Cultural Diversity and Social Justice Strategic Plan
Draft 3-30-99 Draft

CULTURAL DIVERSITY AND SOCIAL JUSTICE SUB-COMMITTEE REPORT

This report sets forth the implementation plan for the goal of social justice and cultural diversity.

Methodology:

In the spring of 1997 the Strategic Planning Committee's sub-committee on Social Justice and Cultural Diversity proposed a method to fulfill its charge. The sub-committee proposed to interview as many "relevant groups" as time and staff permitted. The concerns and suggestions which emerged in those interviews were carefully registered and that record was given to each group to check for accuracy and additions. As each final version was obtained, the report was submitted to the full Strategic Planning Committee. This must be assumed to be the final list of concerns of major importance for the groups interviewed. Concerns which arise from now forward will have to be taken up in a future plan.

In the second part of its work, the sub-committee made a comprehensive list of all suggestions, comments and analyses which could be culled from the interviews. The sub-committee then sought themes running through and cutting across the interviews. Those themes are then taken to be problems which the plan must address. The sub-committee sorted out those items which could be addressed by existing structure units. Those items are simply referred for action, sometimes with a tentative recommendation. Those items forwarded to units should not be construed as accusations leveled against any part of the University. These are perceptions which regardless of their factual status need to be addressed. Should any of the groups interviewed notice a major omission among the points raised during the interviews and set out in this plan, please contact Prof. Bill Langen.

Rationale:

It is taken to be the very nature of justice that it must be equal. To the extent that a plan approaches issues group by group, it perpetuates divisions and animosities. Yet some problems seem very specific to one group. For example, Hmong students need for married student housing is tied to their own cultural patterns. Even in these instances, viewing a series of similar problems among disparate groups, one is driven to seek a common thread. At that point the process uncovers an underlying, fundamental condition to be addressed in the plan.

The approach taken in this process represents a conscious attempt to rise above divisive and parochial identities by asserting an agenda of problems cutting across groups. Thus it is hoped that the University can embrace a plan that benefits multiple constituencies. It is further our intention to solicit unified support from those constituencies as an antidote to any temptation to selectively implement the plan.

The sub-committee recommends:

  1. That the University unit charged to address a particular matter acknowledge receipt of the item.
  2. That it note the group where the item originated and arrange a meeting with that group to discuss disposition of the matter.
  3. That the University unit report back to the Chair of the Strategic Planning Committee with an account of the final disposition of the item or progress toward its disposition.

Although the items recommended for action by existing units are discrete, they do point to at least one structural problem. The fact that so many problems are perceived to exist while University offices and units exist for the very purpose of addressing these matters speaks to a break in communication between organizations and the various University offices serving those organizations. Alternatively the situation points to a need to refine definitions of responsibility within and among units.

An example is perhaps illustrative. Students criticized the University for establishing a minority student resource room and then not providing funds for resources. Vice-President Bird read the minutes of that interview and sent the sub-committee documentation of the existence of funds in an account earmarked precisely for the acquisition of materials for the resource room. Why were students unaware of these funds? Part of the answer is that students are a transitory population. Fostering institutional memory is a problem requiring specific practices and institutions.

Recommendation:

Student Life and Development will propose a plan for regular consultation with Minority Student organizations with a view to covering outstanding issues, the status of funds and other matters of mutual interest and concern. These meetings should take place at a fixed point each semester, for example the second student group meeting of each semester and the next to the last meeting of each spring.

A Discourse of Respectful Inquiry

This report will make recommendations to promote social justice and cultural diversity. However, no plan by itself, no matter how enthusiastically embraced, funded and implemented will bring the University to the point where all members of the university community have equal access to resources, benefits and respect. The issues of social justice and culture diversity in fact encompass a terrain of struggle and process. And the sub-committee believes that the University undertakes that struggle with an enormous disadvantage. On virtually the whole range of issues that fall under this sub-committee's charge there is no language for exchange. At best there are stock, rhetorical solutions offered before the problems have even been properly articulated. There is a very strong perception within the University community that serious discussion of issues of race and gender are unwelcome and likely dangerous to the individual, even those holding tenure and fully promoted. Many suspect that invitations to dialog are really solicitations of platitudes and that anyone questioning those platitudes or hazarding a frank opinion will not get a fair hearing, but rather can expect to have his or her motives construed and attacked from several sides. These attacks furthermore are feared to come from groups themselves immune or indifferent to criticism. On the other hand there are certain members of our community who are more than willing to critique, but who are indisposed to engage in prolonged, open-minded exchange, far less to work toward resolution or amelioration.

The lack of a language allowing for probing analysis of issues of major importance within a rhetoric and protocols which demand and accord respect is sorely missed. This void is filled by a richly textured, intensely significant silence.

As one reads email and goes through the sub-committee's interviews with a broad range of campus constituencies, it is stunning how many are convinced that they are subjected to mistreatment. A partial list would include faculty women, women students, gays, lesbians, bi-sexual, transgendered, international students, virtually all minority student groups, many international faculty and students, people with disabilities, Jews, Muslims, Christians and dead white males. We must overcome this alienation through dialog. Just how we will forge that discourse, its rules and vocabulary, is very problematic, but it is virtually axiomatic that we cannot go beyond remedying symptoms until we learn to talk to one another. A University community must have a voice.

Recommendation:

The Academic Distinction sub-committee will draft a plan for an annual series of not less than 12 all-University discussion/debates featuring prominent national figures. The series would be announced in the spring with the intent that attendance would be mandatory for certain GenEd courses and highly recommended for others. Faculty would be encouraged to include the series in their curriculum. Great care would be taken to convey and to assure that the purpose of the series was not to impose a single viewpoint, even less to stage a verbal brawl, but rather to practice and model reasoned, respectful discourse on issues where agreement can only be earned, not imposed. One of the early events will focus on the struggle against racism in the context of academic freedom. Another will confront the problems facing gays, lesbians, bi-sexual, transgendered within the University

Food and Culture

The preparation and consumption of food is for many cultures a profound expression of identity and cultural priorities. The University has in its community members of many cultures and needs to recognize them and celebrate their contributions by the way the University community is fed. In part there needs to be an understanding of the dietary codes that large numbers of the student body practice as part of their religion. Additionally menus need to feature items from the various cultures that make up the University community. This would be seen as a gesture of acceptance and respect of those cultures and would have a broadening influence on the student body as a whole. Ideally such a program could encourage an appreciation of a culture's vision of social relations as embodied in their practices in preparing, serving and eating food.

Recommendations:

  1. Food Services should enter into discussions with the various Minority Student organizations to solicit ideas for instilling a broader appreciation of cultural diversity through food. This meeting should be arranged by Student Life and Development(?) and should take place during the month of April or sooner. Another meeting should be arranged with the leaders of the various international student groups. The good offices of the Center for International Studies will be essential in setting this meeting. Care should be taken that dietary needs and restrictions are clearly delineated. Thought should also be given to the educational dimension of the project. For example, on a days when the food of a given culture, a special holiday, etc. is featured, steps should be taken to inform all students of the significance of the featured items. Perhaps a handout, a poster or other informational display should be made up. Perhaps the music of that culture could be played during meals that day.
  2. Food Services needs to post the ingredients of each dish served every day. Students will then be able to make informed decisions in their selections.

The University needs to promote this project as an explicit expression of the value it attaches to the diversity of our community and the cosmopolitan atmosphere we hope to promote.

Recruitment of Domestic Minority Faculty, Staff and Students

Recruitment of minorities is at the very top of the list of issues cited by group after group interviewed for this report. The University community must have a clear understanding of the compelling urgency of this need. Our graduates enter a job market which is already diverse and becoming more so quickly. Their employers will expect them to be able to function smoothly in work groups including women, domestic minorities, immigrants and international workers. The higher our aspirations for them, the more we must anticipate that they will be pursuing careers in a global environment where they will be expected to formulate plans and arrive at consensus with co-workers from widely divergent backgrounds. No matter what other expertise we impart to our students, they will be hamstrung and dysfunctional if we have not taught them to respect others while still moving efficiently toward an objective.

It is also the case that many of our students come from mono-cultural communities or at least that they have little prolonged contact with diverse populations. Alternatively, they many come from communities with conflicted relations between cultures. In any case we have four to five years to make them into culturally competent citizens. If we fail to meet this challenge we betray St. Cloud State's role as leader among the state universities.

Reports presented to the Strategic Planning Committee emphasize that in the coming decade the population from which we will enroll students will become steadily and rapidly diverse. If we are unsuccessful in recruiting from this population our enrollment will simply decline so steeply that the funding implications are at once sinister and certain.

If we accept this analysis then we must further recognize the need to increase both the numbers of minority faculty and staff, especially domestic minorities, and minority students. Our domestic minority faculty, staff and students feel adrift in an overwhelmingly white community. Aside from the matter of their scarcity in our midst, they are worked mercilessly by a system which tries to achieve "balance" by including one of them on every committee, task force, etc. Their opinion is solicited either in sincerity or as a token on issues that may be far removed from their area of expertise. They are assumed to be especially concerned and perhaps even responsible for all minority students. Minority faculty and staff in short bear a crushing extra burden for which they receive scant recognition and virtually no relief. Compounding their difficulties is a belief held by some in the University community that minority faculty and staff enjoy significant privileges denied to others.

The situation is somewhat similar for minority students. St. Cloud State University attracts minority students because of the excellence of its programs. Individually, however, they enter departments staffed and taught by white faculty. They are often the only member of their race or ethnic group in a class. Their professors may ignore them or conversely consult them as if they could speak with authority for their whole group. When they offer an observation on a matter in which they do have experience arising from their background, their contribution may be seen as contentious or challenging. Then they are courted by the University to help with recruiting others of their background. The more academically promising, the more gifted as a leader, the more these students are enlisted in efforts that draw them away from their studies. Students regularly and bitterly complain of the demands recruitment places on their study time.

Students also complain that the University does not seek their advice in making crucial decisions or in designing its recruitment. Hmong students resent the University's calling on them to help in recruiting while cutting off funding for hospitality for visiting parents. They claim there was no opportunity for them to explain to Administration that in their culture the extension of hospitality is a gesture of respect. The absence of such gestures is a display of contempt. African-American students note the failure to bring African-American employers to job fairs, the apparent unfamiliarity of Financial Aid officers with the special scholarships available to applicants of color.

The sub-committee recommends that:

  1. The University only recruit in communities in which it intends to support the recruitment effort with appropriate funding and that it make this commitment explicit for each community, not merely a blanket commitment of a provisional nature and that this commitment be forwarded to the Strategic Planning Committee by the second week of April or sooner.
  2. Starting in March meetings with the leadership of the various Minority Student organizations and those in charge of minority recruitment be held with the goal of agreeing on a plan of collaboration that is at once practical and culturally competent, a record be kept of those meetings and that record be made available to the Strategic Planning Committee by the second week of April.
  3. The office of the Vice-President of Academic Affairs offer a plan of relief to students who risk their academic performance by helping the University to recruit promising minority candidates and that this plan be given to the relevant groups, including the Faculty Senate and the Strategic Planning Committee for discussion by the second week of April.

Regarding the recruitment of minority faculty and staff the sub-committee recommends:

  1. Annual funding in the amount of $10,000 starting spring 1999 for the Faculty and Staff of Color Caucus retreats and mentoring program as submitted by the Caucus; these retreats, two in the fall and another in the spring, give faculty and staff of color a chance to discuss concerns and map common strategies; one of the retreats in the fall will include minority students who it is hoped will develop a mentoring relationship with faculty or staff as they observe domestic and international faculty and staff, men and women collaborating in a common purpose.
  2. The design and implementation of a plan to set aside 6 positions for domestic minority hires with special priority to be given to women and at least one position for a Hmong candidate; these positions would not come out of any department's hide, rather they would be a pure addition to any department which was successful in recruiting a domestic minority; in designing this proposal the Administration will convene a meeting of relevant administrators, union representatives and representatives of the Caucus of Faculty and Staff of Color before the end of the spring semester. A report of the decisions taken at that meeting will be forwarded to the Chair of the Strategic Planning Committee before the end of spring semester.

Cosmopolitan Environment

A broad spectrum of the groups interviewed raised concerns which we will group under the general heading of the need to cultivate a more cosmopolitan environment on campus. It is at once a striking and puzzling phenomenon that when viewed by its composition, the campus is in fact quite cosmopolitan. We have a large international student body, faculty from every continent, a growing number of students from our various domestic minorities, yet our reputation and our mindset are insular. Here are some of the problems that arise in this connection. Jews feel at times invisible and at others maliciously misunderstood. Muslims, although numerous in both the faculty and the student body, receive neither recognition nor concessions for their cultures and beliefs. International students likewise are free to celebrate their cultures through their student organizations, but the University does not make a point of foregrounding the contribution of these students to the unique character of SCSU.

Recommendations:

  1. Admissions will draw up a plan foreground the diverse, international nature of our students, faculty and staff and programs. Student guides to visiting parents and high school students will emphasize our commitment to a cosmopolitan curriculum and outlook. Brochures, videos and all official materials will portray the University's strong desire to recruit students who have the requisite talent and outlook to join a proudly diverse and international environment. Special emphasis will be placed on the qualities of respect, patience and open-mindedness as fundamental expectations in our campus culture. Admissions can count on the help of the faculty and administrators who have special ties to relevant programs by contacting Dean Lewis, College of Social Sciences. A meeting should take place before mid-April and the outline of a plan be developed by the end of spring semester. Admissions should report on progress to the Chair of the Strategic Planning Committee by the first week of May.

  2. International alums should be tracked and their accomplishments be recounted with pride to the University and to the broader community. A plan to accomplish this goal should be drawn up jointly by the Center for International Studies and the Alumni Center. That plan should be submitted to the Chair of Strategic Planning Committee by the first week of May.

  3. Admissions will prepare literature offering incoming students the option of rooming with an international student. Students who choose this option will receive materials orienting them to the special opportunities, responsibilities and challenges they will have as a roommate to an international student. In particular these students should display a readiness to help their roommate with English. Orientation materials should be reviewed by participating students, domestic and international, and the materials and orientation itself be refined in the light of their suggestions. A plan to meet this objective will be submitted to the Chair of the Strategic Planning Committee by the first week of May.

  4. The ESL program needs to place special emphasis on improving international students' pronunciation. Countless cases of rudeness revolve around misunderstanding arising from an inability to fathom a student's accent. ESL is asked to present an initial plan to the Chair of the Strategic Planning Committee by the first week of May. This plan will include identification of those sounds of standard American English that present the greatest challenge for international students. This analysis will place special attention on the difficulties peculiar to the five largest international student ethnic groups (for example, Japanese) and will suggest strategies to achieve rapid progress in those areas. ESL will also draft a plan for working with interested roommates of international students in guiding their efforts to improve their roommates' grasp of English. ESL will receive a year long two course release for the coordinator of this plan. The complete plan including strategies and teaching materials will be completed by the end of fall semester 1999, tested during spring of 2000 and implemented in fall 2000.

  5. Academic Affairs will consult with past faculty and administrators of the period during the 1980's when the University supported its international focus by promoting programs abroad for faculty and domestic students. Former Acting Vice-President of Academic Affairs, Don Sikkink, Dean Richard Lewis and Professors Jeff Ringer and John Bahde among others should be consulted to recapture the features of a period when many faculty and SCSU students returned from their experience abroad with a vision of the diversity of cultures, the impact of culture on curriculum and first hand experience in practicing the skills and attitudes necessary in an international setting. This meeting will take place before the first of May and will produce a charge for a task force to be constituted in the third week of the fall 1999 semester. The task force will present its recommendations promoting diversity through access to study abroad for faculty, staff and students to the Strategic Planning Committee by the 12th week of fall semester.

  6. The representatives of the Faculty Association, leaders of the other campus unions, the Administration and campus union negotiators will meet in a special meet and confer for the purpose of crafting a position for consideration in the current round of negotiations regarding supplemental personal leave days for non-Christian faculty. Representatives of the other faith communities can be selected, perhaps by the Faculty Senate and the University administration so that their views can be aired. Currently non-Christians must use their personal leave days if they need to be absent for observation of high religious holidays. This extraordinary meet and confer will entertain options for dealing with this inequity. It is also to be hoped that participants will begin a dialog on including diversity, including the diversity of faith communities, in the policies and procedures of the University. This meeting will occur before the middle of April and a report will be made to the Strategic Planning Committee by the first week of May.

Affirmative Action and Social Justice

The Office of Affirmative Action has earned a reputation for scrupulous, evenhanded enforcement of University policies and procedures regarding hiring and harassment issues. Complaints focus on the pace of investigations, the frustration with the slow progress in hiring domestic minorities, unequal application of standards, the limits of the definitions in place as to the various forms of harassment and the countervailing values, such as academic freedom, even when offensive behavior is established. There are also complaints that job descriptions for staff positions are written without consulting with minority faculty and staff immediately affected by the search. It is a good sign that for the most part the University community does not blame the office itself for these shortcomings but rather tends to locate the problem in staff shortages, existing policies or the absence of auxiliary units like the office of an omsbudsman. At the same time there is reason for optimism in the success of the mediation process begun this year. This process may fill a number of tasks associated with the function of an ombudsman.

The problems are extremely thorny since at every turn one finds values in conflict. We strive for cultural diversity, which is multiple by its nature, but demand a singular equality in justice. The problem is that our visions of justice are also diverse. Here are some examples. Some faculty and staff allege the existence of racist faculty and curriculum on campus yet discussions on this issue, if they take place, quickly founder on the definition of racism. Those who allege harassment hope for prompt relief, while those who are the object of a harassment charge demand a fair, complete investigation and hearing. Affirmative Action enforces policies and definitions which obtain their legitimacy from the process which created them. That process involved prolonged negotiation between Faculty and Administration until agreement was reached on both the policies and the exact language embodying those policies. Should the Affirmative Action Officer expand on those policies, her actions might accelerate this or that investigation or search, but they would by the same token undermine the existing legitimacy and respect the process enjoys.

In addition some of the University's policies arose in response to specific crises. Procedures and protections intended to shield those immediately threatened groups are supported and envied by all potentially threatened groups.

Recommendations:

  1. The office of Affirmative Action will prepare a report by mid-April detailing the impact of increased staffing on the speed of handling complaints. This report will go to the Chair of the Strategic Planning Committee and the Administration. The Administration will react in depth to the report at a meeting of the Strategic Planning Committee before the end of the spring semester. The Strategic Planning Committee will then contemplate recommendations in this area in its final report.

  2. The Administration will clarify in writing its policy that the hiring procedures used in faculty positions do not apply to administrative positions. This clarification will be presented in advance of the meeting mentioned in no. 1 and will discussed at that meeting.

  3. The Affirmative Action Officer will meet with the Caucus of the Faculty and Staff of Color to discuss their ideas for "putting teeth in" the hiring process as part of the effort to hire more domestic minorities. If viable ideas are agreed to, the Affirmative Action Officer will submit those ideas for discussion with the relevant campus representatives. This meeting will take place before the end of April and a report will be submitted by the Affirmative Action Officer to the Chair of the Strategic Planning Committee before the end of spring semester.

  4. The Mediation project should be given every opportunity to succeed since it fills a gap where conflicts cannot be resolved by grievance nor by Affirmative Action. The Mediation group should be asked to submit a report on this year's experience, list possible areas for expanded action and make a request for support. This report should be presented to the Chair of the Strategic Planning Committee and the Administration before the end of April, and the Administration should respond in depth before the end of the spring semester.

  5. The Administration will assure that programs combating racism and hate crimes refer to all groups historically targeted within the United States for discrimination or persecution.

Institutional Research and Planning

The absence of essential data was cited by groups again and again as an impediment to efforts ranging from recruitment to equal application of promotion procedures.

Recommendation:

The Director of Institutional Research and Planning will arrange meetings with the following groups or their representatives by the end of April and will prepare a report on those meetings for the Chair of the Strategic Planning Committee by the end of spring semester:

  • Cultural Diversity Committee
  • Feminist Issues Committee
  • Faculty and Staff of Color Caucus
  • The Women's Center
  • The American Indian Center

Pay Scale

The Faculty pay scale is a major impediment to resolving a variety of problems and may actually aggravate others. Regarding recruitment, some have suggested that it is well nigh impossible to hire domestic minorities in certain disciplines within the limits imposed by the salary schedule. They argue for much greater flexibility with the schedule or even for setting the schedule entirely aside in favor of a pay scale driven by market factors. Others suggest a hybrid model. Women faculty, however, argue that disparities which may already exist amount to inequities inconsistent with social justice. At the root of the dilemma lies the thoroughly American equation of worth with remuneration. Pay disparities guarantee jealousy, resentment, friction, and other entirely predictable and inevitable dysfunctions. Salaries must be increased to the point where search committees are not forced to scrape the bottom of the barrel and still come up empty handed.

Recommendation:

The Administration, the Executive Committee of the Faculty Association, the campus negotiator and the IFO negotiator, the Affirmative Action Officer and representatives of the Caucus of Faculty and Staff of Color will meet to discuss a realistic threshold for salaries attractive enough to make SCSU competitive across the board. The Administration and the Union will push for this threshold from both ends in the current round of negotiations. These discussions should take place before the end of April, but given the potentially delicate nature of political considerations, the report to the Strategic Planning Committee need only confirm that a threshold was agreed to. It will be assumed, and expected, that both sides will then take all necessary steps to see that the negotiated settlement meets the threshold.

Child Care

Many faculty are of child-rearing age. In contemporary America many children are raised by a single parent. On the other hand in a significant number of families child rearing responsibilities are shared. In both cases faculty with child rearing responsibilities face considerable stress in juggling competing responsibilities. With the availability of an on-campus faculty and staff day-care center these faculty could devote considerably more energy to meeting the university's expectation for scholarly and university work.

Recommendation:

The Vice-President of Administrative Affairs will meet with the Feminist Issues Caucus for the purpose of placing the creation of a faculty and staff day care center on the University's list of priorities. This meeting will take place before mid-April and a jointly prepared report will be submitted to the Chair of the Strategic Planning Committee by the end of spring semester.

Curricular Matters

Jews and Muslims justly complain that their innumerable contributions to world culture are hardly acknowledged within the curriculum. Alternatively, some Christian faculty hold themselves to be more expert in Jewish or Moslem culture than devote members of those communities themselves. This view, expressed confidently and repeatedly, does little to foster harmony between groups. Hmong students complain that they are regularly mistaken for Chinese or Japanese and that even when they are known to be Hmong, they are assumed to share all the cultural stereotypes of the Chinese and the Japanese. While it is a fact that domestic students have an extremely vague idea of American history and virtually no knowledge whatsoever of European history, their ignorance of Asian and African cultures is even more profound. More scandalous yet is the unsophistication of faculty, staff and administration on these matters.

Recommendations:

  1. Any course on race should include all groups historically targeted for racial discrimination although this does not imply that all such groups will receive equal time in the course. The oppression of gays, lesbians, bi-sexuals and transgendered should also be addressed in this course.
  2. Academic distinction will come up with a plan for offering incentives to faculty to devise creative curricular solutions in the area of diversity education on campus. Preliminary recommendations will be submitted to the Strategic Planning Committee, the Administration and the Faculty Senate by the end of April.
  3. Acquisitions in Learning Resources should meet with the Caucus of Faculty and Staff of Color to hear their suggestions in broadening library holdings in the academic areas relating to diversity and a cosmopolitan environment on campus. Acquisitions will arrange this meeting before the end of April and submit a report with recommendations for action to the Chair of the Strategic Planning Committee before the end of spring semester.

Groups interviewed:

Advisor to International Students
American Indian Center
Caucus of the Faculty and Staff of Color
Council of African-American Students
Cultural Diversity Comm.
Feminist Issues Caucus
Hmong Student organization
Jewish Faculty
M.E.C.H.A.
Representative of Gay Lesbian Bisexual Transgendered Caucus
Research Team on Retention of Faculty & Staff of Color
Women's Center

Groups and Individuals Responsible for Implementation

Academic Distinction sub-committee
Admissions
Affirmative Action
Alumni Relations
Center for International Studies
ESL
Faculty Association
Institutional Research and Planning
Acquisitions, LRC
Mediation Project
President Bruce Grube
Vice-President of Academic Affairs, Suzie Williams
Vice-President of Student Life and Development, Lee Bird
Vice-President of Administrative Affairs, Gene Gilchrist
Minority Student Programs
Food Services

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