Cal Poly Pomona recently launched a new advisory board that aims to create and foster inclusivity on campus.
The university nominated 16 faculty, staff and student representatives to serve on the Inclusive Excellence Council’s executive board, with plans to enlist a wider representation of the campus community to join its general council In the coming months.
Many CSU campuses and universities across the country have similar councils focused on fostering inclusive work and learning spaces, said Nicole Butts, council chair and interim presidential associate of diversity, inclusion and campus climate. Creating a council is one of many effective ways to identify and advise on matters of inclusion and equity, she added.
“One of our strategic values is to be inclusive, and our vision is to be a model for an inclusive polytechnic university. To be that model we need to be intentional and deliberate about creating and fostering inclusion,” Butts said. “The goal of the council is to provide guidance to the campus on how to create inclusive work and learning spaces.”
University President Soraya M. Coley announced the plan to establish the council during Convocation in August 2019. Most of the executive council members were selected during the fall semester. The group held its first meeting in December.
In recent months, concerns about climate have been raised, prompting campus community meetings and a student protest. Campus climate is one of the tenets around which the Inclusive Excellence Council will craft recommendations to the university. Other tenets of focus will include access, equity, belonging, shared responsibility and accountability.
“The accountability piece is very important because one of the things that helps to create an inclusive environment is that people know when something is not meeting our values, there’s a way to hold the university accountable.” Butts said. “We need to be transparent about what we are doing, and we also need to be accountable.”
The council also will be tasked with championing diversity, equity and inclusion; providing guidance and feedback on issues and initiatives critical to an inclusive campus community; giving input on program and policy recommendations that promote inclusivity; and supporting campus initiatives such as climate surveys, programs, events, panels, speakers and training. The effort will be collaborative, with the council looking to team up with other entities on campus.
Also in the works is the creation of a campus Principles of Community that defines how the members of the campus community interact with each other.
Phyllis Nelson, Academic Senate chair and a professor in the Department of Computer and Electrical Engineering, said she previously called for a campus wide code of conduct but was met with resistance over the years. She said she sees the potential to create a Principles of Community as a way to ensure the campus values are front and center.
“I am really glad to see that we have an avenue to write down these expectations and have them out there because they will help us all to recognize behavior that goes beyond the appropriate boundaries,” Nelson said, “and it makes it easier to call it out if you have something to point to, to say ‘Hey, these are our values and what you just did didn’t meet that.’”
Professor Carlos Gonzalez, chair of the Department of Management & Human Resources, said his hope for the council is that it will serve as a safe sounding board for faculty, staff and students with concerns and suggestions to share.
“One of the things I feel is important about this council is we want to create an environment where the campus community can approach the council and bring any kind of worry that they might have,” Gonzalez said. “How can we have those conversations? Our task will be more about creating processes that will allow for conversations to happen, for people to be able to provide their feedback. And then hopefully we can provide that information to administrators for them to make those decisions. And hopefully after decisions are made, people can come back to us with their feedback. We can be a way of closing the loop.”
Jordan Lee, a junior studying sociology, said he is aware of tensions on campus and wanted to get involved in the council to share his perspective as a student and to be a part of an active effort to create a more inclusive environment.
Carla Castillo, a senior studying international marketing, a social justice leader at the Womxn’s Resource Center, and the ASI officer of diversity and inclusion, said she feels that she brings a unique viewpoint as an undocumented student and wants to be an active ally for others who might be struggling around issues of inclusivity and equity.
For Nancy Terriquez, an advisor in the Bronco Advising Center, the hope is the council will help build a stronger sense of belonging for students and eradicate any barriers to success.
“The Inclusive Excellence Council aligns really well with our commitment to student success, and our commitment to student success means that we are also creating a campus community that’s inclusive for our students,” she said. “The council hopefully will help us see what types of barriers our students are facing that affect their success.”
Visit the Inclusive Excellence Website for more information.