Diversity DTF Report
"Considering our understanding of diversity and its limitations at Evergreen, the Diversity DTF offers the following report in response to the President's four-point charge. We intend it to serve as a guide to addressing the needs of each and every student, faculty and staff member of the college, and to placing diversity at the core of our educational practices." Excerpt from the Diversity DTF Report to the President, p.2 of 28
- President's DDTF Charge (PDF)
- DDTF's Report to the President (PDF)
- Presidents Response to the DTF's Report (PDF)
- Bodies of Knowledge at Evergreen (PDF)
DDTF Member Comments and Reflections
Laura Grabhorn Assistant Director of the Longhouse Education and Cultural Center, Chair, Diversity DTF
I hope that Evergreen community members will read the Diversity DTF report keeping in mind their own experiences and their own wishes for what would make Evergreen a more equitable place to work and to study.
As anyone affected by the societal question about equity, diversity and race relations will tell you, the issues are complex and multi-layered.
Even with the best intentions, a college institution is by many definitions a place where power relationships, systems of reward, punishment, promotion, education and job security mirror the systems that are in place all over the country. Without accountability in place, words of good intention carry no weight. Actions of ill intent carry no consequences.
For those affected directly by racism and bigotry of all kinds, words of good intent are no longer sufficient. Equity never evolves organically. Equity occurs only in an environment where leaders and community members demand and put in place structures of accountability. To place faith and value in anything less jeopardizes this institution in far greater ways than simply impacting old and comfortable ways. Which is more important: protecting traditions of a young institution or actually working towards being cutting edge?
A true commitment to equity goes beyond sensitivity training and diversity training. It includes commitment to things like due process in faculty conversion, fair opportunity for promotion, equal access to academic programs and coursework that prepare a student for success. How do we know when and if we achieve equity? Are we satisfied with benchmarks for state and national figures? Is meeting or slightly exceeding them evidence of success? Is it okay to stop there? What effect does it have on the Evergreen community when nationally competitive jobs are subject to an internal search that does nothing to increase broad demographic representation in our workforce?
Does Evergreen want to be on the cutting edge in terms of equity or should we rest on our collective sense of historical justice in the face of real examples where justice is not served?
Evergreen is indeed unique, however, we are not so unusual so that we may afford to ignore national research on equity. While there are a lot of good things that happen at Evergreen, as a community we are not curious enough about the questions behind the data. Familiarity and understanding about the experiences, successes, and challenges of all people in the TESC community will increase accountability and ultimately improve the environment so that our college mission statement is known to be true.
Dear community members,
served on the Diversity DTF. The work was substantive and has resulted in a number of very important insights and proposals. There were also points of disagreement that I feel are not adequately conveyed in the Diversity DTF Report. Please read this letter as an addendum to that report in which I will describe some of these critical points and suggest questions that may help us address them. The spirit of my comments is meant to be constructive and to add to the success of our discussion on the report.
There are two concerns I have about the content and process with the DTF. First, while the original membership of the DTF represented a cross section of college divisions and members, we ended up with limited representation as a result of losing seven of the original seventeen members. Most significantly, we ended up with no student members. While there is the assertion in the report that "student voices have exerted a powerful influence on the Diversity DTF" there were no students involved in the deliberations or development of the proposals.
How can we get substantive student participation in not just reviewing current proposals but adding to the proposals?
Who else's experience, interests and point of view is not included in the current draft and should be sought?
Second, there was a lively and useful tension among us about strategies for change. On the one hand, some members had a strong interest in what I would call an "administrative-level approach." The latter can be seen in the proposal for a broad institutional data framework that calls for extensive collection of information on a wide range of college practices (e.g. financial aid award, enrollment, retention, hiring, use of services, etc.), the proposal for accountability focused on key administrative positions, and the proposal regarding faculty development. On the other hand, there was interest in "grass roots" and other educational approaches that focused on building college-wide networks and promoting collegial discussion of racism and other forms of personal and institutional discrimination.
These approaches needn't conflict but an over emphasis one way or the other can have a powerful effect on our experience as we move forward on enhancing diversity and understanding on the campus. Administrative strategies can appear to be effective levers to shift college practices and procedures; they also run the risk of being isolated as only that, and solidifying stratification and relations of power that are already problematic for us. Grassroots efforts can be provoking and challenging, but not necessarily clearly focused; they also take time.
This tension between adopting an administrative approach or a more grass roots approach was strongest in our discussion of two of the proposals. The first example was proposal II Access and Success - Student Learning that calls for extensive data collection. While the members of the DTF agreed on the importance of compiling relevant data, we had important differences on what data should be collected and the conditions in which it would be collected. The report goes beyond the agreements reached in our discussion and actually proposes two very detailed data models. These models are further emphasized in the appendices, which were not reviewed by the DTF members.
The second example is proposal V, Diversity, Faculty Portfolioâ€¦ I believe there are two critical issues that require deeper discussion with this proposal. Tying this proposal, or any proposal, to the portfolio seems to be needlessly officious. Focusing on teaching through reflection on teaching materials can be done very effectively without linking it to the portfolio. Tying it in this way, as the proposal recommends, invites realistic worries around reappointment, conversion or continued employment for new and visiting faculty members. We cannot wish away or dismiss these worries.
This is also the only proposal having to do with "faculty development." I believe we need a proposal that is more expansive and that resonates more closely with our commitment to diversity along with broader faculty concerns. Faculty members are at very different levels of understanding and experience with diversity, and the support they want will by necessity be varied. The faculty have been and should continue to be key in deciding the experiences that will be relevant to move forward on our commitment to diversity while, at the same time, "diversity" must remain embedded in our broader practices as an interdisciplinary and liberal arts college.
- What are the critical issues facing us as we attempt greater diversity?
- What of these issues are matters of structure/organization and what are matters of institutional culture?
- What is the nature of the work necessary to address these issues
- What sources of information, and what processes for gathering that information, will help us understand and respond mindfully and deepen our strengths as a college community?
The discussion and decisions around these proposals raised a larger question for me regarding our governance process and expectations. Members of other DTFs in the past few years have also raised critical questions about process. Specifically, I assumed we would use consensus to arrive at our final proposals and analyses. We did not do that. This is probably an issue we should take up in this year's Governance Group discussions.
Working on the Diversity DTF has been both enormously rewarding and also frequently frustrating. The rewards include:
- Working with very talented and committed community members on a set of very complex problems we all saw as crucial to the life of Evergreen.
- Producing a concrete product that I believe contains very substantial steps toward solving those problems.
- Seeing the daily life of Evergreen from perspectives that were new and surprising to me. I gained a much deeper appreciation of the richness and complexity of this social enterprise which is such a big part of my own life.
The frustrations were mainly unavoidable results of the ambitious scope of the work we had undertaken.
- It took a LONG TIME. We surveyed a very wide range of data sources, and considered multiple interpretations of those data. This was unavoidable, but tended to expand the time commitment required by the DTF.
- e were not able to sustain full participation from all the original members. I think this was mainly caused by the "ever growing" time commitment. It was especially frustrating to lose participation by students. There needs to be a way found to sustain meaningful student membership in DTFs by recognizing the special time and scheduling realities they face
- We were also not able to do the kind of detailed outreach to all the different constituencies in the college that have a stake in the work of the DTF. This makes it all the more important that the report, as submitted, be widely read and discussed around the college, and that all the people who will be effected by it have a real opportunity to share their reactions to its recommendations.
There may be no way to completely avoid these frustrations within the participatory governance model that is such a part of Evergreen's identity, but I think it is worth trying to improve the model in incremental ways that are small but do-able.
In the meantime, I think that the work that we did accomplish, embodied in the DTF's report, makes a real contribution to living up to our collective responsibility to identify and remove the institutional barriers to equal access and educational equity at Evergreen. The report is far from perfect. There are many issues that we identified in our discussions that are not addressed by the recommendations. Each of the recommendations can and should be improved, particularly by being subjected to careful critical scrutiny by those in our community who will be most effected by them. The job of the DTF now is to make sure that scrutiny takes place, and listen carefully and humbly to the perspectives of those who care enough to point out ways to make the work better.
I appeal to you all to make time to review and comment on our work. There are strong cultural forces that tend to reinforce patterns of discrimination and injustice, and our taking strong collective action in the direction of equity and justice is something we owe one another and our future students.