The CU Board of Regents and administration plotted a course toward addressing big-picture diversity issues by articulating two areas of focus that will measure in part how the university is progressing.
Regent John Carson, who chairs the Diversity Task Force, said he expects recommendations in November for how CU is faring in both traditional diversity measures and viewpoint diversity.
“What we put together needs to be specific and it needs to be measurable,” Carson said.
The focus on measurement for traditional diversity will initially manifest itself with a review of gender pay equity among faculty. It also includes ongoing traditional measures such as demographics among faculty, staff and students, enrollment, yield rates, retention rates and graduation rates. Viewpoint diversity will be measured in part with questions on a benchmark climate survey that is repeated annually.
The effort will take some time, particularly given the large task of assessing pay equity, said Vice President for Administration Kathy Nesbitt, who serves on the Diversity Task Force with Carson, Regents Irene Griego and Sue Sharkey, and Vice President for Academic Affairs Michael Lightner. Nesbitt said the idea to pursue the gender equity issue emerged after the task force had a detailed presentation from the Department of Medicine on the issue and discussions with other key stakeholders. Nesbitt said it’s likely the university will engage a vendor to help with the effort.
CU President Mark Kennedy told the board he intends to hire a chief diversity officer at the system level to oversee the initiatives. The position, which will report to him, will also be responsible for ensuring diversity efforts in the system office (it will have a dotted-line report to Nesbitt in that capacity). It will identify metrics, oversee an annual climate survey, review and facilitate best practices across the system, and benchmark CU’s efforts against other universities.
“It will identify where we’re doing well and where we’re not,” Kennedy said. “This can help address the full range of diversity that we are trying to achieve.
“Some might say it’s that person’s job. In reality, it’s all our job,” he said.
Kennedy said in the lead-up to his July 1 start date and the time since he started, he has met with chief diversity officers on each campus, as well as chancellors and their senior teams, to discuss diversity issues. He said it’s clear that the growth of CU’s student population is coming in students from underrepresented populations and those who are Pell eligible. He also said diversity plays a key role in preparing students for life after graduation, where they will increasingly work in a diverse world on diverse issues.
The new position will also play a role in outreach to diverse groups and communities. A job description is being developed and it’s expected to post soon. Kennedy said he is sensitive to adding positions, but stressed enhancing diversity is a university priority.
“I’m only adding a few select positions and looking for efficiencies elsewhere to respond to regent priorities,” he said.
He also said he will pull together a diversity advisory committee with people from inside and outside the university to provide perspective.