Update on President's Oversight Committee on Diversity and Inclusion

A Message from Rev. John I. Jenkins, C.S.C.
President, University of Notre Dame

April 30, 2014

Dear Faculty, Students, and Staff,

Last September I wrote to announce the creation of an Oversight Committee on Diversity and Inclusion and said then that I would offer periodic updates on progress. (The September letter can be found at: http://diversity.nd.edu/news/42887-president-s-oversight-committee-on-diversity-and-inclusion/.)   

As you know, I serve as chair of the Oversight Committee.  The other members of this year’s committee were:

  • Laura Carlson, Vice President and Associate Provost, Dean of the Graduate School
  • Ann Firth, Chief of Staff, Office of the President (Vice-Chair)
  • Erin Hoffmann Harding, Vice President for Student Affairs
  • Bob McQuade, Vice President for Human Resources
  • Dan Myers, Vice President and Associate Provost
  • Hugh Page, Vice President and Associate Provost for Undergraduate Affairs, Dean of First Year of Studies
  • Matt Storin, Senior Project Specialist for Student Affairs
  • Sarah Wake, Director, Office of Institutional Equity

The members of the committee and the divisions they represent have worked hard and our conversations have been fruitful in identifying concrete, practical steps we can take to enhance the diversity and inclusiveness of the campus community. I write now to provide you with a high-level overview of the committee’s work this year.

Student Life Initiatives

The Division of Student Affairs, under the leadership of Erin Hoffmann Harding, undertook a review of our campus climate for students of historically underrepresented groups pertaining to culture, ethnicity and socio-economic status. Nearly one hundred interviews with current students were conducted and almost fifty with Notre Dame faculty and staff.  In addition, administrators involved with diversity and inclusion efforts at more than a dozen other colleges and universities were interviewed. Finally, data from the annual survey given to our graduating seniors was examined.

Based on this assessment, the Division of Student Affairs issued twenty-one recommendations falling into four main categories:

  • Improve the presence and readiness of Division of Student Affairs staff to serve a diverse student body.
  • Augment the services offered by Multicultural Student Programs and Services with targeted programs across the Division of Student Affairs.
  • Create a comprehensive, cohesive system for supporting students with high socioeconomic need.
  • Demonstrate visible commitment to diversity through communication, facilities, and measurement of programs.

The full set of recommendations can be found at: https://sadiversityrecos.nd.edu/.

In addition, upon the recommendation of Academic Council, I recently approved the creation of two one-credit courses for first-year students that will include an enhanced cultural competency component.  We envision these courses will provide students with opportunities for more vigorous engagement with issues related to diversity and inclusion.

Faculty Initiatives

Tom Burish and the Provost’s Office conducted a faculty survey in conjunction with several other universities to assess our current climate and identify areas of opportunity.  A faculty committee has been appointed to analyze the results, and its work will be completed soon.  Faculty participation in the survey was robust, and we believe the survey will identify strengths as well as areas for improvement, and will provide the basis for efforts on diversity and inclusion among the faculty.

In order to provide context to the data from the climate survey, this spring and summer Laura Carlson and her team are conducting in-depth interviews of a sample of women faculty, postdoctoral scholars and graduate students across ranks in an effort to deepen our understanding and solicit suggestions for improving the experience for women scholars at the University. 

In addition to these efforts, the Graduate School is actively pursuing initiatives to promote the recruitment and retention of women and underrepresented minority graduate students and postdoctoral scholars.  For example, proposals have been submitted to the Alliance for Graduate Education and the Professoriate program at the National Science Foundation as well as the Initiative for Maximizing Student Development program at the National Institutes of Health targeted at supporting the professional training of underrepresented minorities in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) disciplines at Notre Dame.

The University Committee on Women Faculty and Students (UCWFS), chaired by Laura, is looking at the presence of women at various levels of leadership at Notre Dame and is identifying best practices for mentoring and training faculty candidates with leadership potential.  The UCWFS is also examining the representation of women within campus speaker series, with the aim of developing a best practice guide for series organizers, and is undertaking a review of the University’s Family and Medical Leave policy. 

Hugh Page has reviewed past diversity and inclusion plans to assess outcomes, to learn from past successes and impediments to progress.  Deans have worked with faculty and department chairs to identify candidates from historically underrepresented groups for positions at Notre Dame.  Hugh and his team are also gathering information about best practices among private universities that are members of the Association of American Universities (AAU) related to the recruitment and retention of faculty of color and are assessing the applicability of these strategies for comparable efforts at Notre Dame. Additionally, the Provost’s Office is engaged in informal conversations with faculty of color to identify additional steps that might be taken to promote their advancement through the faculty ranks, and enhance their quality of life at the University.

Finally, under the leadership of Dan Myers, the University has entered into a relationship with the National Center for Faculty Development and Diversity, which hosts a variety of professional development and networking activities for faculty, with a special emphasis on junior, women, and minority faculty members.  Faculty participants in the Center’s programs have spoken positively of the assistance provided them in developing their careers. 

Staff Initiatives

A Staff Diversity and Inclusion Subcommittee which meets weekly was formed in Human Resources under the leadership of Bob McQuade.  (For a complete list of subcommittee members, please visit: http://equity.nd.edu/about/highlights/staff-diversity-and-inclusion-subcommittee-to-conduct-100-interviews/.) The subcommittee is in the process of conducting over one hundred confidential one-on-one interviews with University staff to better understand the experience of employees, which will be the basis for an action plan for staff diversity and inclusion.  In the coming months, Human Resources will hire a Director of Staff Diversity and Inclusion who will be responsible for working with Bob to formulate and implement this action plan.

In terms of training and education, Institutional Equity and Human Resources recently developed a sexual and discriminatory harassment training program, which is now mandatory for all new employees, including all faculty and staff supervisors.  Over 1,200 current employees have been trained since the program’s launch in August 2013.  In addition, Institutional Equity and Human Resources developed an affirmative action training program, which educates campus leaders on the purpose of affirmative action programs as well as the resources available to assist in recruiting new talent and developing current employees.

I am pleased with the progress we have made this academic year in terms of these and other related initiatives, and I would like to commend all those who are working so tirelessly and with such dedication to make our university community a more diverse and welcoming place.  With that said, it is necessary for us to redouble our efforts and for each of us to recommit to this goal if we are to achieve our collective aspirations.  The ultimate success of these efforts will depend on all Notre Dame community members making a commitment to inclusion and diversity in all their actions and interactions, both big and small. There is a great deal of work to be done, and it is critical for us to acknowledge that.

There is a larger conversation about diversity and inclusiveness occurring at Notre Dame and across our nation, at times prompted by painful incidents on other campuses as well as our own.  We cannot be afraid to talk openly, in ways that are both honest and respectful, about the opportunities and challenges we face as a campus and as a nation.  For it is only in doing so that we will, as articulated in the University’s mission statement, promote the “formation of an authentic human community graced by the Spirit of Christ.”  Like the Beloved Community about which Martin Luther King, Jr. spoke so eloquently, let ours be a community that seeks to embody ever more fully principles of love, justice and truth.



Rev. John I. Jenkins, C.S.C.

President, University of Notre Dame