Diversity and Inclusion at William Jewell – Part 1

Share
Photo courtesy of The Hilltop Monitor.

Diversity and inclusion has become a feature of William Jewell College’s mission, strategic plan and conversation on campus. The relevance for students, faculty and staff alike make it an apt consideration for the school on an institutional level. However, the discussion is often limited to identifying the necessity for Jewell to be a more inclusive campus. The following is the first in a series of articles which will review institutional organization, planning and coordination in regards to diversity and inclusion initiatives on campus. 

History:

Key actors in diversity and inclusion work at Jewell include the current chief diversity officer (CDO) and president of the College, Dr. Elizabeth MacLeod Walls; Dr. Andy Pratt, dean emeritus of the chapel and special counsel for diversity and inclusion; and Dr. Lori Wetmore, professor of chemistry and team leader for the Climate Assessment and Response Team (CART). Before retiring after the 2017-2018 school year and taking on the role of the special counsel to the president, Pratt served as vice president of diversity and inclusion, vice president for social responsibility and engagement, and vice president for religious ministries. 

In recent years, Jewell has hosted multiple external reviewers for diversity and inclusion. During the fall semester of 2015, local community developer Molly Fleming spent time training faculty and staff, surveying members of the Jewell community and reviewing the College’s approach to diversity and inclusion. The following year, from Aug. 2016 to April 2017, community organizer Diane Burkholder spent time on campus evaluating Jewell’s culture. 

Although there was at least one report submitted by an evaluator, there do not appear to be public records of the results of either outside reviewer’s evaluation, nor does there seem to be a clear understanding of what these reviewers accomplished or mainly criticized. 

Cari Hill ‘16 attended Jewell from 2014-2016, served as president of the Black Student Association and was heavily involved in discussions  of diversity and inclusion. The clearest problems Hill identified with diversity and inclusion work at the College are the barriers of tradition and reputation and the institution’s desire to uphold its appearance.

“I believe that the administration at Jewell was more focused on upholding reputation and tradition which unfortunately many times meant ignoring the desperate cries of their own students… making the campus more inclusive, in my opinion, would be facing this reality and addressing it,” Hill said of her experience with discussions of diversity and inclusion at Jewell.

To maintain any semblance of inclusion first requires open arms and non-judgmental consideration. While individuals at Jewell may not reflect negative qualities in this manner, the institution must be evaluated to ensure that it does not predispose its employees to blindly follow tradition and purely strive to uphold reputation at the expense of the student.

Hill details her experience at Jewell as largely positive but not without any caveats.

“While at Jewell, there were times I felt threatened, intimidated, afraid, hopeless and helpless. I hope that the fight I fought with many other passionate students ignited change. I didn’t feel empowered as much as I felt lied to and betrayed,” Hill said.

These complaints reflect an institutional inefficiency within Jewell in regards to considering student issues and accommodating an inclusive atmosphere by making difficult, structural changes. 

Therefore, the natural goal of our evaluation is to determine whether or not positive change is occurring. Are we making progress right now towards an inclusive campus? 

In the 2010-2017 Strategic Plan, Jewell proposed goals of increasing student diversity as defined by the Department of Education, faculty diversity, numbers of international students and out of state representation, among other values.

The 2010 goal for student diversity in 2017 was 16 percent – the actual 2017 student diversity was 19.8 percent. The 2010 goal for 2017 faculty diversity was 13 percent – the actual 2017 faculty diversity was about 3 percent. The College met its goals for the number of countries represented in 2017 but failed to meet goals regarding the number of international students, number of states represented and percentage of out of state students. 

Chart of diversity goals from the 2010-2017 Strategic Plan, accessed from the 2017-2018 Diversity Plan. 

In the fall of 2015, Jewell brought in community developer Fleming, who assessed the campus and provided a report that included priority recommendations. In February of 2016, the Diversity Education Work Group (DEWG) and steering committees were formed. There was an overarching DEWG in addition to student, faculty and staff steering committees. There are conflicting understandings of what the various diversity and inclusion-focused groups accomplished and what their aims were and are. 

The overarching main project of DEWG was to conceptualize the Bias Incident Response Team, which eventually transformed into the Climate Assessment and Response Team (CART).

The student steering committee – open to all Jewell students but primarily composed of members from multicultural groups on campus – was created as a place for students to express concerns and propose solutions. 

The staff steering committee was tasked with formulating professional development events to facilitate awareness of bias on campus and strategies for dealing with that bias.

The faculty steering committee’s brainchild was CTI 150: Identity and Society. The group created and implemented a curricular strategy to give students the ability to engage in conversations revolving around diverse identities in a complex society.

These groups were established to have a lasting impact on Jewell’s organizational structure of diversity and inclusion work, though there is no public record of organizational charters reflecting such intentions.

Two years after their formation, DEWG and the steering committees morphed into the student, faculty and staff diversity and inclusion work groups – which are currently in place per the 2017-2018 Diversity & Inclusion Plan. 

Former student members of DEWG complain of a lack of communication between the various groups and of an unclear power structure to define who each group reported to. 

According to Sam Fulte ‘19, a student steering committee member during her time at Jewell, the primary project to come from DEWG was the Bias Incident Response Team. The project was intended to provide an outlet for assessing campus climate and responding to incidents of bias on campus. At the time, students complained about the school not responding in an adequately public manner to incidents of bias.

“Tell us, and tell us that they’ve handled it… or no one’s actually going to know what happened,” said Fulte. 

This issue is twofold – there is a concern both with Jewell’s complacency in preventing bias incidents from happening on campus and its public response to such issues.

 “When something does happen I think they [William Jewell College] are fair when they address it, however, it shouldn’t have happened in the first place,” said Diana Rivera, executive assistant to the provost, in discussion of incidents of bias on campus, specifically those impacting students, faculty and staff.

Ultimately, out of the idea for a Bias Incident Response Team came the plan for the Climate Assessment and Response Team (CART), which is in the process of implementation. This newly formed group is meant to speak to concerns with Jewell’s culture which produce bias, as well as how the College is to go about altering that culture.

“The Climate Assessment and Response Team (CART) is a group of key College personnel and selected students who, in coordination with and in assistance to the Anti-Harassment Coordinator, identify systematic concerns with campus climate and concerns that may arise from particular incidents, and then collaborate with the Anti-Harassment Coordinator to implement proactive steps intended to promote a campus climate that is welcoming and safe for all students,” states the CART charter.

Wetmore talked about how she has approached the initial developmental stages of CART.

“I spent most of this year listening because I kind of want to approach what I do with CART as a community development initiative, kind of like what I would do with Village Partners, Wetmore said. “When you are actually looking at a community and at a climate, you have to do a lot of listening.” 

The holistic structure of the institutional approach has been unclear, as has its progression. Several groups and initiatives seem to have either ended or vaguely adapted into new iterations. In addition, the question remains of why this structure is still, in 2019, in its fledgling stages of development. 

Jewell’s 2010-2017 strategic plan follows a clear directive in terms of diversity.

“[The plan sought a result of] increased diversity (ethnic, racial, religious, geographic, ideas) of students, faculty, and staff,” states the 2017-2018 Diversity & Inclusion Plan

The 2017-2018 Diversity & Inclusion Plan was drawn up by Dr. Pratt to give specific directive for that school year while the 2023 Strategic Plan was being finalized. It outlines several specific goals for Jewell to complete in the area of diversity and inclusion. It also prioritizes them into categories of urgent, very important and important. 

Among the most pressing concerns of this document is the need to establish a chief diversity officer as well as empower students to become “agents of change” on Jewell’s campus. The lone important-designated goal outlined was to “[conduct] an external diversity assessment to ascertain priority policy and practice shifts.”

In addition, the plan emphasizes the continuation of efforts to review and refine Jewell’s curriculum in how it deals with difference and emphasizes providing faculty with more tools to bridge the gaps between themselves and students. 

The document goes on to cite how the school planned to fulfill these goals, though the main overarching goals of the administration are identical to ones previously held. Pratt and Walls concur that the primary concern is growing diversity in the faculty population as well as the staff and student populations. This is explicitly the goal of the 2010-2017 strategic plan. 
Jewell consistently ranks below the national average in terms of diversity percentages.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.