The President's Task Force on Diversity Education was formed in the aftermath of protests that took place in Ferguson, Missouri in fall 2014. The 34-member Task Force was comprised of students, faculty and staff at Southeast Missouri State University who collaborated to devise strategies to strengthen diversity education and enhance the cultural competence of the University community. The Task Force was initially formed by the president to consider the underlying issues that led to the protest events in Ferguson and elsewhere; and to make recommendations to improve diversity education at Southeast. A final report and recommendations of the Task Force were shared with Administrative Council, a representative body of the university's faculty, staff, and students, on December 22, 2015. The council discussed prioritization of the recommendations and endorsed the report.
It is the vision of the Task Force that, "Southeast Missouri State University will be a campus community where individuals from all backgrounds will feel welcomed, respected and included and where our campus community engages in best practices to promote cultural competence and inclusion in all aspects of our work."
Diversity Task Force Progress Report
On January 27, 2016, President Carlos Vargas and members of the task force participated in two open forums to share the final report and recommendations. Students, faculty, staff, and community members were invited to provide feedback on the report as well as suggestions for its implementation.
On Friday, February 26, 2016, the final report, and recommendations of the President's Task Force on Diversity Education were shared at the Board of Regents' meeting. Dr. Debbie Below, co-chair of the Task Force, presented an overview of the summary and final recommendations of the report, indicating how important the work of the Task Force was in identifying, addressing, and engaging not only the Task Force members, but the overall University community in conversations around best practices in promoting cultural competence and inclusion in all aspects of the academic experience. Diversity Task Force members, including co-chair Dean Morris Jenkins, Bruce Skinner, Hamner Hill, Sonia Rucker, Brady Barke and Kevin Windham were introduced and commended for their assistance and participation in this project.
Dr. Below shared next steps including plans for the Executive Staff to begin a review the final report and recommendations in more detail beginning March 31, 2016. The final report contains nine general recommendations that are supported by 39 specific recommendations. President Carlos Vargas indicated the importance of having each member of the Executive Staff consider the recommendations carefully and to offer additional thoughts, insight, and suggestions in support of this effort. In early April, members of the Diversity Task Force and the Executive Staff will come together in a joint meeting to confirm and if needed, to clarify, the intent of the recommendations, giving each one due consideration and investigating the best possible paths for establishing attainable timelines for successful implementation of the final recommendations.
The Board commended the work of the Task Force members and Dr. Vargas' leadership, indicating their support and commitment in moving Southeast Missouri State University forward as a community which is committed to providing a student-focused, culturally responsive learning environment that promotes inclusion, diversity, and equity throughout all aspects of the University community.
On April 30, 2016, the spring meeting of the Southeast Alumni Association Board of Directors will be held in the Kem Statuary Hall of the Wehking Alumni Center. Dr. Debbie Below and Sonia Rucker are scheduled to present an overview of the final report and recommendations of the Task Force Report. The Alumni Board members will be invited to provide input and feedback on the report as well as indicate any relevant next steps pertaining to alumni participation in successfully implementing the recommendations.
On July 19, 2016, Dr. Vargas approved and appointed members to the University Equity and Inclusion Committee, one of the University’s current standing committees under the Administrative Council. On August 18, 2016, the Administrative Council approved a proposal to revise the name, charge, and membership of the University Equity Issues Committee to the Equity and Inclusion Committee. This Committee will report to the President and will be co-chaired by Ms. Sonia R. Rucker, Coordinator of Institutional Equity & Diversity, and Dr. Hamner Hill, Professor of Philosophy and Religion and Chair of the Department of Political Science, Philosophy and Religion. The members of the President’s Task Force on Diversity Education recommended that this standing committee be utilized to monitor institutional progress toward the goals and recommendations set forth in the Final Report and Recommendations of the Diversity Task Force submitted on December 20, 2015. The University Equity and Inclusion Committee will play an integral role in further developing the University’s vision for the creation of a campus climate and culture which is inclusive, civil, engaged, and welcoming.
To ensure diversity and a broad representation of campus constituents who would be able to actively contribute and continue to provide guidance and thought leadership on these important matters, Dr. Vargas requested nominations from each college, CTS, Professional Staff Council, and representation from both the undergraduate and graduate student populations for appointment to this committee.