Report of the Diversity Review Team, January 14, 2002
Dr. Eric Jolly, Vice President and Senior Scientist, Educational Development Center, Inc.
Dr. Shirley Malcom, Director of the AAAS Directorate for Education and Human Resources Programs, American Association for the Advancement of Science.
Ms. Paulette Granberry Russell, J.D., Senior Advisor to the President for Diversity, and Director of the Office of Affirmative Action, Compliance & Monitoring, Michigan State University.
The Diversity Review Team was convened by Dr. Graham B. Spanier, President, Pennsylvania State University on October 28 - 30, 2001. The focus for the review was on the organization and structure of the affirmative action and other diversity programs; the services available for faculty, staff, and students; and an assessment of the areas in which Penn State is doing well and those in which it has gaps in meeting campus needs. The members were Dr. Eric Jolly, Vice President, Educational Development Center, Inc., Dr. Shirley Malcom, Director of the AAAS Directorate for Education and Human Resources Programs, American Association for the Advancement of Science, and Ms. Paulette Granberry Russell, J.D., Senior Advisor to the President, and Director of the Office of Affirmative Action, Compliance & Monitoring, Michigan State University. A copy of the Schedule of Meetings is attached as Appendix A.
Before arriving on campus, the team was provided with extensive materials that included detailed background information on the Affirmative Action and other diversity programs that were on the Schedule of Meetings. The team also reviewed newspaper clippings reporting on the events of Spring of 2001, which resulted in the May 2, 2001, “A Plan To Enhance Diversity At Penn State,” as well as other materials provided during and after the visit.
Scope and Function
In the course of two days, the review team met with approximately 150 administrators, staff, and students who are either employed in the offices responsible for affirmative action and other diversity programs or who interact with those offices. The sampling of students, faculty, and staff was comprehensive, but certainly not scientific. The number of graduate students who participated in this process was too few for us to gather a sense of how climate issues might affect them. This is an area that may bear revisiting at another time. While we were left with many impressions that could form the basis of very specific recommendations, in this report, we have tried to focus on the general functioning of broad programs that impact the diversity programming of Penn State.
Although the review team had contact with representatives from campuses other than University Park and received some briefing materials on these campuses, we did not have time to gain deeper insights into the issues facing these campuses. Therefore, the primary focus of our report is on operations based at University Park and how these operations impact, influence, or otherwise provide services to the other campuses.
Each group of representatives invited to meet with the review team were asked their perspectives on 1) what worked or did not work within the Penn State affirmative action and other diversity programs; 2) why they believed some things were not working well, and 3) what changes should be considered to ensure success of the current programs.
In this review document, we discuss issues relating to various organizations, structures and programs that were the subject of the various interviews. Our primary focus was on the programs and units that have responsibility for affirmative action and other diversity support efforts including Educational Equity, Affirmative Action, and Student Affairs.
It is clear that Penn State has focused a great deal of attention and brought significant resources to address issues of diversity. The history of programs in place at the present time is amazingly varied. Some programs represent the historical and legal traditions common to most universities (e.g., affirmative action, disability programs, and faculty committees). Other programs were developed as a response to specific incidences and locally perceived needs (e.g., College Diversity Coordinators, Multicultural Services). It appears to the team, based on comments and observations made during the interviews, that many of the operations for issues of diversity have grown out of a reactive rather than proactive position. This history of program development combined with the decentralized nature of services across Penn State have led to an extensive array of programs which do not appear to be working in concert.
Like many other universities, Penn State would benefit from a clear, defined, and integrated diversity program that is not only attentive to issues of enforcement, but also attends to creating a welcoming and supportive environment for all members of its community, whether they are faculty, staff, student, or visitor. Although it is laudable there is a significant expenditure of resources in the area of diversity, many within the campus community do not perceive these resources as leading to a proportionally significant improvement in programming. Additionally, it appears that the very decentralized delegation of authority has not been matched with the delegation and monitoring of responsibility. Many of the programs which are intended to impact recruitment, retention, and advancement do not collect quality outcome data to demonstrate their own impact. Moreover, there are few consequences, positive or negative, for success or failure in these programs. The issue of accountability, and how staff and administrators responsible for supporting campus diversity are held accountable was a recurring theme among representatives from the various groups interviewed by the team.
Because of the complex history in which many of these programs at Penn State have been developed, there now exists confusion over which units hold what responsibility and authority in programming and enforcement. This was particularly true regarding the Offices of Affirmative Action, Educational Equity, and Student Affairs. Even the classification and titles of those who conduct this work are confusing. A diversity coordinator in one college may have a completely different role than that in another college. And, when these roles include responsibilities to student populations, the general lack of coordination among Academic Affairs, Student Affairs, and the Office of Educational Equity becomes magnified. While almost everyone working on issues of diversity appears to be committed and active, the whole seems to be less than the sum of its parts. Expertise and experience among one campus group is not well-leveraged by other parts of the community and there are no models of best practice to which the several different program groups share a common aspiration.
It was common for individual programs and staff to receive praise for their roles in promoting a hospitable environment. However, the entirety of the system seemed opaque to many community members, especially students. The functions of Student Affairs, Educational Equity, Affirmative Action, and various College-based programs are not clearly defined. Many do not understand the different enforcement, counseling, or support roles of each of these offices. Many of the students and staff interviewed articulated a need for greater coordination of efforts and ease in access to student support services and programs.
When it is so difficult to identify “who is responsible for what and to whom,” the existence of apparently competing systems often builds mistrust and skepticism. It is the view of the review team that this is interfering with communication between and collaboration of efforts among the various programs. Clarification of roles and accountability measures were often cited as means to achieving greater progress in the recruitment and retention of diverse students, faculty, staff, and administrators at the University, including racial/ethnic minorities, women, and gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgendered students, faculty and staff.
Confusion of roles and responsibilities among university leadership (in Educational Equity, Student Services and Affirmative Action) appears to fuel doubts about whether the words are matched by progress towards reaching the goals articulated in the various diversity plans, including the “Framework to Foster Diversity at Penn State: 1998-2003.”
While there generally appears to be respect for the President and his support of diversity at Penn State, in repeated statements there was concern that the President may be insulated from issues and perhaps not as informed on diversity concerns as he seemed to be in the past. To better serve the President, senior staff should address the perception that leadership hasn’t articulated a shared vision or devised a coordinated effort to support diversity programming.
Perhaps the most outstanding concern for the review team is the lack of leadership and institutional position for the Office of Affirmative Action. The Office of Affirmative Action currently operates in a manner minimally that meets the requirements of Penn State – University Park or its other campuses. More specifically, support resources and data management do not adequately inform the community in ways that can lead to improved practice across colleges and divisions within the institution. Greater cohesion and collaboration is essential for a campus the size of Penn State-University Park and its campuses throughout the State.
The Affirmative Action Office/Diversity Support & Education Center is adequately funded with a total of eight staff and one director. Activities include affirmative action compliance and monitoring responsibilities, complaint investigation and interaction with external discrimination complaint agencies, ADA coordinator role, diversity training, and data analyses. The functional areas within the office represent those of a traditional office of affirmative action. The office is generally viewed as reactive rather than proactive, providing little assistance to the academic and support units, as well as the other campuses. It is also regarded as having little authority and lacking the ability to affect change. However, there is consensus that over the last six months there have been positive efforts to reinvigorate the office. It seems that Affirmative Action staff as well as members of the campus community agrees that the Office’s work is most effective in the area of sexual harassment.
In addition to the office needing to be more fully engaged in its monitoring and compliance functions, there also exist many opportunities to create greater cohesion between the efforts of the Office, Human Resources, and the human resource functions performed on the other campuses. Data produced by the Office and Human Resources must be better coordinated in a more user-friendly format and reported out in a manner that can also act as a basis for creating greater accountability for those responsible for hiring decisions. Intermittent reporting on unit recruitment, hiring, and retention, with analysis of these various activities can be a useful accountability tool for chairs, deans, directors, and other administrators.
The Affirmative Action Office has little involvement in the staff hiring process and as a result, little opportunity to analyze trends, patterns of hiring, and retention issues to the extent that they exist. This lack of involvement further reinforces the community view that the Office is not a resource from which to draw.
The training and education functions of the office need further review, e.g., training on diversity of new faculty and staff is handled differently, perhaps for good reason, but was seen as an issue of concern by some of those interviewed. It was also noted that there has been little faculty development on diversity, and that collegiality and the lack of collegiality is an appropriate area of faculty development that can impact on faculty diversity. It appears that a portion of the programming of the Affirmative Action Office is based on staff preferences and existing capacities not on identified needs of the community.
Some of the frustrations and inability to create greater diversity among faculty and staff is the lack of tools provided by the Office to the various units and committees that are involved in the search for faculty and staff. Hiring units need more than an annual Affirmative Action Plan, that many do not see, to guide them in their efforts to increase campus diversity. We see the need for greater involvement of the Office in the search process for faculty and staff, particularly where there is continued under-utilization of women and persons of color in the various colleges, departments, disciplines, and job classifications. The Office could take advantage of the “best practices” of the various CIC universities, surveying those practices that might represent the balance needed for the Penn State hiring practices.
Most staff persons within the Office seem interested in change and recognize the need for greater collaboration with the various units on the University Park campus and those located on other Penn State campuses throughout the State. For example, although the disability support functions of Penn State are generally viewed as being effective and supportive of the various units at University Park (there does not appear to be any significant reason to change how this work is being done), the local management of disability and accommodation issues is not well-coordinated with the practices of other campuses. Moreover, accommodations for students are handled differently than accommodations for faculty and staff (Educational Equity for students and Affirmative Action Office for faculty and staff). The offices that have divided these responsibilities do not appear to have done so based on a well-defined management plan that assures against inequities and incompatible solutions across sites, but rather work out of history and staff preferences.
There are various perspectives on the reporting relationship of the Affirmative Action Office and the Office of the President. Some interviewed believed that the Office and director should report directly to the President. Others felt that its current placement was appropriate. The review team sees value in both perspectives, but reporting directly to the President does not guarantee that the office will be perceived as having greater stature and authority. Organizational placement alone will not resolve the issue of making the
Office more effective in its mission. Reporting to the President, without having the support and authority to be more aggressively engaged at the various steps in the hiring process for both faculty and staff can result in a further loss of credibility for the Office.
Other measures that should be considered include formalizing the role of the Office at various steps in the hiring process. This could include such practices as the review of postings and recruitment efforts and an up-front review of applicant pools before interviews or hiring commitments are approved. Under the current procedure, the Office may only be aware of the outcome of a hiring process. While the review team is not prepared to recommend a change in the reporting relationship to the President, it does discourage the Office being organizationally housed in Educational Equity or Human Resources. As it stands currently, there is lack of clarity of the roles and interaction of the three offices that would only be exacerbated by such a change. Recommendations
Overall, Penn State would benefit by clarifying lines of authority; clarifying roles, responsibilities, and expected outcomes across all divisions; and adhering to a coherent theory of change which seeks to achieve fewer, but more concrete and measurable improvements in environment, recruitment, retention, and conflict resolution. Accountability systems should be strengthened and made transparent. Finally, programming in areas of diversity must be more completely integrated within existing systems. Too many of the current activities appear to be add-ons and special events and not a part of the fiber and apparent values of the institution.
The implications of an overall plan for diversity must be taken to every level of the institution. Each segment of the community should be able to reflect on the breadth, focus, and quality of its own programming and articulate their role for moving Penn State’s diversity initiatives forward. The review team did not have the time and opportunity to assess, at deeper levels, questions around the quality and appropriateness of programming at the academic level. We hope that Penn State will continue to consider how it nurtures the scholarship of all students through such activities as research experiences, mentoring, and participation in professional societies; including those oriented toward minorities and women. And we suggest that the effectiveness of such activities also be assessed across relevant student sub-populations.
Penn State needs to develop a meaningful set of measures that can chart progress for its goals. These measures should not simply be intermediate indicators such as satisfaction and enrollment, but should be outcome indicators such as graduation, promotion, and reduction of enforcement complaints.
Specifically we recommend:Significantly strengthen the affirmative action functions at Penn State.
While efforts are underway to improve the functioning of this office, clearly there is a need to:
-- Intervene more actively in staff and faculty searches.
-- Provide data to managers and support training in the use of such data as tools for achieving diversity objectives.
-- Have closer interaction with Human Resources, with the deans and department chairs, training and regular interaction with multicultural directors in the colleges to share ideas about identifying diverse candidates for faculty and staff positions.
-- Determine the quality and reach of training provided to members of search committees. There are many creative solutions available to ease the HR burden of training programs. For example, the NIH has developed an electronic training model for researchers using human subjects in which grant participants are not funded until everyone has earned certification.
-- Assure that training provided is of the highest quality and is appropriate to the needs of the requesting unit. This may necessitate a combination of strategies, including contracting with external trainers and use of trainers from other campuses, as well as University Park based staff.
Bring actions to support diversity into alignment with stated policies.
Ensure that there are procedures in place to support fairness in the recruitment, hiring, and promotion processes. This includes the need for consistency in the application of standards of quality and accountability to ensure that fairness is upheld. Introduce notions of academic responsibility as parallel to notions of academic freedom. Ensure that there is transparency in the search, hiring, and promotion process.
Elements of job performance by staff need to include supporting and advancing institutional goals for support of a diverse community and promotion of a hospitable environment. Such standards would likely require adequate training, follow up, supervision, and monitoring. At present there are few repercussions (such as re-training, warnings, etc.) for non-compliance or interference with institutional goals.
Create structures that assure the coordination of all offices with a focus on diversity.
Each office appears to have its own take on the mission, goals and means to support diversity. There is no evidence of a cooperative action plan or comprehensive theory of change. The independence of Colleges and departments from central functions increases the need for this coordination.
Provide appropriate disaggregation in reporting and monitoring campus personnel and climate indicators.
Penn State’s current affirmative action reporting on faculty aggregates African American, Latino, Native American and Asian American faculty all under the single rubric “Minority”. This practice prevents us from assessing the presence of, for example, African Americans on engineering faculties, Latinos in the sciences, or Asian Americans in the humanities, areas where these groups are traditionally underrepresented.
Disaggregation should also be considered within Asian groups since the true picture of representation may be different for different subgroups (e.g., Japanese and Chinese vs. Hmong and Filipino). While such disaggregation within the Asian/Pacific Islander grouping is not required under current affirmative action programming regulations or guidelines, it is now an emerging practice at major universities in response to issues raised by this constituency based on the different needs within the various communities.
Focus on retention of African American, Latino and Native American faculty, not just recruitment.
Recruiting and retaining a diverse faculty are still major challenges that require the attention of the entire university community. While recruitment may be department specific, efforts to support retention may need to be expanded beyond the department and college, benefiting from cross unit discussions and connections (for example, by supporting efforts to build community among minority faculty and staff across units).
Expand the definition of diversity while acknowledging the special issues related to historically oppressed groups.
The current language and thinking about diversity focus largely on race/ethnicity, gender, disability, and sexual orientation. But discussions with students emphasize that other kinds of differences can affect the nature of student interaction, perspectives that students bring, and worldview. These include:
-- other countries and cultures
-- religious differences
-- social class/status
-- differences in family educational background
-- differences related to geography (urban, rural, suburban, area of the country)
-- differences related to age & life experience
-- geopolitical differences
While concerns about race, gender, disability and sexual orientation are based on historical treatment leading to the need for legal protections, the institution could benefit from discussions of how to respond to other areas of diversity including promoting dialogue that supports expanded worldview. The review team noted that even within consideration of race/ethnicity there seems to be little attention paid to issues related to Asian Americans and Native Americans.
Students from all backgrounds voiced a strong desire for curricula that fosters an expanded worldview and fully equips them to work as professionals in an increasingly diverse nation. Suggestions included integrating these lessons within core curricula (e.g. Universal/Inclusive design principles in Engineering, Managing diverse classrooms in Education, etc.) and going beyond what they see as “add-on” courses.Celebrate difference while supporting events, activities and organizations that promote unity.
While we met students from many different student organizations they appeared to be those groups based on differences. It is not clear whether diverse groups based on cross group concerns are promoted and supported. For example, are there organizations based within the disciplines that support inter-group interaction?
Across the campus, there was broad evidence of shared and compassionate concern for addressing issues of diversity at Penn State. There are many pockets of excellence (e.g. the gender-focused program review conducted by the Physics Department), and many supportive committees and offices. Unfortunately, those who are most supportive of Penn State’s efforts perceive that they are the least listened to when these issues are considered by central administration. The review team found the campus community to be forthcoming and welcoming. We applaud the administration’s courage and straightforwardness in supporting the goals of our team. If the institution can build the bridges between units and colleges, create measured accountability systems, and focus on a few concrete and obtainable goals, then Penn State can lead the nation as a model for institutional leadership in diversity programming.