University of Redlands Announces Planning Process to Address Diversity

Oct 14, 2020

The University of Redlands has started a process to develop a diversity and inclusion plan that will be ready by the fall of 2021.

This is a follow-up on a KVCR report about a group of alumni who started a boycott in June. They were demanding action to address institutional racism after Black Lives Matter protests swept the nation and the University president declared support for the cause.

The University of Redland’s Diversity and Inclusion Officer, Christopher Jones, said they started their institution-wide collaborative effort to develop a diversity, equity, and inclusion plan on September 28. The goal is to have a plan before the start of the next school year that addresses three areas.

“One is improving our campus climate," said Jones. "The second one involves increasing recruitment and retention among under represented faculty staff and students and the enhanced leveraging of the resources that we have towards the efforts of diversity, equity, and inclusion.”

Jones came to Redlands from Case Western Reserve University in Ohio where he had a similar role. He began his work at Redlands in February, just three months before the death of George Floyd sparked weeks of protests against systemic racism. The university has not said if the protests or alumni boycott have influenced plans.

“Where these kinds of plans often have difficulty is when they are very vague and very broad and people don’t really have an idea on whether it is useful or whether it’s helpful,” said Jones.

Which is why despite the planning goals being broad now, he says the final plan has to be made up of specific actions. They must be measurable to track success, and institutionalized, so that they are not dependent on one individual who may not always be around. Subcommittees of students, faculty, and staff will work to develop the action items for each goal.

“There is the commitment of the highest level of the university to make the types of changes that we need to make," said Jones. "So, what I hope to bring to the conversation is the leadership that allows us to be able to say, these are the things we need, these are the resources that we need. Let’s get these things done.”

A big factor on the timing of the plan’s release are the results of a campus-wide survey developed by the U.C.L.A. Higher Education Research Institute. Data will not be ready until late spring to early summer 2021. Jones said he hopes the survey will be repeated but no decision has been made yet about its frequency. He said the last survey was conducted no more than five years ago.

Three years ago is when Emma Wade graduated. She was one of a group of alum who helped lead a university boycott this summer. The group also gave the University a list of 17 steps to address systemic racism. 

“We've been here before," said Wade by email. "The University said they were making a strategic plan in 2016, yet here we are. There needs to be specific benchmarks the university must reach and specific next steps, in the event the university fails to accomplish those goals. The issue has never been that the University does not have ideals or hopes for future diversity and inclusion. The issue is that those goals are never actualized and fulfillment of the goals is aspirational, rather than mandatory. At the end of each strategic plan, the diversity and inclusion goals are unmet and the university says ‘oops’ before again adding the same goals to the next plan without any personnel or structural change, and repeating it all over again.”

Wade was part of a wave of student activism on the campus in 2015 and 2016 after a series of events led to student outrage over the treatment of Black and brown students on campus. But Jones says the institutional change will require more patience.

"This is an institution, that what it may have been in the past, it has taken steps to become a better institution today," said Jones. "Part of the reason why I am here is because of efforts that were done last year to take a look at the status of things on this particular campus.”

Initiatives that were implemented this summer include, the awarding of $50,000 in funding for projects that promote diversity and inclusion. A change to the university’s discrimination policy, to allow the office that investigates sexual harassment claims to investigate discrimination complaints. And, a summer faculty retreat that focused on an anti-racist approach to teaching and learning.