Gannon Justice Equity Diversity and Inclusion – Spring 2022 Update
In the fall 2020 semester, the Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Steering Committee was formed and set forth with this initial charge: to create an institutional action plan after an assessment and discernment process, identify ways to involve all colleagues and students interested in supporting this work toward an institutional plan, and coordinate ways to implement ideas for immediate action while formalizing the institutional plan.
After its creation in 2020, the Steering Committee began progressing on defining its mission, terms, and an action plan while forming a Student Advisory Committee. In 2021, working groups were defined and began meeting regularly, while work began on a campus climate survey and bias reporting tool, two needs designated as immediate priorities. In the spring of 2022, the Committee is poised to continue making recommendations and priorities based on university-wide input, prioritize resource allocation, and continue the working group model to increase progress.
Breaking down the work of these teams, the Institutional Plan committee collaborated with the university President’s Leadership Team to identify three major target areas of enhancement at Gannon:
- Sustain a welcoming and supportive environment for diverse students
- Sustain a welcoming and supportive environment for diverse employees
- Enhance communication from the university regarding diversity
To accomplish these goals, a number of plans are in the works.
A Center for Student Diversity and Inclusion – a central and visible location on Erie’s campus with resources and a welcoming atmosphere – has been proposed. This Center would offer a wide range of programming, leadership development and peer mentoring for students, and serve to coordinate with new Student Development staff on the Ruskin campus. Plans for a Ruskin location are also ongoing.
To welcome and support diverse employees, plans have been proposed for an integrated Diversity Officer in Human Resources to prioritize diversity in hiring to better reflect the demographics of our student body. This position will review the application process and provide training for search committees, facilitate the orientation process for all new employees incorporating Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI), Gannon’s GU+ service standards and our Catholic mission, as well as provide ongoing trainings and professional development opportunities and coordinate the campus climate survey dissemination and data collection. The committee proposes enhancing the Faculty Mentoring Fellow role to provide more support for diverse faculty and ongoing professional development, and the creation of a DEI Professional Development Fund.
Updates on specific working groups, including teams focused on the Institutional Plan, Campus Climate Assessment, Communications, Employee Recruitment and Retention, Bias and Discrimination Reporting Processes, Professional Development, Student Recruitment and Retention, Gender Identity and Language, Student Development and the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Resource Hub were also provided, beginning with the Institutional Plan, led by Dr. Lori Lindley.
In the spring of 2022, this team submitted a three-year plan to the Board of Trustees and President’s Leadership Team and saw the proposals for the Center for Student Diversity and Inclusion approved and slated to launch in the fall of 2022, as well as the approval of the position for a Director for Diversity and Inclusion, with the search led by Paul Perrine. They’ll also work toward providing additional resources for faculty and staff development in DEI.
In terms of the Campus Climate and Assessment, this spring the survey was re-deployed to increase response rate, and saw approximately a 50% response rate from employees, and 10% from students. Responses were generally positive regarding a sense of belonging at Gannon, and perceptions of campus related to diversity. Up next, plans are ongoing for a separate forum for an in-depth presentation of the results of the study, as well as plans for the next survey deployment, and how to increase rate and representation in student responses.
Gender Identity and Language
Dr. Megan Woller leads the Gender Identity and Language working group and its nine sub-groups. This spring they’ve worked on a restroom audit in Erie and Ruskin and drafted a proposal to convert signage on all single restrooms to all-gender. They are also working to create an educational resource hub and facilitate inclusive technology discussions across campus including the designation of preferred names and pronouns. Up next: goals include creating brief guides on inclusive classroom practices, email signatures, pronoun usage and more; building library resource pages on gender and sexuality, gathering information on affinity housing for LGBTQ+ students and other supportive practices (e.g., support for transitioning students, collaboration with the Queer Collective, reinstituting safe zone training and more).
In communication, DEI internal and external websites are now live and can be found in the About section of the gannon.edu homepage, as well as the my.gannon.edu portal; plans for marketing and communications leadership and support for JEDI are enhanced and ongoing. Up next: the team is working to finalize plans for regular JEDI/DEI updates, website maintenance, and more, as well as developing a plan for regular student and employee forums and small group listening sessions.
Employee Recruitment, Retention and Professional Development
From Employee Recruitment, Retention and Professional Development led by Kathleen Gausman, this team researched best practices and worked to provide recommendations for requesting diversity statements from applicants, requiring implicit bias training for all new employees and search committees, and establishing a framework for regular professional development offerings. They’re collaborating with the College of Humanities, Education and Social Sciences to teach workshops and networking sessions and are incorporating DEI information into “Gannon Experience” onboarding. Up next, they’ll continue to work with HR, evaluating and implementing these recommendations, develop affinity groups with gatherings and a mentoring program and develop the diversity advocates program.
Student Recruitment and Retention
Student Recruitment and Retention, led by Charmaine Wilson and Desi Herter, spent much of the spring semester collaborating with enrollment to review our current recruitment strategies and find opportunities to enhance our focus on diversity, equity, and inclusion. Our team reviewed touchpoints students have across divisions at the university, and worked on developing content for Gannon 101, with a new DEI section incorporated into the introductory course experience. We reviewed retention data, collaborated with Global Admissions, and are now set to look toward future goals of creating direct marketing and communications efforts geared toward a diverse student population. We also plan to develop student resources to support diversity while connecting campus life at Gannon with the city of Erie, and prioritizing DEI focuses among new hires in Undergraduate Admissions.
Student Development, led by Charmaine Wilson, spent the spring of 2022 gathering student input with a desire to engage in difficult conversations, finding a need for safe space to do so, and generating ideas about how to fill these gaps. Up next: the team will work to implement a monthly “Coffee and Conversation” series on topics such as equity vs. equality, critical race theory, socioeconomic diversity, and more. They’ll also look to create “ToKnights View,” evening forums for students to discuss issues. The new Director for Diversity and Inclusion will be engaged to collaborate on future planning, as well as with clubs and organizations on campus.
Bias and Discrimination Reporting Form and Process
Led by Paul Perrine, the Bias and Discrimination Reporting Form and Process group reviewed best practices and drafted the BIAS incident form. Up next, a draft of the form and processes will be shared with both the Steering and Student Advisory Committees, President’s Leadership Team and others; a group will be identified to review submissions and the form, published, as well as develop support for individuals reporting incidents of bias.
Mary McDermott and the Resource Group collaborated with the CHESS Racial Justice Task Force and The Nash Library and Student Learning Commons to understand and expand existing resources, review internal and external websites, and assess content and launch the JEDI Educational Resource Page, available at library.gannon.edu/JEDIEducation, highlighting racially just pedagogy as well as educational resources for gender identity and sexuality. Up next, they’ll finalize short- and long-term goals for creation, maintenance and sustainability of resources while continuing to work with Nash Library and CETL.
All in the Gannon community are welcome to join in the world of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion at the University, and all working groups welcome input from across the Gannon family. Be on the lookout for more updates from the JEDI Steering Committee through the year.