Barriers to Institution-Wide Diversity and Inclusion

Office of Equity and Diversity
January 2015
Report on the Barriers to Institution-Wide Diversity and Inclusion

Given the events of the past semester and the current focus on climate for our students of color and other marginalized groups on campus, it seemed an appropriate time for the Associate Provost for Equity and Diversity and the Director for Equal Employment Opportunity and Affirmative Action to share our perspective on institution-wide diversity and inclusion efforts and the challenges we face in promoting change across the organization.  It is our hope that this document can be shared broadly with concerned constituents and serve to inform future discussions of the steps Colgate will take to promote a more welcoming and inclusive environment for all members of our community.

Institutional Barriers to Diversity and Inclusion (D&I):
1.      While Colgate’s organizational chart reflects six divisions, these divisions do not fully reflect the true number of areas empowered to determine how they will operate, perform, and make decisions in an independent and distinct manner.  For example, under the Dean of the Faculty, athletics, university libraries, information technology, and the academic faculty all serve as independently operating areas.  The academic faculty further sub-divide into independent and distinct departmental units, while inter-departmental committees (under the faculty governance structure) control curriculum, pedagogy, and aspects of faculty development.  The Dean of the College Division, Finance and Administration, and Institutional Advancement also contain several distinct areas within the division.  The number of independently operating areas far exceeds the number typical of an organization of this size.  This structure impacts institutional diversity and inclusion in the following ways: 
a.      Overlap and Gaps.  Recently, Dean of the College Suzy Nelson proposed a rubric for institutionalizing diversity, equity, and inclusion at Colgate.  This rubric (“Rubric for Assessing Institution-Wide Diversity, Equity and Inclusion” (Diaz & Kirmmse) outlined six dimensions:  Philosophy and Mission; Administrative Leadership and Institutional Support; Faculty Support and Involvement; Curriculum, Pedagogy, and Research; Student Support and Involvement; and Staff Engagement and Involvement.  Across the six dimensions, multiple efforts from several distinct divisions focus in more or less limited fashion on two of the dimensions: student support, and faculty support and involvement.  The remaining dimensions are largely untouched (except by those “designated” as D&I personnel) and unsupported.  In sum, the majority of institutional effort focuses on narrow aspects of two out of six of the diversity, equity, and inclusion dimensions.
b.      Decentralization.  Each distinct area manages and controls their diversity and inclusion efforts.  Checks and balances do not exist within this decentralized model and the institution lacks cohesion in these efforts. As a result:
                                   i.      each distinct area may opt in or out of D&I efforts without an external structure to hold any one area accountable (either for electing to opt out or for ineffectively opting in);
                                 ii.      each area may define diversity and inclusion;
                               iii.      each area may measure success and competence;
                                iv.      there is limited or no linkage between diversity and inclusion efforts.
c.       Lack of placement or presence at key junctures.  The Office of Equity and Diversity (OED) is often excluded from decisions, initiatives, and programming that impact diversity and inclusion.  When members of the OED are included, they are not inserted from the beginning of the effort to the end, and their participation is oftentimes regarded as intrusive. 
Taken together, these issues create major stumbling blocks for institutional advancement of D&I.  Systemically, the organization lacks individual/organizational will in addition to any incentive and accountability structures to effectively support D&I.  Within a highly diffuse decision-making structure, initiatives often rely upon political or social capital to advance.  Therefore, to advance D&I requires broad support for an unpopular initiative that lacks presence and structural support in critical areas, that lacks the ability to withstand organizational retaliation against change efforts, that requires the voluntary relinquishment of power, and that fundamentally alters practices that have been in place for decades.   
2.      Over the course of the past semester, we have been engaged in productive dialogue regarding campus climate for students on this campus.  Unfortunately, campus climate for faculty and staff remained largely absent from these discussions.  Yet climate for students must be viewed as inextricably linked to climate for faculty and staff.  What is learned derives its meaning from the context in which it is learned.  If global, historical and cultural learning occurs only within the detached and unique context of the classroom, without a complementary extra-curricular experience of inclusion, this learning remains subject to the distortions associated with the transition from the academic to the real-world setting.  We find the insidious aspects of campus climate for students to be rooted deeply within the institution itself.  As a result, analysis of campus culture from an employment perspective bears relevant impact upon campus culture for our student population. 
From a diversity and inclusion perspective, it might be said that the true measure of organizational culture is reflected in how the organization treats its most vulnerable members.  At Colgate, the most vulnerable members of the organization are junior faculty, persons from historically underrepresented groups, new hires, and staff members who lack positional authority.  Colgate’s culture from this perspective reflects the following characteristics:
a.      Resistance to change and new ideas.  The “Colgate Way” may best be summarized by the phrase, “We’ve always done it this way.”  The very definitions of “success” and “excellence” are predicated on preservation of the status quo. New ideas fall on deaf ears and often are excluded from relevant decision-making processes. When individuals attempt change or identify problems, the interplay between individual, group, and organizational dynamics work to elicit conformity or to isolate and expel the individual.  As a result, Colgate represents a monoculture that lacks the innovative benefits of different perspectives.
b.      Whisper Campaigns.  The culture permits anonymous, one-sided, personal attacks and vague accusations that are almost impossible to confirm or deny. Opinion is presented as fact, inferences and assumptions are left unchecked, conclusions are accepted without factual verification, and this tactic becomes an informal basis for subjective evaluation. These campaigns serve to call into question the expertise and job performance of an individual who does not share the dominant perspective or who has disagreed with someone on a work-related issue.
c.       Lack of Accountability. There is currently no way of holding employees accountable for workplace bullying and micro-aggressions, and there is little opportunity for redress when such incidents occur.  The result is that the targeted individuals are particularly vulnerable and either quit or are fired.  While our Equity Grievance Policy states that we want to address workplace issues proactively before they rise to the level of illegal discrimination or harassment, our standard for conduct is based on the legal definitions rather than on a higher expectation of employee conduct.
3.      There is a pressing need for significant reform to key policies and practices.  Our hiring process relies upon highly subjective criteria and lacks any mechanism by which to hold search committees and departments accountable for deficiencies in the hiring process as well as underrepresentation.  Departments rely upon the same, often non-diverse, individuals to hire across the institution.  Efforts to implement change in the hiring process are met with significant resistance and obstruction. 
The performance review process also relies upon subjective evaluation and promotes a narrow understanding of excellence.  It incentivizes the status quo without safeguards against implicit bias.
It is important to note that there are two interconnected initiatives currently underway at Colgate that have the potential to substantially impact the recruitment and retention of staff of color: the institution-wide job description project that is nearing completion, and the job performance management process that will grow out of the job description project. These projects will play a critical role in the development of an accountability structure that can significantly impact necessary changes to campus culture. Colgate will not realize the full potential of these initiatives without an accurate understanding of the organization as it exists and the effective implementation of these accountability standards. 
4.      Since the passage of our nation’s civil rights laws, overt, conscious discrimination and harassment have largely been supplanted by subtle, interactive, and structural bias.  In 2015, we understand that discrimination operates despite an honest belief in equality.  As a result, it is important to address discrimination and harassment with policies and practices that identify and address present day realities.  At present, many key stakeholders operate under an outdated understanding of discrimination and harassment.  The below listed examples illustrate areas in which the institution has the opportunity to advance a more progressive understanding of harassment and discrimination.  These examples are intended to be illustrative, not comprehensive.
a.      Minimize subjectivity in decision-making processes.  When subjectivity cannot be avoided, decision-makers involved in subjective or discretionary practices must engage in conversations or training regarding bias. In addition, (whenever practicable) external review of decisions and/or decision-making processes should be conducted.  In the employment context, Colgate must work to reduce the application of subjective criteria in hiring, promotion, and performance evaluation processes.  In the student context, Colgate must analyze disciplinary procedures for points of discretionary authority. 
b.      Analyze for disparate impact whenever practicable.  Institutional effectiveness must include analysis of how institutional practices impact various subsets of the Colgate population (students, faculty, and staff).  When quantitative analysis is not feasible, qualitative information should be gathered and considered.  In the employment context, Colgate must expand quantitative analysis to compensation, performance management, and promotion decisions.  In the student context, Colgate must identify areas (e.g. funding from the student budget allocation committee) for analysis.
c.       Address hostile environment.  Colgate must review its student policies to assess whether they adequately address conduct that contributes to hostile environment.  In addition, Colgate must consider the development and implementation of a code of conduct for faculty and staff.
d.      Recognize second-generation discrimination and harassment.  The Director for EEO/AA has conducted extensive research regarding “second-generation discrimination[1]” and is formulating a comprehensive approach to addressing discrimination and harassment.  In addition, the director has reviewed the Office of Civil Right’s response to bias-related claims filed under Title VI (prohibiting discrimination on the basis of race, color, and national origin in programs and activities receiving federal financial assistance) and is compiling a summary of institutional responses to these claims.  A review of this analysis may inform the institutional review of our non-discrimination and harassment policy, as well as the development of protocols/procedures for responding to bias incidents on campus and addressing discrimination and harassment in the workplace.


The attainment of a diverse and inclusive campus will not be possible without structural and cultural reform, a renewed understanding of discrimination and harassment, and authority to sufficiently empower the individuals engaged in this work. Institutional change on the scale required for meaningful progress on diversity and inclusion takes time. Engaging in initiatives without a proper foundation is counterproductive and can increase resistance and backlash. It is critically important to recognize that a 10-year plan is much more likely to achieve concrete, sustainable results than a 3-5 year plan that encourages quick fixes but does not address the underlying structural and cultural impediments. It must also be recognized that the goal of a truly diverse and inclusive campus climate is an aspiration, one that requires ongoing effort and regular revision of what it will look like. Following comprehensive D&I assessment and training of the President’s Staff and designated D&I personnel, senior administrators must work in collaboration with the Office of Equity and Diversity to ensure that all the dimensions of diversity, equity and inclusion are addressed within each division and that appropriate assessment mechanisms are in place. Each senior administrator must also work with the Office of Equity and Diversity to establish a working group (including key stakeholders) within their division to identify and evaluate current initiatives, determine implementation strategies for those awaiting implementation, and determine whether additional initiatives or efforts are necessary. Comprehensive change management is difficult and time-consuming; membership in these divisional working groups cannot be an added responsibility with no release time provided to do the work. Commitment to these shared goals must come from the highest level of the organization, along with the recognition that this is not a short-term project but an integral part of the institution’s day-to-day operations. This shared responsibility within and across each division of the university would provide the framework for sustained effort over time and accountability at all levels of the organization. Diversity and inclusion present a quagmire. We have heard the question, “How do we fix this?” numerous times throughout the community. The solution first requires a clear and accurate understanding of the problem in all its complexities, and must include all voices within the institution. We present this report in the hope that it can help us to better understand the problems the organization faces, so that we may effectively work together to achieve the diversity and inclusion we seek.

Respectfully submitted,

Marilyn D. Rugg
Associate Provost for Equity and Diversity

Tamala S. Flack
Director for Equal Employment Opportunity and Affirmative Action

[1] Second-generation discrimination and harassment:  manifestations of workplace bias are structural, relational, and situational.  Often this type of discrimination/harassment may only be visible in the aggregate.  The discrimination and harassment arises from social practices and patterns of interaction among groups that, over time, exclude non-dominant groups.  In contrast, first-generation discrimination and harassment manifests itself as overt, intentional, policies of exclusion or identifiable, discrete actions, of particular actors.  The current legal framework was constructed under first-generation manifestations, largely addresses only first-generation claims (with some advancement toward second-generation manifestations through disparate impact and hostile environment analysis), and for the most part does not/cannot address the realities of 21st century discrimination/harassment.  This inadequate legal framework largely informs how organizations/institutions and those charged with addressing harassment/discrimination understand, identify, analyze, and evaluate discriminatory/harassing conduct.  Moving beyond the "floor" to a more advanced approach considers both first-generation and second-generation manifestations.  This means, consideration of both organizational structures and practices that unreasonably enable the operation of discriminatory bias as well as the traditional evaluation of discriminatory decision-making of individual actors.  It also expands the application of disparate impact theory and hostile environment analysis. 

The above post does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the AAUP membership or that of its officers, nor does inclusion of the post on this website constitute an endorsement by the Colgate chapter of the AAUP.

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