Since its founding, the University of Iowa (UI) has been at the forefront for diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts in higher education. The “university of firsts” moniker reflects the many pioneering actions taken by administrators, faculty, staff, and students to create a more diverse and inclusive campus community. The legacy of the university’s longstanding commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion lives on in the work of the numerous programs, offices, and people on campus today.
The UI’s 2019-2021 Excellence through Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Action Plan represents the culmination of a multi-year assessment and engagement process. The plan has been designed to provide a roadmap to guide diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives for the next two years in anticipation of a campus-wide strategic planning process that will commence in 2021. This action plan should be regarded as a living document—one that sets a course but remains responsive to campus needs and priorities as they arise. The plan’s goals, strategies, and critical tasks for moving forward have been informed by the campus climate survey and listening session results, as well as by the assessment of current campus efforts as inventoried in the FY19 Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Digest. Many committed individuals have contributed to the development of the action plan, including members of the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Action Plan Development Group, the Charter Committee on Diversity, the Path Forward Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Collaboration Committee, and numerous others who have offered their insight and experience to the process. Please see the acknowledgments section at the end of the plan for a listing of the many individuals who have played a role in developing this plan, as well as advancing diversity, equity, and inclusion in their respective corners of the university.
2017-2019 Campus-wide Assessment and Planning Process
The 2019-2021 Excellence through Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Action Plan represents the culmination of a two-year process that began in Fall 2017 when Professor Lena Hill, serving as the senior associate to the president and interim chief diversity officer at the time, convened a forum of deans, vice presidents, and campus diversity leaders to receive an update from the Chief Diversity Office and engage in dialogue about how best to move diversity, equity, and inclusion forward at the UI. In response to the forum, Dr. Hill announced several campus priorities during the annual Update on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in January 2018, including a commitment to assessing and improving campus climate and enhancing clear communication and accountability for advancing diversity, equity, and inclusion at the University of Iowa. As a result, the Charter Committee on Diversity led by Sarah Bruch, an assistant professor of sociology, collaborated with the Chief Diversity Office and the Office of the Provost to conduct a comprehensive data collection process to assess campus climate.
In May 2018, Vice President for Student Life Melissa Shivers agreed to serve as the interim chief diversity officer upon Dr. Hill’s departure. Dr. Shivers expressed her whole-hearted commitment to move forward with a wide-reaching assessment of campus climate and the development of a data- and research-informed action plan, aligned with the UI Strategic Plan 2016-2021, to advance diversity, equity, and inclusion at the University of Iowa.
Throughout this process, the University of Iowa’s historic legacy and ongoing efforts to advance diversity shone through; the work the institution has yet to do to achieve an inclusive and equitable campus also become evident. In keeping with James Baldwin’s assertion that “nothing can be changed until it is faced,” the following documents provide snapshots of the university’s strengths as well as its challenges, and they will serve as guideposts as the university builds on its legacy and renews its commitment to action in the days ahead:
- 2018 Faculty and Staff Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Climate Survey Report and Listening Sessions Report,
- 2013-2018 Undergraduate Student Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Campus Climate Survey and Listening Sessions Report,
- 2018 Graduate Student Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Climate Survey and Listening Sessions Report,
- 2019 Professional Students, Post-Doctoral Scholars, and Post-Graduate Trainee Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Climate Survey (in progress), and the
- FY2019 Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Digest.
Aspirational Goals and Expected Outcomes
The 2019-2021 Excellence through Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Action Plan is a call to action in support of four goals that emerged from the campus assessment process:
- Create and sustain an inclusive and equitable campus environment.
- Recruit, retain and advance a diverse campus community of faculty, staff, and students.
- Integrate diversity, equity, and inclusion into the university’s core academic mission of teaching, research, and service.
- Enhance campus-wide diversity, equity, and inclusion accountability, effectiveness, and collaboration.
If effectively implemented, the plan’s goals, strategies, and critical tasks will result in an institutional framework that will achieve the following outcomes:
- A stronger sense of belonging and inclusion on campus by all members of the UI community.
- Increased ownership of diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts by all students, faculty, and staff members.
- Improved competence and commitment among all members of the UI community to advance diversity, equity, and inclusion
- Reduced intergroup disparities between underrepresented and majority groups, including but not limited to disparities in hiring, enrollment, retention, and graduation rates.
- Increased ability of each member of the university community to bring their authentic selves to their living, learning, and working environments.
Campus-wide Paradigm Shift from “Diversity” to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion
Diversity refers to all aspects of human difference, social identities, and social group differences, including, but not limited to race, ethnicity, creed, color, sex, gender, gender identity, sexual identity, socio-economic status, language, culture, national origin, religion/spirituality, age, (dis)ability, military/veteran status, political perspective, and associational preferences.
Equity refers to fair and just practices and policies that ensure all campus community members can thrive. Equity is different than equality in that equality implies treating everyone as if their experiences are exactly the same. Being equitable means acknowledging and addressing structural inequalities—historic and current—which advantage some and disadvantage others. Equal treatment results in equity only if everyone starts with equal access to opportunities.
Inclusion refers to a campus community where all members are and feel respected, have a sense of belonging, and are able to participate and achieve to their potential. While diversity is essential, it is not sufficient. An institution can be both diverse and noninclusive at the same time, thus a sustained practice of creating inclusive environments is necessary for success.
Several important changes have already resulted from the two-year development process.
- The institution has embraced a paradigm shift from a commitment to diversity alone to an intentional focus on advancing diversity, equity, and inclusion that includes a broad understanding that advancing these goals is the responsibility of all offices and individuals on campus.
- The Chief Diversity Office was renamed the Division of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion and the title of its lead administrator was reconceptualized as the associate vice president for diversity, equity, and inclusion from its former title of chief diversity officer.
- At the time of the release of this plan, the campus is in process of recruiting an excellent candidate to fill the redefined role and lead the campus into the next phase of development.
- An external review of the Division of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion occurred in March 2019 to ensure that the organizational structure and programs are appropriately aligned and situated to advance diversity, equity, and inclusion at the university.
- Numerous presentations, workshops, and resources have been provided to support units and individuals in mirroring the paradigm shift in their strategic planning and professional development initiatives.
Moving Forward with Accountability and Engagement
The UI Path Forward Steering Committee, composed of leaders of UI shared governance and created to advance the UI Strategic Plan, charged the Path Forward Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Collaboration Work Group to oversee the efficient, coordinated, and transparent implementation of the 2019-2021 Excellence through Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Action Plan. The work group’s tasks will include:
- Expanding the current composition of the work group to include key representatives from central units, shared governance leadership, the 2019-2021 Excellence through Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Action Plan Development Group, the UI Diversity Councils Leadership Group, and undergraduate, graduate, and professional students.
- Working with lead offices to establish timelines and metrics to guide implementation of the action plan critical tasks.
- Establishing an accountability structure through which lead offices will provide regular progress reports and share successes and lessons learned.
- Positioning diversity, equity, and inclusion as core values in the next university-wide strategic planning process with concrete goals, strategies, and metrics.
Members of the campus community are encouraged to stay engaged throughout the process. Please visit the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion at Iowa website for progress reports and information about how to be involved.
The University of Iowa remains stalwart in its commitment to achieving its core university mission with a strategic focus on research and discovery, student success, and engagement. Diversity, equity, and inclusion is not solely what we do but how we do the work. While the majority of the critical tasks outline in this plan will require labor and may involve minimal funding, implementing other recommendations will necessitate a collaborative approach and may call for hard choices around resource allocation during what continues to be a challenging economic environment. Incremental or new investments in support of our diversity, equity, and inclusion strategic priorities will require changes in practice and structure, and/or a reallocation of existing resources. Embracing the status quo is not an option. Moving forward to integrate diversity, equity, and inclusion as essential core values in our people, practices, and policies is the only path forward.
For me personally, the University of Iowa making diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts a priority gives me hope that the students who come after me, that look like me, have a family like mine, or walk a similar path as me, will experience an Iowa that celebrates and supports them better than ever before. I want nothing more than for students to come to Iowa and never have a reason to question whether or not they truly belong here. Iowa embracing diversity, equity, and inclusion means students of color may one day get the access and resources to attain the higher education that they've always deserved.
Hira Mustafa, University of Iowa Student Government president
Diversity, equity, and inclusion means treating everyone with respect and embracing people of different identity groups (broadly conceived) across our community. Diversity, equity, and inclusion requires creating a welcoming environment and fostering opportunities for development and coalition building, while recognizing societal barriers that do not place
everyone on a level playing field.
A better UI requires embracing diversity, equity, and inclusion. It really is non-negotiable in my view. Diversity, equity, and inclusion improves the level of thought engagement, learning experiences, and will help us all break down barriers by better understanding one another. Embracing diversity, equity, and inclusion can help us address today's problems to create a better university for the next generation of Hawkeyes.
Dexter Golinghorst, Graduate and Professional Student Government president
Embracing diversity, equity, and inclusion allows the UI to strengthen and fulfill its academic and social missions. Diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives lead to a more robust and integrated university that sets an example for community excellence.
Russell Ganim, Faculty Senate president