An update on our work towards an equitable, inclusive and thriving community
Dear Fellow Albrightians,
And here we are, the middle of February already. I cannot believe that Valentine’s Day is almost here! In December, I shared with all of you our five institutional priorities. I write on this cold Friday to provide an update on our work towards one of those priorities: developing and supporting a thriving, well, supportive, equitable, and empowered community that has the will and the capability to bridge the differences that have thus far divided it.
Our first step – community-wide information gathering, to develop an Albright-specific understanding and program. Our consultants, Collaborations Group (CGI), have visited our campus twice: three days in November and a week at the end of January. The majority of those visits were focused on gathering information—in one-on-one interviews, small groups, and larger groups. More than 250 faculty members, staff members, and students participated in these sessions. The information that was learned is helping us to develop Albright’s ongoing program towards a fully participating community.
Here’s what we have learned so far:
- Members of our community have a great desire to move forward. But, we have learned that the skills, internal resources, and emotional resources needed to effectively communicate and understand across difference are lacking, and that there is a great desire to learn, develop, and practice these skills.
- Our policies are not always consistent with each other or with best practices, and do not always effectively address the needs of all members of our community. Our procedures are not transparent and are often not well defined. We have much work to do on building consistency, following best practice, and developing clarity of our policies and procedures.
- A consistent theme continues: that of the silencing of voices and the lack of fully participating membership in this community due to race, gender and other differences. We have heard stories of questions and concerns that were raised but were not respected or given a sufficient response. Many voices have remained silent for fear of being misunderstood or blamed.
Where we are going:
- Continuing and ongoing skills development. CGI is returning to campus this coming week to work specifically with Albright’s Cabinet and the College Leadership Team, who must quickly evolve the skills, the framework, and the resources, needed to provide leadership in accomplishing our shared priority of an inclusive and equitable community. The Council for an Inclusive, Thriving, and Equitable Community (CITE-C) will be partnering with CGI to offer other events and skills development opportunities during this semester. Be on the look-out for announcements.
- Rebuilding our policies and re-creating our procedures. Policies elucidated in the Student Handbook, Employee Handbook, and Faculty Handbook are not always aligned with best practices, are often unclear, and are sometimes inconsistent with one another. Through our collaboration with CGI, we have engaged expert human resource consultants to team with our own Human Resources Department and others (faculty, colleagues in Student Life) who are responsible for handbook policies, processes and complaint response procedures. We are creating roadmaps so that community members can visualize new, more effective processes for responding to various issues, so that we can build best-practice processes around each step in the map.
- Improving responsiveness. In the near term, we are engaging with human resource experts to make available a neutral, third party resource for conversation in response to complaints. (This will occur alongside the ongoing work of the Faculty Harassment and Abuse Committee.) In the medium term, we will develop a Rapid Response Team for complaint response. You can expect to hear more about this initiative in the future.
The importance of this work. What we are doing—evolving our skills, our habits, our policies, our procedures, our responsiveness—all of this work is not easy. It is not always comfortable. It takes continual and intentional effort. However, this work towards creating an equitable, inclusive and fully participating community is critical to the health of our community. We aspire to be the best Albright that we can be, and this work is foundational to achieving that goal.
I am grateful to the many members of this community who are joining me in this important effort, and I am enthusiastic about our future.
With best regards,