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Chancellor, Provost Report Listening Session Findings

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In report-out forums on March 15 and 16, Chancellor Leo E. Morton and Provost Barbara A. Bichelmeyer shared the findings gleaned from a series of listening sessions conducted on campus in late 2015 and early 2016.

During the report-out forums, the two campus leaders reviewed the recommendations made during the earlier sessions; the campus priorities developed from that feedback by a working group of faculty, staff and students; and the next steps university leadership intends to take on a path forward to greater equity, diversity and inclusion for all members of the UMKC community.

For those who could not attend the session, the university has put up a website where faculty, staff and students can view a video of one of the reporting sessions and/or make additional comments: www.umkc.edu/listening . Campus members also can submit their names to volunteer to help with the ongoing work outlined in the key priority areas below.

In addition, on April 5 the university will launch the first in a weekly series of stories or Q&A’s providing additional information regarding campus diversity resources. This series will run in UMatters, the faculty/staff email newsletter, and in USucceed, the student email newsletter. These also will be linked to a variety of other campus websites and venues to reach people through different channels.

Bichelmeyer said the key takeaways from the listening sessions were broken down into three categories: A) Ideas upon which the campus has already been able to take action. B) Ideas upon which the campus will soon take action C) Overarching priorities that will be ongoing, guiding forces on our campus. The overarching priorities will need continued work from everyone and must be embedded into daily campus life for each and every person at UMKC.

Ideas that have already been acted upon include:

  • Creating a dedicated space for a Muslim student prayer room on the Volker campus.
    • The Division of Student Affairs and Enrollment Management worked with the Student Government Association and the Muslim Student Association to designate a prayer room in Miller Nichols Library Learning Center. Necessary renovations were completed and the space opened Feb 29.
    • In addition, the African American Culture House has been made available on Fridays for Jumu’ah, which is generally done in groups. The Culture House is open from 12-2pm on Fridays for this purpose.
    • Students on Hospital Hill have space for daily prayer on the 5th floor of the School of Medicine and the Truman Medical Center Chapel.
  • Diversity Climate Survey
    • Rankin and Associates, a national climate survey firm, already had been contracted to conduct a survey at UMKC as part of the 2014 Diversity Strategic Plan. Preparation is under way and the survey will be conducted in Fall 2016, with results analyzed and presented in Spring 2017.
    • Subsequently, the campus community will participate in survey results forums, evidence-based action planning and action steps to transform UMKC into a multicultural organization.
  • Staff Ombudsman
    • The Chancellor and Provost have approved creation of this position, and Staff Council is currently developing a job description and structure. A faculty ombudsman position already exists, as well as a Student Hotline through Student Affairs that addresses student concerns.

Ideas upon which the university will soon take action include forming a graduate student committee to work on various graduate student questions/concerns. The Student Government Association and the Provost are collaborating on this.

Two other concepts that will be addressed in the near term are also considered key overarching priorities:

  • Creating a “one-stop shop” for faculty, staff and students to easily report any concerns.
  • Creating a clear Statement of Values for UMKC.

The key overarching priorities that will be an ongoing guiding force on our campus represent big, deep, complex issues that will take many years for us to work together to solve, Morton said, but work will begin immediately. He also noted that each theme has a “point person” who can be contacted to share additional ideas or to volunteer help. It will be the responsibility of the point person to solicit a broader group to develop further recommendations for the campus in each theme area, with the goal ultimately of integrating those efforts into the fabric of daily life at UMKC.

These priorities were categorized as seven major themes:

THEME 1: One-stop system, including a website, to guide faculty, staff and students to the many campus resources available to report problems with or get informed on campus policies and resources regarding bias, climate, workplace, Title IX or other issues. This will be complemented by print and other communication avenues to raise awareness and knowledge of these avenues available to people to give voice to and have concerns addressed.

A small subcommittee has already begun researching best practices and laying the groundwork for a single web portal to access campus resources. While we will begin right away making it easier to find information, Morton said he expects it will be fall semester before a new one-stop website is launched.

Point of contact: Anne Spenner, Strategic Communications, ext. 1585 or spennera@umkc.edu.

THEME 2: Clear statement of values for UMKC. The university has not updated a values statement in almost a decade, and it is critical to develop a new one. Such a statement creates the standard to which we hold all on this campus accountable for respectful and inclusive behavior. A consultant will be coming to campus in April to guide the development of the statement, working with committees appointed by the Faculty Senate, Staff Council and Student Government Association.

Points of contact: Peggy Ward-Smith, Faculty Senate, ext. 5960 or wardsmithp@umkc.edu , and Steve Pankey, Staff Council, ext. 1966 or pankeys@umkc.edu.

THEME 3: Find increased/improved ways to communicate what we are already doing, as well as progress toward new initiatives; and promote greater transparency on areas of key concern. UMKC will survey faculty, staff and students on their preferred ways to get information, and develop a list of reports that share the data in which stakeholders have the most interest.

Point of contact: Anne Spenner, Strategic Communications, ext. 1585 or spennera@umkc.edu.

THEME 4: Infuse curriculum, classroom experience and advising to reflect cross-cultural perspectives and comfort with diverse views. Many comments from the listening session revolved around creating greater cultural awareness on our campus by infusing more multicultural viewpoints, books and authors into the classroom experience and ensuring that faculty and advisors are aligned, trained and comfortable with that direction. UMKC is already beefing up goals and training to ensure advisors are well versed in cultural competencies per National Academic Advising Association best practices. The UMKC Advising Leadership Team has been participating in a UM system-wide effort to identify these core competencies.

In addition, 70 faculty and staff and 28 students have been identified and are engaged in training as diversity advocates, a joint effort of the Chancellor’s Diversity Council and the UMKC Division of Diversity and Inclusion. Their role will be to equip faculty, staff and students with the knowledge and skills needed for us to jointly lead organization-wide strategies to promote diversity and inclusion, civility and social justice in our university community and beyond.

Bichelmeyer said she and Vice Chancellor Susan Wilson are working to revive and refresh the university’s curriculum infusion program.

Point of contact: Provost Bichelmeyer, ext. 1024 or bichelmeyer@umkc.edu .

THEME 5: Ongoing and improved training and development for faculty, staff and students in areas of cultural competency. Bichelmeyer said this is an area where we have already devoted significant resources, but we can and must do more. She pointed out that there are many such opportunities available already; the university offers hundreds of in-person trainings, online trainings, resource websites and articles via the Diversity and Inclusion home page or the Human Resources home page.

In  response to Dimension 3, Responsive Teaching, Research and Experiential Learning, of the 2014-2018 Diversity Strategic Plan, a Faculty Development Initiative launched in fall 2015 with representatives from each UMKC academic unit.  The committee’s charge is to create a comprehensive faculty development program in diversity and inclusion that meets the specific needs of faculty.

Point of Contact: Susan Wilson, ext. 6704 or wilsonsb@umkc.edu, Diversity and Inclusion.

THEME 6: Recruiting and retaining faculty, staff and students from traditionally underrepresented populations. Morton said this theme cuts to the heart of what we want to be about at UMKC. While 8.4 percent of our faculty who are tenured or tenure track are under-represented minorities (5.9% African-American; 2.5% Hispanic), increasing those numbers is a high priority. Our ultimate goal is to have the proportion of under-represented faculty more closely match the proportion of under-represented students at UMKC. Currently our university has about 16.4% under-represented students.

The 2014-2018 Diversity Strategic Plan has outlined a path forward and Vice Chancellor Susan Wilson has been working in the past year with each academic unit to develop recruitment and retention plans aimed and increasing minority representation and retention among faculty. Once those plans are completed, the same work will begin with administrative units. In addition, the campus has been tracking vital statistics on a Diversity Scorecard, which is on the Diversity and Inclusion website.

For students, UMKC participates in the national Access 2 Success (A2S) initiative, which focuses on closing the gaps in access and graduation of low-income and under-represented minority students.

Adopting best practices can help us move forward, the Chancellor said. Clearly, we can benefit from finding peers in higher education who are finding successful ways to increase the number of under-represented students and faculty on campus.

Point of Contact: Susan Wilson, ext. 6704 or wilsonsb@umkc.edu, Diversity and Inclusion.

THEME 7: Equity in hiring, promoting and retaining. Morton said many in the listening sessions expressed concerns that hiring and promotion practices are not as culturally sensitive or impartial as they ought to be, that pay inequities exist based on race and that faculty and staff worry they may not be getting equal access to the training and development they need to succeed. The work that must go forward is to assess the programs in place and identify gaps. There are many mechanisms now available to address specific concerns. He said UMKC can and will do more to communicate all these available resources and all the monitoring we do to ensure equity. The campus needs to find and close the gaps and make sure we have metrics that tell us if we are making progress.

Point of Contact: Mikah Thompson, ext. 1323 or thompsonmikah@umkc.edu, Title IX/AA/EO

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