Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Task Force

Letter from the Co-Chairs

Greetings Members and Friends of the Miami community,

We hope you will join us in producing an inclusive and welcoming atmosphere for everyone. We are grateful to President Crawford for entrusting us with the responsibility of co-chairing the Miami University President’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Task Force. As long-standing members of the Miami University community, we take seriously the charge put forth by President Crawford and believe in its capacity for change.

Recent events in the U.S. have presented us with an opportunity to critically reflect on the type of community and culture we want to develop and maintain here at Miami University. Like the nation, we must advance and sustain justice and equality for everyone. As an institution of higher education, we also have a responsibility to develop students who graduate and are prepared to successfully navigate the professional, social, and cultural world in which they live which includes having an understanding of how their actions positively or negatively shape and influence our diverse global society.

We are not the first task force to seriously investigate issues of DEI. We acknowledge and appreciate our co-labors in this work and hope to partner with continued efforts. We commit to using data-driven approaches to problem-solving; building diverse committee leaders and researchers that helps reduce bias; carefully considering not only our intentions for change but the consequences, including unintended, of such decisions; and recommending the allocation of resources to evidence systematic measurable change.

We are not naive about the difficulties of this challenge. Living in a free and plural society manifests diversity in the community that will always present challenges rooted in cultural differences; however, this does not mean that those differences should make marginalized students, faculty, staff, and others fearful of living in such a society. We are driven by a goal of creating a campus environment where each individual is valued and respected.

This is a crucible moment for Miami University and local, state, national and global communities in which we exist. Change is hard and focusing on DEI is a deeply personal experience that requires us to step out of our comfort zones and into discomfort. We can no longer privilege our individual discomfort over the collective good.

We look forward to your full and complete participation in these efforts. We simply cannot do it without each and every member of our community: students, faculty, staff, and alumni.

Vicka Bell-Robinson, Ph.D., Student Life
Anthony James, Ph.D., Education, Health, and Society

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Charge to the Task Force

The Miami University President’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Task Force will provide expertise, advice, and insights on DEI efforts across the university and our campuses. We must lead with our values to be the nation’s best undergraduate teaching and research institution focused on our students’ successes in a relationship-driven environment with our faculty teacher-scholar model. We must be a welcoming place to work and learn by upholding our values of respecting “the dignity, rights, and property of others and their right to hold and express disparate beliefs” and by welcoming “a diversity of people, ideas, and experiences.” These values are our highest aspirations for our campuses.

We must begin by examining our efforts and acknowledging that despite years of effort to elevate the campus culture at Miami, including the values we uphold, we still fall short of important progress. We continue to hear that the experiences of students, faculty, and staff of color and marginalized groups, particularly those who are Black, include acts of bigotry and racism. That is not acceptable. We cannot content ourselves with small changes only to restart the conversation a few years later. We must find mechanisms to enact change that promotes diversity and inclusivity in our campus environment and communities. 

We must not relent on our work to address prejudice, bigotry, and racism in our community, including the role Miami faculty, staff, and students must play to bring about fundamental and lasting change in the nation and world.Real change will require effort, dedication, and persistence.

We must build a more robust structure that embeds this issue at the core of all our values and priorities and continuously generates new ideas for change, motivates action, and holds all accountable for reaching our goals. The DEI Task Force will seek input and feedback and will advise and provide regular updates to the President, President's Executive Cabinet (PEC), the University Senate, and the broader Miami community.

The Task Force is charged to start by considering five pillars for change and will likely suggest more focus areas.

Change Requires:

1. Dialogue and Allyship

Moving toward positive change will require people to listen and engage in genuine, diverse conversations about differences. Modeling the work currently being done in the Center for American and World Cultures and Intercollegiate Athletics, the Task Force should explore ways to provide opportunities for more students, faculty, and staff to engage in structured, well-facilitated, open dialogues.How can the reach of these programs be extended to include more students, faculty, and staff? What training and structure are required to ensure their success? Can we engage communities of students in our residence halls? Can these be designed to expand on the baseline learning provided by the diversity, equity, and inclusion modules required of new students and employees? How can we include alumni in these conversations? How can our leadership institutes and programs be engaged?

As a university, we also need to engage our campus community on a regular basis and listen in ways that inform our planning around diversity, inclusion, equity, and justice. What structures and mechanisms can we build to gather feedback from our campus community on a sustained basis?

2. Cultural Competency

Our students arrive on campus with a wide range of backgrounds, experiences, knowledge, and beliefs – from all 50 states and 82 countries – that inform their perspectives on issues of race. As society evolves, as our education evolves, we must all commit to lifelong learning on this subject, updating our awareness, knowledge, and skills to enrich and renew our intercultural competence. Our graduates are entering a global and diverse workplace.  This is an organic evolution, not a race with a finish line. As an educational institution, we believe everyone is capable of growth and change. Our responsibility is to provide opportunities for everyone – students, faculty, and staff – to continue their learning.

The Task Force should examine our efforts to date to ensure that everyone in our community advances their cultural competency over time. It should provide recommendations about areas for improvement. Some examples include a re-examination of the Intercultural Perspectives requirement of the Global Miami Plan to focus it more on issues of domestic diversity, equity, and inclusion. We should conduct a re-examination of Miami’s history to ensure the information we present includes the experiences of diverse students, especially the Black student experience at Miami and in Oxford.

3. Advocacy and Partnerships

Beyond listening, dialogue, and cultural competency, we need plans for action and change. Students need to learn how to become effective advocates, responsible allies, engaged citizens, and future leaders who will bring about positive, lasting change at Miami, in Oxford, in their local communities, in the state, and in the nation. What steps can we take to help them learn the skills of advocacy and allyship and put those skills into action? How can Miami be more effective advocates for our students, particularly our students of color and others with often-marginalized identities? How can we partner with the City of Oxford for community change? How do we need to examine with MUPD and OPD to ensure that incidents of police brutality can never happen here and to elevate trust between our police and our students?

4. Structural and Resource Support

Nearly every academic and administrative division at Miami has devoted energy and resources to improving diversity and inclusion on campus. There has been success in many areas with events, programs, curriculum, and extracurriculars developed by the students, faculty, and staff. However, we as a campus have not effectively coordinated all those efforts. That lack of coordination can create gaps or duplication in our efforts and keep us from learning from each other and utilizing our resources effectively. The Task Force will engage with each division and unit to explore and learn more about their work and to examine and evaluate our efforts as a whole. How can we re-envision our university structure to enable effective coordination of our DEI efforts? We acknowledge that not all our efforts in diversity and inclusion have worked. We will add, adapt, and advance with fresh ideas and a commitment to become as diverse, equitable, and inclusive as we can be.

Beyond our Miami University communities in Oxford, Hamilton, Middletown, and West Chester, how can we work with peer institutions and affiliated organizations to take more action and seek more change? Those include the Inter University Council (IUC) of 14 Ohio Public Institutions, the cohort of private and public institution in Southwest Ohio and Northern Kentucky, Mid-American Conference (MAC), National Collegiate Hockey Conference (NCHC), and our connectivity with Cintrifuse in Cincinnati and the many companies they support.  We have many connections around the state, especially in Southwest Ohio, and country, and already initiated interactions with them as well as our local communities to pool ideas and resources and effect more powerful change.

5. Inclusion and Accountability

Every few years, Miami has completed a report, a survey, or a project about campus climate or diversity efforts. Those documents show what efforts we have implemented and completed as well as where we have not succeeded, not implemented but should reconsider, what we need to revisit or refresh, and what we may now need to discard. Are there gaps in our information that we must fill so we can move forward? How do we continually update, assess, and hold everyone accountable for the efforts and outcomes?

With respect to how to ascertain progress toward our goals, we must grade our programs against ourselves and others in higher education. The committee must explore recruitment, hiring, retention, and promotion actions for underrepresented groups and ensure they are fair, equitable, and always increasing. The task force should explore our retention and graduation rates for all students to make them equitable and constantly improving. We must explore and understand whether our curriculum is fully inclusive and reflective of all people. In all this, the Task Force should investigate best practices at peer institutions and other organizations as well as ideas and resources with proven success. We must uphold our values as our highest expectations and our mission to teach, serve, and send members of this community into a global and diverse society with dedication and passion to serve humanity.