By SUSAN JONES
For Pitt’s Office of Diversity and Inclusion, creating “organizations within organizations” benefits not only the participants, but also the University.
The number of these affinity groups has been growing, largely because of ODI.
For instance, Pitt Queer Professionals was ODI’s idea, said Julie Beaulieu, former chair of the LGBTQIA+ affinity group. “It’s sort of compelling to think about the fact that, of course, faculty and staff feel the need, but that our ODI program has their ear to the ground when they’re thinking about things that Pitt doesn’t have, and then thinking, ‘Hey, it would be great idea if we had one of these?’ ”
She also said it gives people in the LGBTQIA+ community (or other affinity groups) who are considering a job at Pitt, a place to turn for answers to even basic questions
Currently, there are four active affinity groups on campus. In addition to PQP, there is the Chinese Affinity Group, Hispanic and Latino Professional Association and Equipoise, which focuses on black faculty and staff and has been around for several decades.
Women’s and veterans’ affinity groups are in the planning stage, and ODI also is looking to start a group for people with disabilities.
“In corporate America, there’s a similar big push to have these sort of organizations within organizations for a lot of different reasons,” said Pam Connelly, vice chancellor for diversity and inclusion. “It helps … their business”
She cited a case where an auto manufacturer formed a young parents’ group, which would then review car designs and give feedback on what did and didn’t work for families.
“It is good for your business to get diverse perspective,” she said. “And it’s the same with us. For academic excellence, we have to be hearing all perspectives and voices.
“There are other components to it, as well. There’s a social component to it for people. There’s often an advocacy component, and that can manifest in small and large ways. It can be, ‘We think we need a broader policy about X,’ or it could be, ‘My friend Carlos had an issue with his new supervisor. Is there any way you can help?’ ”
Connelly said working with these groups is extremely helpful for ODI, because they provide information about each community, help assess priorities and help ODI “keep our pulse on sort of the overall climate.”
“Sometimes we’ll hear things before they get bigger. And then … it’s affirming because later you’re like, ‘yeah, we’re on that, we’re working on it.’ ”
“The point of having a faculty/staff affinity group is that (if) upper administration has a question about some kind of new policy change that might, in fact, impact LGBTQ people, now, there’s a direct pathway to a group of people. They have an email list and they have contacts,” Beaulieu said.
If issues arise from the affinity groups that deal with University policy, Connelly said her office can help facilitate discussions around the topic, like it did during the move to rename Parran Hall.
Moving forward, Connelly said, “We’re open to wherever the need might exist (for more affinity groups).”
If you have an idea for a new affinity group, contact the Office of Diversity and Inclusion. ODI has produced a PDF handout about affinity groups and an Affinity Groups Flyer.
Susan Jones is editor of the University Times. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-624-4894.