Brown diversity and inclusion annual report highlights successes, next steps

In the three years since launching its strategic action plan, Brown has boosted student, faculty and staff diversity and implemented a wide range of initiatives in support of diversity and inclusion on campus.

PROVIDENCE, R.I. [Brown University] — In the three years since launching an ambitious plan to make all areas of University life more fully diverse and inclusive, Brown University has continued to progressively increase the number of faculty, staff and students from historically underrepresented groups (HUGs).

Additionally, Brown has designated more than 125 new and existing courses as ones in which students can engage in the classroom with topics related to race, gender and inequality, increased the number of student-facing staff who represent HUGs and continued to strengthen professional development for both faculty and staff around creating a diverse and inclusive university community.

These are a few among the many achievements highlighted in the third annual report on the University’s Pathways to Diversity and Inclusion action plan (DIAP). The report highlights efforts undertaken during the 2017-18 academic year and notes early outcomes in the 2018-19 academic year. It also outlines ways in which Brown will move forward in the upcoming academic year to continue to realize the vision the DIAP presents.

Launched in 2016, the DIAP sets forth concrete actions for achieving the more fully diverse and inclusive campus that is essential to the University’s core mission of education and discovery. Key goals include doubling the number of faculty members and graduate students from HUGs by 2022; creating learning environments where students and researchers can thrive in their fields of study; and bolstering Brown's impact on research and teaching focused on race, ethnicity and inequality around the globe.

The three-year mark is significant, said Shontay Delalue, the University's vice president for institutional equity and diversity.

“As a whole community, we have started off strong, and we want to make sure that great momentum continues,” Delalue said. “We now have the opportunity to see and understand what we are doing well and where we need to improve. The DIAP was created as a living document, and we have reached the point where we can review our original goals and update them according to what we’ve learned over the last three years of the initiative.”

Investing in people

The report highlights a range of initiatives aimed at recruiting faculty members from HUGs across all schools, departments and areas of study. Specific efforts have included reviewing and updating recruitment practices, implementing data-driven strategies for faculty searches, and enhancing training on unconscious bias for search committees. As a result, by fall 2018, the number of Brown faculty from HUGs had increased 34.4 percent since the release of the DIAP.

“Having a faculty that includes members from a range of historically underrepresented groups contributes to Brown’s excellence as an institution,” said Kevin McLaughlin, dean of the faculty. “It enriches the research and the teaching of our faculty and thus the quality of the education that we can offer to our students. Diversity also makes Brown a vibrant intellectual community that is informed by a variety of experiences and perspectives.”

Enrollment of graduate students from HUGs also continues to increase, the report notes. In fall 2018, 32 percent of incoming graduate students from the U.S. identified as members of HUGs. Among new doctoral students from the U.S., 31.5 percent identified as members of HUGs, which is the highest percentage to date and an increase of 18 percent from the previous academic year.

Similarly, in fall 2018, Brown’s Warren Alpert Medical School welcomed the most diverse incoming class of first-year medical students to date, with 26 percent identifying as students from groups underrepresented in medicine. The report notes modest increases in the number of first-year undergraduates from HUGs as well as in the total undergraduate population.

The representation of Brown staff members from HUGs was approximately 15.5 percent in fall 2018, an increase of nearly 20 percent from 2015. In student-facing departments such as academic and student support services, that increase has been more. Fifty-five percent of new staff in the Division of Campus Life, for example, identify as HUG. Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) continued to diversify its staff and to increase its capacity to offer services in different languages.

Curriculum and community

Central to Brown’s action plan is that a full commitment to diversity and inclusion on campus extends well beyond the composition of the University community. The DIAP outlined goals to develop, expand and enhance curricular and co-curricular offerings to enable students to engage in a deeper understanding of the complex dynamics of social inequity, exclusion and difference.

Among the strategies to achieve that goal was to create and clearly designate courses that center on these topics. This year’s annual report notes that with the process to determine which courses receive this designation approved in February 2017, 126 undergraduate courses were designated as DIAP Courses for the 2018-19 academic year. Reflecting the University’s commitment to integrating these topics across all fields of study, these courses ranged from Afro-Caribbean philosophy, to disparities in biomedical research, to race, class, gender and sexuality in theater performance, among many others.

“The creation of these courses — and the fact that there is such a large number of them in the first academic year since our designation was launched — demonstrates Brown’s commitment to fully engaging in classroom conversations around race and inequality,” Delalue said.

Separately, she noted that the development of department-level diversity and inclusion action plans by every academic and administrative unit at Brown has been instrumental in ensuring accountability and building a foundation for long-term success toward achieving the DIAP's goals.

A highlight of the departmental plans has been the increased participation of both faculty and staff in professional development opportunities, she said. In 2017-18, the Office of Institutional Equity and Diversity (OIED) supported a number of capacity-building activities around diversity and inclusion issues for staff and faculty. And the third annual Diversity and Inclusion Professional Development Day saw its largest attendance from faculty and staff to date.

In collaboration with University Human Resources, OIED also embarked on the development of an e-learning module on unconscious bias for faculty, students and staff. The faculty and staff modules were released in spring 2019.

Additionally, Brown launched the second University-wide climate survey conducted for students, faculty and staff, which gathered data about community members’ experiences related to diversity and inclusion at Brown. The results of the survey are currently being analyzed, and aggregate results will be shared in an online dashboard in the coming months.

The annual report also outlines funding raised and committed to date toward supporting DIAP goals. Through the University's BrownTogether comprehensive fundraising campaign, Brown has received $260 million in commitments for new faculty positions, approximately $65 million of which has supported the goal of hiring faculty from HUGs. An additional $45.5 million has been raised in support of DIAP initiatives that include student fellowships, research support, and diversity and inclusion programs.

Looking ahead

A focus in the upcoming academic year will be on the long-term retention of faculty from HUGS who were successfully recruited to Brown, Delalue said. Additionally, OIED will offer enhanced support to academic and administrative departments as they seek to evaluate and update their individual plans. The office will also analyze the recent climate survey to create strategies to improve climate and cultural competency across campus and within individual departments.

“We anticipate this assessment will provide useful information and guidance as to which actions and goals are progressing well and what areas need more careful attention,” Delalue wrote in a cover letter introducing the annual report. “It is my hope that these results will encourage departmental-level conversations regarding the DIAP stated goals of inclusive excellence and the actions needed to align with these values.”

In the coming weeks, Brown's Diversity and Inclusion Oversight Board, which is charged with assessing progress toward the stated DIAP goals, will offer a formal response to the annual report that includes recommendations on action items that should be emphasized during the plan’s continued implementation.