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EDI Message to Campus

My reflections concerning Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion encompass a kaleidoscope of observations and sensitivities. I was appointed Vice – Chancellor for Administration on October 2, 2020. Shortly thereafter, I began attending Anti-Racism Task Force (ARTF) meetings. 

What struck me at once was the overall tenor of the ARTF meetings and how the participants were trying to forge ahead on goals and outcomes that at times, resulted in gut-wrenching discussions for some task force members. The level of tension, in my view, was very high. Nevertheless, we forged ahead and gradually reached a modicum of understanding based on self-reflection, readings, storytelling, factual events at SIUE, and current – sensational and invidious racist incidents occurring in the United States and on our campus. 

Having worked at SIUE since 1997, no initiative of this size (ARTF) focusing on issues of racism has ever been tried. During my first years at the university, there were several negative experiences that I could discuss but are beyond space limitations for this short reflection note. Suffice it to say that over the last 22 years, I have seen the good, bad, and very ugly during times when racism within SIUE was never seriously discussed. When diversity issues were addressed, they appeared to be Pro-forma punch lines that were more symbolic than substantive.   

Regardless, I was hopeful that in an academic institution, equality, inclusion, and diversity would be axiomatic. Unfortunately, this was not the case in many instances. Nevertheless, there have been some positive experiences ranging from the formation of new friendships to very constructive professional collaborative experiences with white, black, Asian, Hispanic, and others from different racial and ethnic backgrounds. These types of confounding experiences have created for me, a challenging paradox. On the one hand, the elements and vestiges of racism and inequality still seem to raise their ugly heads, juxtaposed with some positive EDI initiatives and professional interactions. So, I am pleased that SIUE has now made a conscious effort to become more diverse and address equity and inclusion issues thoughtfully and resolutely. And, in my estimation, EDI includes not just African Americans but a plethora of other groups whose experiences and voices are not readily heard, discussed, and acted upon.    

Unfortunately, like everyone, I carry a significant amount of social baggage that has in part, framed my view of the institution and the people who work in it. My perspectives on EDI are influenced to some extent by being born in the early 1950s and experiencing first-hand struggles within the Civil Rights Movement during the 1960s, and growing up in highly segregated St. Louis, Missouri. This includes significant - difficult and often violent interactions with white people in my lifetime. 

However, what I find troubling to some degree, represents a significant challenge; specifically, the struggle to constructively collaborate and build relationships that are required to effectuate both short and long-term EDI goals. In my opinion, it serves no meaningful good purpose to “attack” white colleagues when they have not been afforded time to “catch up” with the scope and magnitude of institutional racism if we are serious about building relationship coalitions and invoking policies to address systemic institutional racism. It also serves no meaningful purpose for white colleagues to trivialize the importance of these efforts. Admittedly some white colleagues may have no intention of trying to catch up, or even embrace what we are trying to accomplish. Yet, this does not mitigate our collective obligation to promote understanding and collaborative sustained effort.  

I know many people reading this will not agree with my assessment and I understand that completely. But I do recognize profoundly from my past and current working experience with various groups that directly address racism such as the NAACP, ACLU, Anti-Defamation League (ADL), and the U.S. Attorneys Hate Crime Task Force, just to name a few, that relationship building is critical for effectuating positive change.  

I would also caution that while I fully agree with and embrace “the urgency of now” it is important to remember that deconstructing racism requires long-term collaborative efforts and support. Within SIUE specifically and the SIU system generally, we now appear to have considerable support for addressing equality, diversity, inclusion. I do not want to lose that support due to intemperance and misguided recriminations when we are on the cusp of positive changes.  

Let no one doubt that the path SIUE is taking to address EDI challenges is a difficult one that is long overdue. But it is the one most consistent with the words and principles enunciated in our mission statements to which we like to pay great fealty, but often have difficulty realizing in the diverse lives of many people at this institution.    

In my view, a major EDI challenge at SIUE concerns changing intractable, and to some degree, monolithic cultures. I have often used the analogies of trying to turn a battleship in shallow water or bending granite. The level of resistance at times seems to be staggering, but there have been positive changes with more forthcoming. So, in my view what has occurred thus far, is a very positive-aspirational first step. Considerable work is in front of us and history will be the final judge of our deeds. 

Within the VCA areas of responsibilities, much of what is listed below elucidate past, current, and continuing efforts. Yet, considerably more EDI-focused work is needed that addresses areas where African Americans and others have been traditionally locked out.   

Human Resources

  • The Director of Human Resources regularly participates and contributes as a member of the ARTF 
  • The Director of Human Resources regularly participates and contributes as a member of the University Diversity Council 
  • Development and implementation of an Exit Survey instrument (January 1, 2021)  
  • Modified EEP process to accentuate elements of EDI, career development, and supervisor feedback to be initiated Q’4 FY 21 
  • Developed training module for addressing biases in performance reviews rolling out Q'4 FY'21 
  • Developing reporting dashboard for analyzing demographic metrics associated with workforce census, retention, turnover, longevity, failed searches, and development 
  • Commitment to a comparative compensation study for staff 
  • Resources have been shifting towards more non-traditional recruiting platforms geared toward diverse job seekers 
  • Continuously checking policies, procedures, and collective bargaining agreement provisions where EDI updates are necessary 
  • Developing learning module for interviewing skills rolling out Q'4 FY'21 
  • HR Department will take part in training by June 30th 

Administrative Services

  • Added diversity to Records Management by employing an African American female (2021). 
  • Appointed an African American student as Vice-Chair of the Parking and Traffic Committee (2021). 

SIUE Police Department Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Initiatives & Accomplishments 

  • Chief of Police Mentors African American SIUE Students and continues to recruit and aid them through the law enforcement hiring process.   
  • The Chief has diversified the SIUE Police Department by hiring 9 Female Officers, 6 African American Officers, and 1 Asian American Officer (2018-2020). 
  • The Chief of Police has diversified the Oral Board Assessors for the Police Officer Testing Process. (In several instances the entire Oral Board of Assessors has consisted of all black assessors including Dr. Morris Taylor for many years, and assisted by Dr. Vanessa Brown in his absence, along with a black Major from the Illinois State Police) 
  • Command Staff are completing training. 
  • Chief Schmoll received the NAACP Community Service Award from the Edwardsville NAACP Chapter during the 2018 banquet and continues his efforts in these regards 
  • Many SIUE police department policies and mission statements have equity, diversity, and inclusion built into the policy manual. These policies and procedures are reviewed and evaluated on a going basis to ensure their efficacy.   

Facilities Management

The construction target for the Business Enterprise Program (BEP) is 30%, 10% more than the State of Illinois goal. This goal is routinely achieved. 

  • FM maintains a diverse workforce up to and including management that encompasses gender, LGBTQI, religion, ethnicity, age, ADA, and veteran status. 
  • Senior management includes representatives from each of these diverse groups. FM ensures its hiring committees are diverse and reflect the candidate pool. Efforts to reach potential candidates extend to advertising positions in both industry-specific publications and alternate locations to ensure the widest candidate pool. 
  • The FM director has an open-door policy and is available to various constituencies across the campus including administrative staff, faculty, and students. Over the last year, we have made ourselves available to diverse groups across all three campuses.  
  • FM continues to look at ways of promoting EDI initiatives as they relate to the built environment across all three campuses. In addition to multiple ADA improvements across the campuses over the last few years, the new health sciences building will have a lactation room that will complement the wellness room at the MUC and facilities in the Student Fitness Center.