In fall 2015, numerous racially charged incidents at the University of Missouri (MU) and on other campuses motivated more than 100 Stony Brook University students to rally in support of the MU students protesting racial inequality. They were joined by President Samuel L. Stanley Jr. and other administrators. Afterward, the students asked the President for a meeting to discuss race on campus. The ensuing conversation kicked off a year of ongoing dialogue coupled with the development of a multifaceted diversity plan and the beginning stages of its implementation.
The Stony Brook University Plan for Equity, Inclusion and Diversity encompasses a broad definition of diversity with a focus on race, ethnicity, age, gender, religion, ability, veteran status, socioeconomic level and sexual orientation. It builds on a strong foundation of attention to inclusion at all levels. What is different about this Diversity Plan, said Tim Ecklund, assistant vice president for student affairs and dean of students, is that it started with the voices of students.
“They talked to us about their experiences as students of color on our campus,” he said. “We listened to this incredible gift they gave to us to tell us what their lived experience was, and out of that conversation the President and others heard it as a call to action.”
Judith Greiman, chief deputy to the President and vice president for government and community relations, agreed that the students were key drivers of the Plan. “The Black Student Union members were strong leaders and urged us to take significant steps to improve the climate on campus. Of further significance is the fact that this is something that President Stanley is passionate about. He has walked every step of the way on this Plan. It requires a significant amount of buy-in, and he’s made it clear to his leadership team that this is important to him, to our students and to the University.”
President Stanley said, “This is a keystone of my presidency. It is important to me that we foster a culture of respect and appreciation of our individual differences in the context of our shared academic, health and research missions. Stony Brook is a community in which all are welcome and encouraged to share ideas, collaborate with and learn from one another and become the best they can be.”
What emerged from that initial meeting last fall was an extensive set of conversations with many groups of students, faculty and staff. This resulted in a Plan organized around four overarching goals: to improve the diversity of the Stony Brook community through enhanced recruitment and retention; to expand educational, research, healthcare and other efforts to ensure that students are able to thrive on campus and as global citizens in a diverse society; to support the development of a campus climate that values diversity, equity and inclusion and promotes everyone’s ability to flourish and achieve their individual goals; and to establish a culture of accountability and assessment around diversity and inclusion initiatives and policies.
This is a campus plan, not my plan,” said President Stanley. “We are working together to make Stony Brook a more welcoming community for all.
While this is a living document, the focus now is on implementation. Greiman said, “It’s different from past plans because its reach is broad and there is focused attention being paid to the implementation process. We have an advisory council representative of many groups on campus, as well as eight working groups and a steering committee that holds the ultimate responsibility for prioritizing projects and funding and clearing obstacles.”
One key need that students identified was training to uncover hidden bias in the classroom. In response, Robbye E. Kinkade, clinical assistant professor in the School of Health Technology and Management and the School of Medicine, has been brought on as project director of the R.E.D.I. (Responding to Equity, Diversity and Inclusion) initiative. This bias-awareness training for faculty and staff is already underway.
Updates on Plan implementation will be provided on a regular basis via the website and twice
yearly forums. For more details, visit stonybrook.edu/diversityplan.