The Review Teams, and indeed many of the unit plans, agree with President Barron that diversity will be an increasingly important component of institutional viability and vitality moving forward. President Barron’s “Diversity and Demographics” imperative further advances the rationale articulated in A Framework to Foster Diversity at Penn State: 2010–15 http://equity.psu.edu/framework, and demonstrate what is perhaps the most important finding over the course of the Framework Review process since reviews were begun in 2001: the active, visible support of leadership is a critical component. Strategic planning is one of the best methods for engaging the entire University in diversity, equity, and inclusive excellence, and we hope that it will one day reach its full promise as a change agent at Penn State.
The Review Teams found that, in general, 2014–19 diversity planning was less sophisticated and more narrowly focused than we have seen since the initial 2001 review. Little continuity exists between the 2010–15 plans and the current plans and specificity was sacrificed for brevity of reporting. Reviewing the documents for evidence of diversity, equity, and inclusion progress was, in the words of one reviewer, “like a treasure hunt without a map and there may not be any treasure.” It was difficult to identify, and thus assess, information describing the progress made and efforts planned regarding each of the seven Challenges, as was requested in the strategic planning guidelines.
The Review Teams’ observations suggest that A Framework to Foster Diversity at Penn State, Penn State’s strategic plan for diversity from 1998–2015, has served as an effective and comprehensive road map for inclusive excellence and should continue to do so. The Framework articulates closely with President Barron’s imperatives of Diversity and Demographics and Access and Affordability. However, without employing the concrete and comprehensive approach to diversity, equity, and inclusion through the seven Challenges, many units floundered in their diversity reporting, planning, and assessment, with some units failing to report on several of the Challenges contained in the Framework.
In this review process the Review Teams did not believe that the unit plans provided sufficient information for a meaningful evaluation of unit and University progress, as well as next steps regarding diversity, equity, and inclusion goals. At this time, we must think forward to construct the University’s next strategic planning steps such that we can continue to effectively review and evaluate diversity accomplishments at the unit and University levels.
Many of these findings reiterate findings and recommendations of previous reviews, as well as of the Halualani & Associates external assessment report, which substituted for a 2013 midpoint Framework Review. Yet, there has not been significant enough progress in either our planning abilities or our outcomes. Need for better accountability and sufficient resources was an overarching theme. Another theme throughout was need for evidence-based planning, intelligent metrics, and data reporting. Incremental change is no longer enough; as one unit plan noted regarding diversity: “the future is now.”
The President’s imperatives of Diversity and Demographics and Access and Affordability clearly establish these areas as institutional priorities, and the Provost has expressed commitment to ensuring that principles of diversity, equity, and inclusive excellence are fully actualized as foundational aspects of institutional excellence within the next strategic planning cycle.
In order to meet the needs of our students and our Penn State community in today’s world, we must make a significant leap in this area, or risk falling back on our progress. Diversity has to be given the emphasis, exposure, and resources of a top level priority, or it risks getting buried among competing priorities if it is left as simply a given to be found throughout. There must be explicit expectation that diversity, equity, and inclusive excellence be evident in all unit operations and leadership processes. There must be responsibility and accountability for implementation and outcomes. And there must be clear performance expectations and University level accountability for performance at acceptable levels.
The Framework Review process works well
- Framework Reviews have been effective in driving implementation, monitoring progress, and encouraging accountability.
- The seven Challenges of the Framework provide effective and specific guidelines for reporting.
- Diverse, well-balanced Review Team representation supported strong discussions that provide a comprehensive, non-UP-centric view, inclusive of student issues.
- Engaging in the Framework Review process itself was a professional development experience; team members reported satisfaction in serving and learning about the University, as well as appreciation of the opportunity to network and effectively collaborate.
- Information about expectations, process, and outcomes could be more broadly shared with University administration and the University community.
- The Review Teams findings suggest that we were set back by not doing a midpoint review of the 2010–15 Framework.
A Framework to Foster Diversity at Penn State, Penn State’s strategic plan for diversity from 1998–2015, has been an effective and comprehensive plan for inclusive excellence and should continue
- The seven Challenges of the Framework have provided a comprehensive and concrete roadmap for advancing diversity, equity, and inclusive excellence.
- Under diversity strategic planning, new initiatives have been launched, the profile for diversity at Penn State has been amplified, and useful workshops surrounding Framework themes have enriched our understanding of diversity. The footprint of diversity would be different at Penn State, perhaps substantially so, were it not for diversity strategic planning.
- One of the strengths of the Framework diversity strategic planning process is continuity (this was also noted in the Halualani report).
- The previous approach of breaking diversity planning out of overall planning, with completely distinct processes, has afforded some clear advantages and promoted clearer, higher-quality diversity plans.
- With better emphasis on outcomes and accountability, the Framework would be more effective.
Although the concept of integrating diversity planning into overall strategic planning has merit, this first attempt has not been very successful
- The instructions for integrating the two processes were not as coordinated as they might have been, with confusion between the original planning guidelines and the “Provost’s Pillars.”
- Diversity tended to get lost in the shuffle, and at times the teams had to “dig” diversity out of the plans, largely because the Framework Challenges weren’t as prominent. At times, diversity seemed to be a “tack on” and even “choppy” when compared to overall planning.
- Some units demonstrated a complete disregard for diversity planning or for planning guidelines.
- Planning for this cycle was too aggressive based on our current planning infrastructure. Bringing the two processes together impeded units from developing thoughtful strategic priorities for diversity in favor of simply covering everything and being comprehensive. A more well-defined planning structure with illuminating data cuts would be useful.
- Many units did not identify best practices or did not include substantiating evidence.
- Units that have already integrated diversity into their operations and structure were better able to integrate the planning processes.
- Without the specificity of the Framework Challenges, there was “consistent lack of consistency” across unit reports, which made it difficult to assess unit progress and University level progress.
- Collaboration between the Office of Planning and Institutional Assessment (OPIA) and Office of the Vice Provost for Educational Equity has been very valuable and productive.
Despite the strategic planning guidelines, overall, there was little evidence of continuity from previous diversity planning cycles
- Little continuity exists between the 2010–15 plan and the current plan in many units.
- · Many plans showed little or no evidence of reflection on previous diversity initiatives.
- Diversity planning/reporting was less sophisticated, focusing mostly on racial/ethnic minorities, and on student recruiting and retention. There was little attention to the LGBT community, people with disabilities, veterans, etc., and where those were addressed, it tended to be in very focused initiatives. The broad and inclusive concept of diversity with a comprehensive and holistic approach, as put forth in the Framework, was not reflected in this review.
- There is deep concern that in merging diversity back into overall planning, we may be setting ourselves back to the same place we were twenty years ago. Many other universities are starting out today with diversity being one goal within an overall plan and look to Penn State as a more robust and comprehensive model to which to aspire.
- If diversity planning remains under general planning, the University will have to be mindful to prevent diversity from being diluted as a strong planning focus. Diversity must be a top-level priority, otherwise we stand to lose the progress we have made.
Accountability and resources are of particular concern
- There is deep concern that despite the thorough and thoughtful reviews, diversity planning at Penn State is not taken seriously and serves as “window dressing” without significant progress.
- There seems to be no consequences and accountability for units that do not advance. Penn State ties few if any consequences, positive or negative, to planning and outcomes. The apparent disregard for planning guidelines in some cases and the fact that one unit simply did not submit a plan are evidence of lack of accountability.
- Though many diversity functions at Penn State have centralized leadership, the University’s decentralized structure coupled with numerous leadership changes pose special challenges for integrating diversity throughout units. Because unit autonomy often trumps accountability for effective planning, robust plans may not be in place when new executives begin their tenure or, conversely, outstanding planning from previous cycles can be lost if new executives are not made aware or don’t perceive existing planning to be a priority.
- At the unit level, implementation plans with assigned responsibility and mechanisms for accountability were positive.
- Challenge 6 especially is enormously difficult for units to achieve on their own, particularly the campuses, without University emphasis and resources.
- Adequate resources are necessary to support institutional priorities; diversity efforts cannot be successful as an “unfunded mandate.”
Many units struggled with effective planning in general, which also affected their diversity planning
- Many units struggled with effective strategic planning concepts. There was confusion regarding goals, objectives, strategies, tactics and metrics, a focus on activity rather than outcomes, and a pronounced lack of evidence-based planning and use of data, especially in relation to diversity.
- Those who are working on strategic planning must have or be given the requisite skills and experience to acquire the needed expertise for effective strategic planning, implementation, assessment, and reporting, including diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts and those in key positions with diversity expertise.
- In many plans, it was unclear as to whether a multicultural leader or others familiar with diversity initiatives were responsible for writing and/or integrating diversity into the unit plans.
- Many plans evidenced some confusion between strategic planning and marketing reports or budget requests.
- Many unit plans appeared to be grasping at how to include diversity effectively in their plans. There was a broad range of how it was covered and how well the guidelines were addressed.
- Diversity and inclusion aspirations are often well stated in mission and vision statements, and may even appear among strategic priorities. However, metrics combined with vigorous planning conventions are not as evident. The focus must be on outcomes leveraged by planning and supported by concrete data.
- The most effective plans have integrated diversity into their vision/mission/values, wrote a specific summary piece on diversity and defined it for themselves, and then mapped it throughout the main plan, and included an implementation plan, responsibility matrix, and strategic indicator data. While this approach may be challenging, it has been the most complete and most promising for full consideration of diversity in strategic planning across a unit's objective. (See Characteristics of Effective Diversity Strategic Planning for more information)
- OPIA and Educational Equity presentations, training sessions, and consultations were effective and helpful when utilized by units to better understand the rationale and process of strategic planning, including how to use data in conjunction with planning tools. However, this resource is largely underutilized.
There was a pronounced lack of assessment, evidence-based planning, and use of data to support diversity goals
- Making the leap from emphasis on planning and activities to implementation and assessment is necessary to advance diversity goals and enhance accountability.
- There was a striking lack of data reporting across many of the plans, and little use of evidence-based planning. Similar observations were made in previous Framework reviews as well as in the Halualani & Associates external assessment, yet we have not seen substantial improvement.
- Some units have done a better job of identifying “intelligent metrics,” key metrics at a macro level that drive implementation and progress.
- There is a wide range across the units in ability to obtain and use data effectively. Most units do not have a dedicated position to monitor, collect, and report diversity data to whomever is charged with oversight of the unit’s Framework implementation.
- A better institutional approach to data and centralized data resources are needed to drive enhanced diversity and overall planning. OPIA is a valuable resource.
Diversity has been a strategic priority for the University since the mid-1990s, yet we have not reached our goals
- Diversity, equity, and inclusion are not yet effectively interwoven as expectations within the University’s operational culture. This value should be reflected as a way of doing business, not empty catchphrases. (Challenge 7)
- Despite a long history of diversity planning, diversity, equity, and inclusion have not been universally integrated into the fabric of the institution. Many feel that diversity is not honored or celebrated and that we still live in a University with bias and lack of acceptance. (Challenge 2)
- Statements such as President Barron’s Diversity and Demographics imperative, which supports the imperatives presented in A Framework to Foster Diversity at Penn State: 2010–15, help to articulate the importance of diversity, equity, and inclusion to the University.
- Diversity, equity, and inclusion are not explicit in the University’s mission, vision, and values, and are not a universally recognized expectation in what it means to be a member of the Penn State community.
- There is not a common understanding of diversity across Penn State. (Challenge 1)
- Best practices could be better leveraged.
- We have made and sustained progress in recruiting and retaining a diverse undergraduate student body. (Challenge 3)
- Shared responsibility and accountability are effective.
- Staff are often missing from diversity initiatives. (Challenge 4)
- We have made little gains in recruiting and retaining a diverse workforce (Challenge 4) and leadership and management (Challenge 6). Without purposefully seeking to enhance the diversity profile and having higher level accountability, good intentions have not been enough to address these Challenges. Training and coaching has the potential to enhance the increase in diverse faculty.
- Review of the general education curriculum presents opportunity to strengthen curricular integration of meaningful US diversity understandings. (Challenge 5)
- Active, visible leadership is necessary in setting expectations regarding diversity goals.