Diversity forum to be launched

This is part of a larger plan to increase diversity on campus.

by Alexi Gusso

The University of Minnesota Office for Equity and Diversity is working to expand conversations about diversity on campus.

In the spring, the office will launch a new online forum on the OED website that will allow students and faculty to post ideas, questions and responses to diversity issues.

“It is absolutely for people to contribute ideas and suggestions in a new way at the University,” said Alicia Cordes, OED’s director of communications.

OED is implementing the forum as part of its Equity and Diversity Vision Framework — a series of three phases designed in 2008 to address priority areas of action.

This fall, University President Eric Kaler hosted public discussions centered on issues that can arise on a campus with students from a range of different backgrounds.

The conversations touched on issues such as the need to hire more faculty members from diverse backgrounds to reflect the greater campus population.

After the sessions, Kaler requested that communication tools be developed to allow students and faculty to share information and ideas and learn about available resources.

“We found in the listening sessions that many people just aren’t aware of the support services we offer through our various offices,” said Louis Mendoza,  OED associate vice provost.

Cordes said the forum is currently in early stages of development but that it would be “very open to the public and welcoming to all voices.”

Mendoza agreed that the forum would provide students with opportunities to learn about resources, including the expertise and experience of OED faculty.

 “We’re just trying to get to this point where we have a higher level of accountability and better communication,” he said.

A three-part plan

The OED’s three-part plan includes goals to improve the campus environment for diverse students, faculty and visitors.

“The purpose of the framework is to maximize benefits the OED offers to the University community,” Mendoza said.

The first phase of implementation was to expand understanding of the OED’s work, and the second was geared toward engaging faculty and building capacity across the University system.

The forum is part of the project’s third and final phase, which is designed to develop strategic equity by focusing on specific areas of campus, like colleges within the University.

The University hopes the tool will get students more involved by providing a continual conversation about the issues of diversity.

Mendoza will update the Board of Regents Faculty, Staff and Student Affairs Committee on the framework’s progress at the regent’s next meeting Dec. 13.

“The goal is to have measurable improvements in areas of equity and diversity and also get people to think in more complex ways about identity,” Mendoza said.