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Diversity Plan Update

Emerson College released an update of its strategic diversity plan, Creating a Culture of Inclusion, on November 8. The report outlined ways the College promoted diversity and inclusion on campus during the 2009-2010 academic year and illustrated opportunities for further progress. Highlights include: a collaboration between Emerson’s Enrollment Office and Success Boston to develop a program to enroll more Boston Public School students in college, six orientation/diversity hiring workshops, and a Faculty Institute panel featuring instructors who currently teach classes that meet course requirements for diversity.

The Diversity Council also facilitated Campus Conversations on Race for students, Workplace Dialogues for staff, and a faculty forum on diversity. One of the Council’s current goals is to organize an event that combines all three groups. “We hope to get all these groups together for a conversation,” said Gwendolyn Bates, Associate Vice President of the Office of Diversity and Inclusion and chair of the Diversity Council. “Everyone needs to feel that diversity is an important part of how we operate on this campus.”

Bates stressed that effort from the entire Emerson community is necessary to ensure these endeavors have a lasting impact. “Diversity is not just about making sure our population is diverse. We need to make sure that everyone who is part of this campus feels included,” she said.

The updated report included five goals:

  • Develop and implement activities and programs that are designed to increase and enhance student diversity with particular emphasis on racial/ethnic differences
  • Develop and implement activities and programs that are designed to increase and enhance faculty and staff diversity with particular emphasis on racial/ethnic differences
  • Promote a climate that respects and supports diversity and is recognized for doing so within the Emerson community, Boston, and the larger communication and arts industries
  • Maintain and expand a diverse curriculum that prepares our students to live, lead in, and contribute to a world growing more diverse and complex
  • Design, develop, and implement a comprehensive system of responsibility, accountability, and recognition for increasing campus diversity, improving campus climate, and advancing the knowledge base for creating and sustaining a culturally diverse community of learners, teachers, researchers, and workers.

Additional efforts to support the plan included an independent review panel, which looked into the College’s tenure process. The panel interviewed faculty, students, staff, and Trustees. The panel’s results, released February 2010, concluded that “change is imperative” when it comes to ethnic and racial diversity on Emerson’s campus.

“I think we need more people to understand that diversity needs to be part of the fabric of this institution,” Bates said. Academics provides a key example. The Diversity Council recently cataloged a list of “courses that deal with diversity issues,” such as Intercultural Communication, Islam and the World, and Topics in U.S. Multicultural Literature. However, Bates believes that fulfilling one or two diversity requirements may not prepare students who go to work in a diverse society. She cited the need to “infuse diversity across the curriculum.”

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