Middle States Blog: Diversity and inclusion as a demonstration of ethics and integrity

This month the U.S. celebrates Black History Month, March ushers in Women’s History Month, Feb. 26-March focuses attention on National Eating Disorders Awareness week, and the list of commemorative days, weeks, and months goes on and on. However, awareness of different people is just one part of diversity and inclusion. Creating a culture of inclusiveness and where all people feel welcomed and able to work, study, and live on campus is what the University is striving to achieve.

Starting with the mission of the University, Syracuse University celebrates diversity of our global faculty and our student body and commits to maintaining pride in our location and history as a place of access, engagement, innovation and impact.

Living up to being a pre-eminent and inclusive student-focused research university, as our vision states, takes everyone working together to improve our campus climate, and the Middle States Commission on Higher Education is interested in how we are attempting to maintain a positive environment.

Through Standard 2, Middle States critiques its member institutions’ approaches to ethics and integrity and emphasizes inclusion.

Not only must we demonstrate our commitment to inclusion through our mission, but also we must demonstrate how we are communicating this commitment, what structures we have in place, how we are assessing it, and how we are continually improving it.

The ongoing efforts of the Climate Assessment Planning Committee is a solid example of our measuring how inclusive Syracuse is as a learning, living and working environment. The results from the climate survey gave insights that are being used to make recommendations to improve the campus climate at Syracuse.

The level of involvement across campus in this process is a good example of the type of engagement accreditors like to witness. This committee held formal updates, maintained a website describing the process, made the report available to the campus community, hosted four campus conversations about the topic, and provided email and online feedback opportunities.

Knowing that the climate survey was an outgrowth of the Chancellor’s Workgroup on Sexual Violence Prevention, Education, and Advocacy is another indicator of continuous improvement, which Middle States emphasizes.

While improvements to the campus climate may not be immediately noticeable, processes are being established, engagement is happening, feedback is being gathered, and changes are being made. These changes can be observed and this climate survey can be replicated later to see if the recommendations that get implemented make a difference in improving our climate.

Our hope is that it will, and that Middle States will see this effort as a step in the right direction toward inclusion.

Rochelle Ford, rlford@syr.edu