Cultivating a campus climate that welcomes people of all backgrounds is imperative for the work and the character of the University of Chicago. In the context of the ongoing national conversation about diversity and inclusion on campuses, we are writing to reaffirm the University’s strong commitment to progress on these fundamental issues.
Our community has taken important steps to address matters of diversity, inclusion, equity of treatment, and the campus climate, with increased focus in the past year. Much of this work has involved deep engagement of our students, faculty, staff, and members of our neighboring communities. Because many of these issues are cultural in nature, often with powerful historical roots, this broad engagement is necessary for making significant progress. As a community and an institution, we must recognize that we have much work to do, and recognize the importance of the work of the many individuals directly involved in these efforts.
Building an inclusive campus has many components, including the quality of our day-to-day interactions, the diversity of our student body, staff, and faculty, and the relationships with the community around us. An important initiative this year is the 2016 Campus Climate Survey, which will focus on diversity, inclusion, and the climate for underrepresented groups, including attention to issues of race and ethnicity. Multiple University offices and campus groups are working to craft this survey, which will inform our response to present and long-term challenges. Further information about this survey will be shared in the near future.
There are a number of relevant and important programs that have been recently launched and are moving toward full development. The recently launched No Barriers initiative has broadened access to the College through an expansion of scale and scope of financial aid and increased academic and career support, and led to significantly greater economic, racial, and ethnic diversity of incoming undergraduates. The College has also launched the Center for College Student Success, offering additional advising and increased resources with a focus on students from lower-income families, those who are the first in their families to attend college, and students who may be undocumented. To help foster diversity in our graduate student population, the University also will announce this month that it will be part of the C3 consortium, which creates pipelines to help students from underrepresented groups access graduate programs and continue into academic positions. In these and other contexts, the Center for Identity and Inclusion has been expanded to provide more support for students of diverse backgrounds. Faculty-led programs such as the Center for the Study of Race, Politics, and Culture contribute to engaged scholarship and collaborations that expand the study of race and ethnicity by our students and faculty. The Office of the Provost remains committed to its ongoing programs for increasing faculty diversity.
The Office of Civic Engagement has developed a wide range of community initiatives and partnerships that significantly strengthen our commitment to and engagement with the communities of the South Side. As examples, the Civic Leadership Academy and UChicago Local are two programs that work extensively with individuals from local government agencies, not-for-profit community organizations, and local businesses to increase the capacity of their organizations and hence their ability to advance local communities. For seven years, the Office of Business Diversity has led a distinctive and emulated program that has greatly increased the diversity of the University’s professional service providers, forming long-term collaborations with minority and women-owned firms on the South Side, and across the city and beyond. The Urban Education Institute and its work have had a major impact on the schooling of children from the South Side.
These programs are, on one hand, only examples of the University’s efforts today, and, on the other, only examples of what we might do going forward.
We are grateful for the ongoing work of the academic-focused Diversity Advisory Council, which is informing the campus climate survey and the University’s approach to developing a diverse faculty and student body, and the Diversity Leadership Council, which focuses on non-academic diversity issues in the workplace.
Each of us has a stake in this work, as individuals and as members of this particular institution. We cannot be complacent. As noted in our 2007 statement on diversity, inclusion has a particular and fundamental significance at the University of Chicago. The University can fulfill its highest aspirations of providing a rigorous and empowering education and the environment for unfettered thought, discourse, and research only by ensuring that people with diverse outlooks, backgrounds, experiences, and perspectives can thrive on campus. Our missions of discovery, education, and impact require not only diversity but embracing of diversity, so that all members of our community can contribute to their full potential and benefit in turn.
We are deeply grateful for the hard work that has already been undertaken, and to our faculty, students, and staff, who have worked over the years to bring attention to and make progress on these issues, and to our alumni whose support has made many existing programs possible. While a great deal has been accomplished, much work still lies ahead, and we look forward to taking additional steps on these issues. Thank you for your dedication to continuing to strengthen our community.
Robert J. Zimmer
President, The University of Chicago