Panel Explores Equitable Access and Inclusion During a Pandemic

Highlighting key strategies that support and prioritize diversity and inclusion in recruitment, admissions and retention amid remote instruction was the focus of a panel titled “Ensuring Equitable Access and Inclusion During a Pandemic.” The event held on Thursday, was sponsored by Diverse: Issues In Higher Education  and the Educational Testing Service (ETS).

The panel, which was moderated by Diverse staff writer Sara Weissman, included Dr. Renetta Garrison Tull, vice chancellor for diversity, equity, and inclusion at the University of California Davis (UC Davis); Dr. David G. Payne, vice president for global higher education at ETS; and Dr. Maurice C. Taylor, vice president for academic outreach and engagement at Morgan State University (MSU).

Because of COVID-19, Tull said networking and conferencing have changed higher education tremendously, forcing administrators and faculty “to think about how we can be more inclusive in these video spaces,” she said. “And that may be something we need to consider for the long-term because I think these video conferences — and some of these ways of connecting and corresponding — are here to stay.”

To that point, routine meetings have become “more efficient” and “less expensive” said Taylor, as face-to-face meetings are now hosted through video platforms.

There is a human component to the virtual learning environment, too.

“As a result of this pandemic, we all now have a greater sense that we’re all in this together and have more similarities than differences,” said Payne.

From children in the background to the dog barking, Payne noted that everyone is struggling “to balance multiple demands on our time” — and that relatability, he said, is a good thing.

Relatability, however, is not just important for students but for faculty and staff as well, said Tull, who added that they need to feel supported too.

While there are staff and faculty advisory committees and employee resource groups to

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TIAA Institute Virtual Higher Ed Symposium Participants Express Optimism, Despite COVID-19

The Teachers Insurance and Annuity Association of America (TIAA) Institute recently hosted a virtual “Higher Education Leadership Symposium” based on a new white paper — developed by TIAA in collaboration with EY-Parthenon — that spoke to the future of operating models and student success at higher ed institutions, given the financial constraints of COVID-19.

Photo: Chris Montgomery

“In every crisis lies opportunity,” stated Stephanie Bell-Rose, senior managing director and head of the TIAA Institute.

And though the world is moving faster because of COVID-19, Dr. Christina Cutlip, senior managing director for the institutional financial services division of TIAA, questioned whether the acceleration would be a “true disrupter” in higher ed.

An array of higher education leaders from liberal arts colleges and flagship public universities at the symposium tried answering that question, sharing how their institutions have continued to adapt to the COVID-19 crisis.

Dr. David Anderson, president of St. Olaf College, explained that when St. Olaf’s campus shut down, some roles had to change in order to fit the needs of the crisis at hand.

For that reason, the university requested that the person who managed campus events — and the person who coordinated alumni travel — “team up.”

“It turns out that the skills you need to be excellent at events and managing travel are the same ones that make you an excellent manager of contact tracing,” said Anderson.

J. Michael Gower, executive vice president and chief financial officer at Rutgers University, echoed the need to establish new working groups, specifically for emergency and recovery. He calls it “retooling their capabilities.” At Rutgers, that looks like provosts and student affairs working together.

The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic also “makes the concept of a single-annual budget obsolete. The static nature of it is not realistic anymore,” added Gower. “But also, the time frame is much too short. We can’t just deal with [the crisis] 12 months at a time.”

While a budget for Rutg

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Rooney Rule Revisited During Panel Discussion

Brian Baptiste

Ken Gormley, president of Duquesne University recently moderated a webinar about the impact of the NFL’s Rooney Rule and its contemporary relevance.

Duquesne University presented the timely webinar co-sponsored by the Atlantic 10 (A-10) commission on racial equity, diversity and inclusion (DEI). Gormley was joined by La Salle University athletic director Brian Baptiste (Gormley’s co-chair on the commission), attorney and sports law authority N. Jeremi Duru and Jim Rooney, son of the late Dan Rooney, owner of the Pittsburgh Steelers for which the Rooney Rule was named. Dan Rooney was an alum of Duquesne.

“The Rooney Rule and What’s Next: Equity and Access in Athletics and Beyond” began with a history lesson on the Rooney Rule, which the National Football League established in 2003 to address diversity in the hiring of head coaches. The rule requires teams to interview at least one minority candidate when looking to fill head coaching and general manager positions.

“When we had our first two commission meetings…there is no question that the central issue on the minds of the ADs and other athletic administrators from the 14 universities [in the A-10] was how do we begin applying that to us in a meaningful and bold way,” said Gormley. “I see this [webinar] as the first of a series of conversations where very much the goal is to get to results.

“Meeting with the A-10 presidents and discussing this commission and the work that we’re going to be doing, there is widespread buy-in in terms of all of the university presidents wanting to take some more creative and impactful steps than we’ve ever taken before,” he added. “This is going to be teeing up a lot of concrete discussions on the topic.”

Jim Rooney

Some of Dan Rooney’s early steps toward diversity included drafting players from historically Black colleges and universities. That diversity gave the Steelers a com

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Xavier University Launches New African American and Diasporic Cultures Studies Major

Dr. Sharlene Sinegal-DeCuir graduated from Xavier University of Louisiana in 1999. At the time, the historically Black university in New Orleans offered an African American Studies minor, but no major. When she returned to the university as a faculty member, a civil rights historian, she wanted to give her students the course of study she never had.

Now she’s an associate professor of history, Keller Family Endowed Professor and department chair. And Xavier University is launching a new major program in African American and diasporic cultures studies, with the help of a $500,000 grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. Sinegal-DeCuir served as the principal investigator on the grant proposal.

As a part of the initiative, the University will hire four new faculty members, two funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation for three years and two funded by the university from the start.

While Xavier University already has an African American Diaspora Studies minor and an Afro-Latin American and Caribbean Studies minor, scholars like Sinegal-DeCuir wanted to offer a program that took a holistic, global approach. An interdisciplinary team assembled around the idea: Dr. Shearon Roberts, assistant professor of mass communication; Dr. Elizabeth Manley, associate professor of history; and Dr. Carmen Cosme, assistant professor of Spanish. Together, the committee wrote up their proposal to the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

The new major program is “going to be different than what we teach now because it’s going to dive deeper into a lot of issues, and not just the issues that we face as African Americans but the issues globally that people of color are facing …” Sinegal-DeCuir said. “Some of [my students] don’t even realize there are Black Mexicans or Black Cubans and so on. We live in an American bubble. We need to be able to see outside of America and bring in all the other experiences.”

The program will focus on four areas of study: new social justice movements, decolonial studies, trans-Atlantic Blackness and Black health disparities.

The latter feels particularly relevant as the COVID-19 pandemic continues.

Students will be able to explore contemporary questions like, “How are people in the

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