Diversity Memo

Thursday, April 19, 2001

TO: Members of the Colby Community
FROM: William D. Adams

As we began work on a strategic plan for Colby last fall, the topic of broadening diversity and improving the institutional culture in support of campus diversity was, as it should have been, high on our list of priorities. At that time I said I would make a report to the community on this subject by the end of the academic year. In the interim, diversity topics have been discussed in nearly every venue of the planning exercise -- in various College committees, among members of the senior staff, and in the President's Planning Group.  

Even while planning work continues, we have already identified a number of new initiatives that will help us move forward in this important area. Many of them can and will be implemented before the final plan is drawn.

We began our planning around diversity issues by identifying three principal goals and objectives. First, we must improve substantially the campus climate for all underrepresented groups and assist every member of the community in appreciating the value and challenges of an increasingly diverse community. Second, we must enhance the vigor, consistency and effectiveness of Colby's recruitment and retention policies and practices (for students, faculty and staff) in light of our diversity goals. And third, we must revise Colby's institutional policies and practices in ways that will support these goals.

In many discussions with various groups throughout the year, we have identified a number of new initiatives, the responsibility for which will be specifically assigned to senior administrative leaders. While these initiatives do not by any means conclude our thinking about this important area, they are deserving of immediate and resolute action.

Campus Climate and Organizational Culture:
  • We will develop a comprehensive statement on diversity that will become part of the College's mission statement and all standard publications.
    *We will implement this spring a comprehensive diversity education program for faculty and staff and continue that program during the next several years.
  • We will initiate regular professional development workshops to educate administrative staff about Colby's diversity philosophy and the challenges and opportunities of working in an increasingly diverse community.
  • We will strengthen mentoring, career counseling and professional development opportunities for members of underrepresented groups.
    *We will strengthen and refine the orientation process for new faculty and staff to ensure that they understand the value Colby places on diversity, what resources are available to members of the community, and the procedures to address any concerns.
  • Orientation for new students will be reorganized to make room for more focused and effective programs regarding the benefits and challenges of living and learning in a diverse campus and student community.
    *We will strengthen the annual diversity-training program for student leaders and residence hall staff.
  • We will provide more resources and administrative support for efforts to make campus social life more fully representative of the interests and needs of all students.
  • We will increase efforts to recruit a more diverse group of alumni/ae to Colby's volunteer programs, networks and volunteer leadership positions, and understand the views and needs of all Colby alumni and alumnae.
Recruitment & Retention:
  • We will refine and strengthen admission efforts to recruit a more diverse student body to Colby.
  • We will conduct more rigorous and regular analyses of the retention and persistence experience and patterns of students at Colby.
  • We will reinforce current practices to ensure that there is always direct, personal contact by members of the dean's office with students having personal or academic difficulties, and we will encourage faculty participation in this exercise.
  • The Dean of Faculty will supervise a study to determine persistence rates within majors and work with faculty to find remedies to any worrisome trends.
  • We will strengthen faculty and staff recruitment and hiring procedures to make certain that we achieve greater diversity within professional applicant pools, and we will increase awareness of those procedures across the campus.
  • We will develop more visible and effective forms of administrative accountability in the conduct of faculty and staff searches.
Academic Program:
  • We will make every effort to conclude the discussion of revisions to the all-college diversity requirement, which will soon advance from the Academic Affairs Committee to the faculty as a whole.
These are some but not all of the new initiatives we can expect to find in the final planning report. The report will also include more detailed information on the means of implementing these initiatives. As a means of assuring that these initiatives are accomplished, we will also put in place a number of assessment measures providing the basis for an annual report on diversity that I will make to the campus community.

Having sound policies, procedures and practices-- reviewed and revised as we go along -- is only part of what we must do to achieve our overall diversity objectives. Even more crucial will be our commitment to making Colby -- indeed, our greater community -- open and welcoming to all. In this regard, I hope you will agree that in the end our success will be measured not so much by policy pronouncements and initiatives, but by the good will and determination that can only be found in the hearts and minds of each of us.