Diversity Task Force Begins Work on Campus Climate

Diversity Task Force Begins Work on Campus Climate

By Alexis BlueUniversity Relations - Communications
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The UA's new Diversity Task Force met for the first time on Tuesday to discuss how it will start to tackle a variety of issues related to diversity and inclusion on the UA campus.

UA President Ann Weaver Hart announced last week the formation of the task force, which is charged with helping to build a more diverse and inclusive University community.

The task force is specifically focused on feedback received from two "listening tours" with UA students, which were conducted by Hart and the Faculty Senate this academic year, as well as a demand letter drafted this semester by students calling on the University to address several concerns.

"We're going to really try to stay action-oriented," said Tannya Gaxiola, UA assistant vice president for community relations and chair of the UA Diversity Coordinating Council, who co-chairs the Diversity Task Force with Bryan Carter, associate professor of Africana studies, and Javier Duran, professor of Spanish and border studies and director of the UA Confluencenter for Creative Inquiry.

"The idea is going to be really to look at proposing solutions to those issues that were raised by the students. … Those solutions may involve changes in priorities, funding, et cetera," Gaxiola said.

About 40 people, including UA students and employees, attended the two-hour meeting in Old Main's Silver and Sage Room. They began discussions of how the task force will be structured in order to elevate ideas to actionable items for consideration by University leadership.

The task force plans to form eight subcommittees with these initial focus areas: the classroom experience; admissions and financial aid; health and wellness; faculty and staff diversity; cultural competency training; space and facilities; student experience; and student support, which will encompass services such as advising and campus cultural centers.

The subcommittees will meet independently, then bring their ideas to the larger task force. The task force co-chairs will then take ideas to University leadership for consideration.

Gaxiola urged task force members to think in terms of short, medium and long-term solutions – changes that can be implemented in the next few months, by next semester, or by this time next year or later.

Some solutions will be straightforward, she said. For example, the Office of Admissions has already begun revamping its New Student Orientation in response to student feedback requesting that campus diversity and inclusion be spotlighted as core UA values from the moment a student sets foot on campus.

Others solutions will be more complex and take more time, Gaxiola said.

Task force members also discussed how to build trust with students, after several students in attendance talked about a lack of trust in the University to implement the changes they want to see.

"This process should absolutely include students and we should be student-centered, but the students aren't going to drive the process; the students have done a whole ton of work already to get us to this point," Gaxiola said.

"Those of us who work here – it's our job to tackle these issues, so we're going to make sure we're including the students and that we're communicating with the students appropriately and keeping them involved. … But the work of the task force needs to actually be driven by the faculty and staff who work here," she said.

More than 20 UA entities are represented on the Diversity Task Force, including campus cultural centers and student and employee governance groups. A full list of those entities, as well as the names of individual task force members, is available at diversity.arizona.edu. Those interested in participating on the task force can send an email to Gaxiola at tannya@email.arizona.edu.

A second Diversity Task Force meeting will be scheduled before the end of April, Gaxiola said. Information on that meeting and all future Diversity Task Force meetings can be found at diversity.arizona.edu. All meetings are open to the public.

You can read more about the Diversity Task Force in this Lo Que Pasa Q&A with task force co-chairs Gaxiola and Carter.

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