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Message from the Chief Diversity Officer

Dear University of Maryland community:

I am writing to you as the new Interim Associate Provost and Chief Diversity Officer (CDO), a role that I accepted on July 6, 2017. It is hard to imagine that two full months have passed. Today, I want to offer you my vision and the start of our action plan for the campus moving forward.

Just six weeks before I became CDO, 2nd Lieutenant Richard Collins III was murdered on our campus. We suffered grief, fear, and anger—and greater determination to see change. His death shook me; it was a turning point for me. A couple of weeks later, when President Loh and Provost Rankin asked me to step into this role, I sat quietly in contemplation near the bus stop where he was murdered, and I knew that my answer had to be "yes." Each time I have passed that space on our campus I think about his family—their loss, their pain, their grief. Although I have experienced my own personal loss, pain, and grief, I cannot know, I can only imagine, what the past three months have been like for them. I have a tremendous amount of sensitivity to keep his family and their wishes at the forefront of everything we do in his name, especially as we think about and plan memorial events and spaces on our campus. In everything we do, we must place their wishes first.

Then, only three weeks ago, the University of Virginia, the Charlottesville community, and the entire nation were confronted by another murder in the midst of a White supremacist rally. Although such blatant White supremacist rallies have not taken place on our campus, other racist, anti-immigrant, anti-Semitic, misogynistic hate incidents have occurred here in the recent past. Sadly, according to national experts, more cowardly forms of hate and bias incidents will likely happen on campuses all across the country—including our own.

We must now work together as a community—students, faculty, staff, administrators, and community members—to increase respect, inclusiveness, and cohesiveness on our campus. Together we must work to fight against hate and bigotry on our campus and more broadly in society. Our success will depend on how well we work together as partners in this work.

I am committed to working with you as we develop a course of action to strategically and methodically assess and improve the way we demonstrate inclusion and equity at UMD. Strong leadership paired with grassroots initiatives and broad participation will make our campus as safe and welcoming as possible. Together we can focus on the ways we can improve the climate, the ways we relate to each other on our campus, the ways we understand and appreciate differences on our campus.

We have an experienced group of staff, faculty, and students dedicated to the goals of diversity and inclusion. The university's leadership fully supports our ongoing work. We will receive the necessary resources to carry out new initiatives and chart our course of action, beginning with the following early, important steps:

Joint Task Force on Inclusion and Respect

This Task Force has been charged, the leadership has been announced, and the first two meetings have occurred. The membership is an inclusive group of students, faculty, staff, and alumni representing a broadly diverse set of constituents and social identities. I will serve as a member of the task force, working closely with the tri-chairs to advance the work, as well as serving on one of the subcommittees charged with getting the work done. Two of the key principles under which the task force will function are transparency and action.

Rapid-response campus team to assist victims of hate and bias on campus

Over the course of the summer, we convened a working group on Hate/Bias Rapid Response. That group has completed their initial work on reviewing the existing campus procedures and protocols about how hate and bias incidents are reported, who is notified, and how information becomes public. Next steps in this work will include the development of a rapid response team to assist victims of hate and bias on campus. We will have an action plan in place very soon for implementing this protocol.

New UMD Student Leadership Council for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

I have met with student leaders during the summer to begin planning for the formation of a new UMD Student Leadership Council for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion to help focus and improve collaboration between students and the administration at UMD. I plan to work through the fall to establish this group and begin periodic meetings thereafter. Agendas for our meetings and planned activities and initiatives for the Council will be student-driven.

President's Commissions on Disability, Ethnic Minority, LGBT, and Women's Issues

I have held individual meetings with the chairs of the four different President's Commissions throughout the summer to talk about ways they can be convened to work on common, unified initiatives intended to build capacity and cohesion on campus- wide diversity and inclusion efforts. I plan to meet in a joint session with the chairs of the commissions to begin building a common agenda for coordinated efforts.

Dialogue and discourse on diversity and inclusion

ODI will partner with other campus units to enhance existing and develop new programs focused on dialogue and discourse on diversityand inclusion. ODI will continue to provide leadership for the Words of Engagement Intergroup Dialogues program on campus. Responsibility for the Maryland Dialogues program will be transferred from the provost to the CDO, and we will utilize outside experts to provide workshops for facilitators of this program. We will work closely with the Teaching and Learning Transformation Center to enhance professional development for faculty engaging in difficult dialogues in the classroom across a wide range of topics related to diversity, inclusion, and equity. Finally, as CDO I will begin holding periodic dialogue sessions with faculty, staff, and students on campus.

New Center for Diversity and Inclusion in Higher Education

I am working with colleagues in the College of Education (and other campus units) to launch the Center for Diversity and Inclusion in Higher Education (CDIHE). The CDIHE will aspire to raise the stature and reputation of UMD as a national leader in higher education diversity and inclusion by serving as a magnet for top talent in the field and providing research to guide progress at UMD and nationwide.

Campus-wide external benchmarking and review of diversity and inclusion programs, activities, and resources

Programs, activities, and resources based in colleges, student affairs, academic affairs, administrative units, and ODI will be reviewed in order to assess and make recommendations about campus-wide organization, structure and resourcing of diversity and inclusion efforts that will align with President Loh's plan to elevate the CDO position to Vice President of Diversity and Inclusion. As CDO, I will work with colleagues on campus to prepare a self-study to be used by the external review team during their site visit. This exercise will also allow for benchmarking and adoption of best practices in the field.

Climate surveys

We will conduct campus climate research to help us better understand the lived experiences of students, faculty, staff, and administrators on our campus with respect to diversity, inclusion, equity, hate, bias, well-being, and belongingness. We plan to engage an external consultant soon to conduct the survey on the UMD campus. We will use the findings from this research to inform changes to our diversity strategic plan, and to create specific action steps that will help improve the campus climate for diversity.

Diversity strategic plan

We need to revisit the diversity strategic plan, especially given the changed circumstances on and off campus. Our work on revision to the strategic plan will be informed by the Joint Task Force, the campus-wide external review, and campus climate research, along with the voices of faculty, students and staff serving on the President's Commissions and the Student Leadership Council.

Black History and the University of Maryland: A Campus Landmark Walking Tour

The Office of Diversity and Inclusion, under the guidance of Dr. Kim Nickerson, Assistant Dean for Diversity in the College of Behavioral & Social Sciences, is in the process of developing a campus walking tour that focuses in on the historic and contemporary presence and contributions of African Americans to the physical and social infrastructure of the university. The walking tour is grounded in the complex histories of the institution and the State of Maryland - conveying the complexity of racial politics and slavery as it has impacted the state's flagship institution.

Shaping our future

I hold UMD to a higher standard precisely because of the arc of our history. Until the 1950s, UMD was a segregated campus, as were all Southern public universities. UMD became the first to integrate. The legal battles that led to this ultimately formed the basis for the landmark U.S. Supreme Court ruling that overturned the principle of "separate but equal" in education. Memories of that struggle remain vivid for those who experienced it and for their descendants. This living history should inform our path forward.

Diversity and inclusion is not someone else's concern. Each of us has a stake, some distinct social identity, whether religious, sexual orientation, social class, race or ethnic background.

Our pace will be swift, the path long. Meaningful cultural changes take time. Yet, we must understand expectations, especially by students, who want to see changes while they are here at Maryland. I know by experience that sometimes slow change feels like no change at all. In truth, these changes have already begun. Our task now is to accelerate them.

I am optimistic, both personally and professionally, that we will chart a path forward and create a campus community deeply rooted in equity, diversity, and inclusion.

This is community-wide work. I invite your participation, support, and assistance. Let's do it together as members of the same team.

Sincerely,

Roger L. Worthington
Interim Associate Provost and Chief Diversity Officer
Professor, Department of Counseling, Higher Education, and Special Education