“Listening Tour” results in recommendations to make CWRU more inclusive

A yearlong “Listening Tour” involving two university vice presidents has led to a series of wide-ranging recommendations to make Case Western Reserve a more inclusive campus.

Specific steps include increasing diversity on faculty hiring committees, funding innovative ideas to enhance inclusion, and adding gender-neutral restrooms. All of the suggestions center around a common theme: the greater engagement every faculty member, staff member and student feels, the stronger the university community will be.

During the 2016-2017 academic year, Vice President for Inclusion, Diversity and Equal Opportunity (OIDEO) Marilyn Mobley and Vice President for Student Affairs Lou Stark met with organizations across the campus, held open meetings, and hosted a spring retreat. The idea was to gather as many comments as possible about how different people on campus viewed the level of inclusion now—as well as thoughts about how best to improve it.

“We appreciate all of the time and care members of the community put into considering the questions asked on the listening tour and into providing ideas on how our campus can become more inclusive,” Mobley said.  “Acting on what we learned from our conversations is critical to our commitment to making progress in the future.”

The year’s meetings focused on three key subjects. The first involved what it means to be an inclusive campus; common responses involved being accepting, tolerant, and open to new ideas. The second explored how Case Western Reserve already was inclusive; listening tour participants cited programs like Diversity 360, the listening tour itself, and increasing student involvement in campus organizations. The final topic centered on how the university could become more inclusive; ideas included increasing faculty diversity, updating the curriculum to address evolving student needs, and helping people across the campus—faculty, staff and students—feel more empowered and respected.

“What I found most inspiring about these conversations was that people were as enthusiastic in praising activities that encourage inclusiveness as they were in citing areas where we need to improve,” Stark said. “We need to be honest with ourselves about areas where we fall short, and people’s willingness to speak candidly gives me great hope for the future—as does their understanding of the importance of recognizing successes.”

The spring retreat saw participants press for increased accountability from the Office of the Provost for ensuring diversity in faculty hiring committees, funding from the Office of the President to support inclusion efforts, and investment in increasing gender-neutral restrooms beyond the roughly three dozen now on campus. They also recommended such measures as:

  • Consolidating diversity-related events and opportunities in a single location, such as the OIDEO website;
  • Establishing a “buddy system” for incoming staff, in which more veteran employees assist new arrivals in adjusting to the department or unit by sharing insights, experiences and specific details ranging from directions to campus locations to unique aspects of the university’s culture and history; and
  • Encouraging students to participate in outreach, in which they can apply for such activities as admissions recruitment in their hometown; meeting with prospective students visiting campus; and engaging with other visitors eager to learn more about Case Western Reserve.