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March 20, 2014

Senate Matters: Being more proactive

The Senate’s equity, inclusion, and anti-discrimination advocacy committee (EIADAC — formerly anti-discriminatory policies committee or ADPC) includes faculty, staff and students from across the University. We identify, make recommendations regarding, and monitor issues relating to equity, inclusion and respect for all members of the diverse University community.

This committee has a strong history of speaking out against discrimination and advocating for policy change. The change in the committee’s name reflects a desire to be more proactive regarding opportunities to improve equity and inclusion in University programs, policies and practices. The new EIADAC will gather information from a variety of sources in order to anticipate issues that may arise and take action to prevent the issues from developing at all, if possible. For example, we hope to have a presentation from Admissions about the changing demographics of the student body. This information would inform us about new or growing populations so that we could plan programs geared toward the inclusion of these populations within our community.

This year, the committee is using a new structure for conducting business that allows us to focus on multiple issues simultaneously. Based on perceived needs in the University community, we formed working groups, each focusing on a different population. The working groups currently are determining the most pressing issues for their target populations by gathering information from a variety of sources within and outside of the University. For example, one goal of the working group on “academic experience beyond midlife” is to examine perceptions of faculty, students and staff with advancing age and how these perceptions influence their engagement in the University community and academic advancement. Working groups also are identifying benchmark organizations, both academic institutions and local employers, to ascertain standard practices regarding the issues they are addressing.

It is the plan of the committee that when new University policies or practices are implemented, working groups will monitor their ongoing contributions to the wellness of the community. For example, lactation rooms were recommended by the gender discrimination initiatives subcommittee of ADPC and implemented by the University in 2009. Currently, the working group on gender equity, inclusion and discrimination is planning to review the maintenance, location and use of the rooms to ensure that the initiative best serves its intended audience.

As the working groups progress, they will report to the committee, relaying new information and making recommendations so that the committee can determine the best course of action. Outcomes will take the form of initiatives that educate the University community about and/or advocate for improved equity, inclusion and respect for faculty, staff and students. The committee envisions the working group structure will be dynamic in that different working groups will be active at different times depending on what issues seem to be the most in need of attention.

EIADAC’s primary goal is to contribute to the welfare of the University community.  We hope that the changes we are implementing within EIADAC will help us achieve that goal.

Ellen Ansell & Claude Mauk are co-chairs of EIADAC. Ansell is an associate professor in the School of Education; Mauk is director of the Less-Commonly-Taught Languages Center in the Department of Linguistics.