Summit, our strategic plan, calls us to:
Foster an inclusive campus community that embraces diversity and complexity, engages across differences with integrity and empathy, and participates actively in the life and governance of the College. The ways that we expect to achieve this goal are to:
- Reducing financial barriers for all students to access the full Trinity educational experience
- Enhancing resources to support an increasingly diverse community of students, faculty, and staff where all are welcome
- Developing learning opportunities, in collaboration with students, to advance cross-cultural understanding and bridge divides in the classroom, in student activities, athletics, and in residential communities
- Improving internal communications and strengthen governance structures to align with iterative institutional planning, increase collaborative engagement, and build trust among the Trinity community
In the last several years, we have made progress toward these goals and progress in creating a more inclusive community at Trinity – changes in the diversity of the student body, the senior administration, alumni groups, and the board of trustees are visible signals of some of the progress that we have made. Our campaign for community, campus programming around racial inequities, revised non-discrimination and sexual harassment policies, the integration of equity and inclusion practices throughout the faculty search process, and the creation of an incident response team are some of the policies and practices that signal our progress to become a more inclusive community.
Despite this progress, there are many signs that we have not yet become the inclusive community that we wish to be and that our campus climate requires further attention. Data from the recent survey of campus climate (spring 2019) show that our faculty members, staff, and students on average rate our campus climate and institutional support for diversity and equity lower than that at peer institutions. At the same time, an overwhelming majority of our faculty (94%), staff (94%), and students (83%) agree that diversity on campus improves experiences and interactions within the classroom, the workplace, and the overall community. The work before us is to bring this expressed value for a more diverse and inclusive campus into greater alignment with our actions.
What is clear is that we cannot move this institution forward without the collective will of the community. We must share responsibility and be willing to engage in difficult conversations, and we must act both individually and collectively to improve the campus climate.
Last year Trinity’s campus incident response team developed this definition of campus climate: the behaviors, interactions, attitudes, policies, practices, and language that shape and inform student, faculty, and staff experiences and perceptions of inclusion, belonging, and respect within the Trinity community.
To create change on Trinity’s campus and in the broader Trinity community, this task force is charged, over the next 18 months, with outlining steps that will improve Trinity’s campus climate. The activities of the task force should include, but are not limited to, the following:
- Review and comment on the action plans to reduce systemic racism that are being created by different constituent groups (due by the end of September 2020); determine gaps in the action plans and how to fill them
- Define specific metrics to monitor campus climate and an infrastructure for accountability
- Engage other governance and constituent groups to bring about needed change
- Determine the highest priorities for improving campus climate in the short-, medium- and long-term, over the next 5 years
- Create a plan to communicate our recommendations and findings to the broader community
Cultural change is an iterative process necessary to improve our campus climate. Cultural change is not easy, and it is not always fast, but it is urgent. Addressing systemic problems occurs with consistent and continual improvements both large and small, and building upon the successes of the past. This task force will be critical in identifying a road map of policies, practices, and outcomes that will create a more inclusive culture at Trinity. The task force will also promote the collective willpower and resolve to make us all accountable for the community we wish to be.
Respectfully submitted by:
Joanne Berger-Sweeney, President and Trinity College Professor of Neuroscience
Anita Davis, VP for Diversity Equity and Inclusion