Latest diversity survey suggests improvements

Jennifer Nacin

The latest in a handful of campus diversity surveys has focused on recommendations for new guidelines for departments in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

The college has received data from a study entitled “A Clear, Accountable Commitment to Diversity” that was conducted by the LAS Diversity Committee.

The purpose of the study was to gather data from the college’s 20 academic department chairpersons to analyze current attitudes and actions toward increasing diversity inside the college, said Michael Whiteford, dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

Michael Bugeja, chairman of the committee and director of the Greenlee School of Journalism and Communication, said it was important to see how the different departments within the college integrated and executed plans for diversity within their strategic planning.

“We wanted to survey the academic programs in LAS on their attitudes toward diversity as a core value,” Bugeja said.

The LAS Diversity Committee, composed of faculty, staff and students from the college, also analyzed the Web sites of Iowa State’s 11 peer institutions to compare the level of importance diversity holds as a core value at these institutions.

The ISU homepage does not have a link dedicated to diversity, but the Liberal Arts and Sciences homepage has recently added a diversity link.

The survey gathered information regarding curriculum, demographics of faculty and staff, recruitment and retention of women and underrepresented faculty and department missions and strategic plans on diversity.

The committee’s recommendations include creating guidelines for academic departments that will make diversity a central part of strategic planning and missions and developing procedures to guarantee department chairpersons communicate and distribute information on diversity.

Sharon Bird, member of the LAS Diversity Committee and assistant professor of sociology, stressed the importance of these recommendations to ensure the department chairpersons and the departments themselves are making diversity a central part of faculty recruitment procedures, curriculum and student involvement.

Bugeja said having measurable objectives and guidelines to follow will aid liberal arts and sciences and Iowa State in determining their progress in incorporating diversity and creating a welcoming environment.

“We have to be able to assess whether or not we are making progress, and if so, how,” Bugeja said. “And we need to have our recommendations out there for us and others as components of evaluation.”

Whiteford said in order to become “successful global citizens,” students, specifically those in LAS, need to be more aware of diversity. “I think we have a moral obligation to provide our students, our faculty and our staff with all the educational tools in order to exist in a very diverse world,” he said.

Bird said she believes in continuing to strengthen diversity on campus because of the benefits it can bring.

“I believe that in a world with diverse problems, we need diverse minds in order to solve those problems,” Bird said.

The LAS Diversity Committee will be made into a standing committee within the next few weeks and will further specify these guidelines and procedures, Whiteford said.