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Diversity at Miami: progress with more to come

Efforts to improve multicultural understanding and promote diversity at Miami are occurring in virtually every corner of the university, but more is needed, including assessment of current programs, according to a report by the evaluation subcommittee of the University Multicultural Council.
In the report, "Progress in Diversity at Miami University," issued Oct. 18, progress is checked in four areas established by Miami’s 1998 Plan for Institutional Diversity: climate, curriculum, recruitment and retention, and evaluation.

Improvements in making a welcoming climate have included

• the creation of the Center for American and World Cultures in August 2000,

• growth of the Community Advocacy Alliance (CAA), a group of faculty, students and staff trained to provide support for those who feel marginalized,

• diversity training workshops for students, staff and faculty and

• increased availability of alternative media, including large print, Braille, taped materials and modified housing for persons with disabilities, among others.

"The most significant advance in the area of curriculum is the approval of the U.S. cultures requirement in the Miami Plan…which will systematically introduce multicultural perspectives on American society," says the report. A sampling of other academic offerings encompassing diversity include the Mosaic seminar and residential program, international workshops, continuing education courses in ADA compliance, programs in all schools and the College of Arts and Science and training for faculty on including diversity in their courses. But the report includes input from focus groups of minority students who say there is a need for more organized opportunities for interaction in residence halls and for finding ways to equip faculty and students to understand the dynamics of teacher-student relationships in class.

"What can’t be forgotten," said Provost Ronald A. Crutcher, "is that creating a respectful multicultural place of learning is good for all members of the community: it’s one of the ways we enrich campus intellectual and cultural life."

In recruitment and retention, Miami reached 8.7 percent minority enrollment this fall, through specific outreach including the "I am Miami" recruitment campaign, programs in several departments working with K-12 students and others. Eighty-six percent of first-year minority students return for sophomore year, far exceeding the national average and representing the highest average in the state.

Recruitment of multicultural staff has boosted the number of minority classified and unclassified employees from 72 to 184 since 1998. Among tenure track faculty who joined the university in 2000, 14 percent belong to minority groups. But, the report adds that some departments have not succeeded in hiring members of ethnic minorities and women, particularly in full-time, supervisory or tenure-track positions.

"I praise the work of the Multicultural Council and others who are bringing about institution-wide change. But as we still strive for a truly diverse and welcoming Miami community, we must continue to remind ourselves not to talk at each other, but to engage in dialogue that draws us together and that facilitates mutual understanding and cooperation," said President James C. Garland.

In evaluation of efforts, the subcommittee recognized that Miami participates in studies and self-studies for statistics and satisfaction, but recommends that it identify gaps in studies as well as find uniform models for reporting.

The report says "we still have far to go" to better reflect society and to make all members of minority groups feel accepted by the larger Miami community.

Members of the University Multicultural Council are Reed Anderson (Spanish and Portuguese), J. K. Bhattacharjee (microbiology), Robert Di Donato (co-chair, GREAL), Gary Hunter (director emeritus, affirmative action), Robert Johnson (Graduate School), Jeannie Brown Leonard (SIS), Judith Sessions (co-chair, university libraries) and Stephen Snyder (president’s office).

The detailed report is available at www.ucm.muohio.edu/Documents_and_Policies/diversity_report/.

Date Published: 11/08/2001
Volume: 21   Number: 15

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