California State University, Long Beach
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Inclusive Excellence Commission Looks Ahead

Published: July 18, 2016

As the nation grapples with the topic of racial inequality, demonstrations have taken place and movements have arisen in cities across the country. Institutions of higher education have not been insulated from these instances with student activism and associated protests taking place on campuses from coast to coast including at CSULB.

CSULB prides itself as a diverse institution committed to the success of all students, and in early 2016 the university began to increase efforts to address numerous diversity-related issues through its “Inclusive Excellence” initiative.

According to the Association of American Colleges and Universities, “Inclusive Excellence” is designed to help colleges and universities fully integrate their diversity and educational quality efforts and embed them into the core of academic mission and institutional functioning. At CSULB, it will involve a planning process that will concentrate on establishing a comprehensive and well-coordinated set of systemic actions that focus specifically on fostering greater diversity, equity, inclusion and accountability at every level of university life.

To that end, at the beginning of 2016, CSULB President Jane Close Conoley created an Inclusive Excellence Steering Committee made up of students, faculty, staff and key campus administrators. Meeting weekly throughout the spring, the committee worked to gather campus data, outlined initial strategies and goals, and made various recommendations to the president.

As a result of the committee’s work, Conoley recently decided to appoint a President’s Commission for Inclusive Excellence, a standing commission at The Beach. That commission will assess current campus climate, link existing campus resources dedicated to equity to enhance the campus climate and available resources, and continuously measure progress in creating/maintaining an environment that ensures educational and personal well-being.

Though CSULB is widely acknowledged for encouraging and embracing diversity, the goal is for the campus to offer every community member a fair chance to excel, according to Conoley.

“Diversity adds excellence to our community,” she said, in part, through an open letter to the campus in January. “To maximize this advantage we must seek feedback continuously and engage in problem solving with the many groups who make up our Long Beach State family. What’s key is whether we are a university that offers each member of our diverse community an equitable chance for success, that is, inclusive excellence. We must work to eliminate all gaps among all groups so every student has the choice to earn a quality degree and take their next professional or educational steps in a timely manner. Our goal is to create environments that offer everyone the chance to flourish.”

Conoley has asked Provost Brian Jersky and Vice President for Student Affairs Carmen Taylor to serve as co-chairs of this commission and will seek wide input from its members. Participating on the commission will be representatives from across campus including faculty, students, staff, directors of key campus centers/offices, chairs of various Academic Senate committees, community members and alumni. In addition, she will seek nominees and/or ask for elections from the Academic Senate, Associated Students and various other staff and student coalitions on campus.

The commission will begin by identifying subcommittees and/or other standing committees/councils that will be responsible for key activities. Examples would be analysis of data from a campus climate survey; new orientations and trainings for students, faculty and staff; increased student participation in governance processes; increased outreach to further diversify our faculty and staff; and identification of interdisciplinary programs that will promote inclusive excellence.

“The new paradigm must focus on institutional assessment, action and accountability, with individual and shared responsibility deeply embedded as priorities, in contrast to the old paradigm, which depends on the assumption that student achievement gaps are rooted in students’ deficits,” Conoley recently wrote. “In the new paradigm, campus educators understand and value the assets that students bring to educational experiences, as well as the importance of institutional change and continuous improvement to better meet the needs of everyone involved in our learning community.”

The commission, which is expected to meet up to three times a semester, will provide progress updates to the campus community throughout the year.

–Shayne Schroeder