niehoff, Office of the Provost 
    • Pam Warren, College of Business Administration 
    • Daryl Youngman, K-State Libraries 
    • Amanda Fairbanks, graduate student 
    • Hope Faflick, undergraduate student

While the University Climate Survey was our first comprehensive look at our university environment, it won't be our last. This survey has established important benchmarks for the university, and I look forward to the next universitywide survey and learning where we have improved and where we still need to make progress.

Report from the President's Cabinet Subgroup for Diversity

As always, I am most impressed by the leadership of our K-State students and their commitment to building a more welcoming K-State for all. Last fall, our Black Student Union developed a partnership with the Staley School of Leadership Studies to host community conversations as an open space for the entire K-State community to speak out on issues of racial inequality and injustice. In November, student government leaders Andy Hurtig and Joe Tinker sent President Schulz a letter regarding diversity and inclusion issues on our campuses. The letter identified four points as opportunities for growth:

    • Cultural competency courses
    • Cultural awareness facilitation training
    • A more diverse faculty, staff and administration
    • Developing a university campaign to highlight how culture and diversity adds value to the educational experience and supportive campus environment

President Schulz charged a subgroup of his cabinet to address issues raised in the letter and plan for a more inclusive campus that makes all feel like family, not just certain groups. The President's Cabinet Subgroup for Diversity was facilitated by Vice President Pat Bosco and included Cheryl Johnson, Human Capital Services; Jeff Morris, Communications and Marketing; Amy Button Renz, Alumni Association; Zelia Wiley, Office of Diversity; Andy Hurtig, SGA President; Joe Tinker, SGA Vice President; and myself. Fred Burrack, Office of Assessment, and Linda Henderson, Student Life, assisted us.

The subgroup submitted its final report to President Schulz and the cabinet in May. We are most excited about the student-led initiative outlined in the report:

"K-State student leaders are working collaboratively to develop a living document that outlines our commitment to being a national leader in diversity, inclusion, and social justice. The document seeks to be a working blueprint for our institution's short and long term aspirations of a more equitable K-State. The Student Governing Association, in conjunction with the Black Student Union, the Asian American Student Union, or AASU, and Hispanic American Leadership Organization, or HALO, will look to endorse this document, alongside other student organizations, as a supplement to K-State 2025, but also as our student body's vision for social equity well beyond the year 2025. Upon adoption of this document, we aspire to develop an annual campaign that highlights the value-added nature that different cultures, beliefs, and backgrounds provide to our diverse Wildcat community."

The climate, the sense of home, a united K-State family, acceptance for all, the expectations of hiring broadly for positions on our campuses, embracing diversity and inclusion at Kansas State University — these are all incredibly important aspects as to how we look at ourselves and our future. I want to thank all who have helped move us forward, who continue to challenge us to be better, and who will do the rewarding and important work we need to do.

Thanks for all you do,