President Alison Byerly sent the following message to the College community on Dec. 15.
For some time, the Lafayette community has been engaged in ongoing conversations about how to be successful in building a positive climate for all members of the campus community. This semester has been a very active time for these discussions, as demonstrated by conversations held just this past week with groups of students who have raised specific concerns that they would like to see addressed.
We have had some successes, and we have identified many areas where we have important work to do. As we move toward an expansion of the student body that will make us an even more diverse campus, a critical element of our planning will be to assess where we need to focus our efforts.
A critical component of developing strategies to fully support diversity and inclusion is developing an objective understanding of the current campus climate. We conducted such a survey in 2010, and we plan to launch a campus climate survey in the coming year
In the meantime, we are writing now to inform you of new and ongoing initiatives with respect to diversity and inclusion here at Lafayette, including steps taken as a result of the earlier survey. You can find more information on these and related matters at the college’s new diversity website, https://diversity.lafayette.edu/. This website should allow for greater transparency and accountability as we continue to track our progress in these important areas.
As you may know, we are in the process of hiring a new Dean of Equity and Inclusion to succeed John McKnight. Among many other duties, the successful candidate will work closely with our Student Support Task Force that consists of students, faculty, and staff who are examining ways in which Lafayette can better support new students, especially first-generation students or those from traditionally marginalized backgrounds. Topics of exploration include enhanced academic advising and mentoring, and help in making the adjustment to college.
As the College looks to grow the number of faculty by almost 20 percent, we have announced a program of “strategic” or “opportunity” hiring. The goal is to add faculty positions that have an impact on the strategic goals of the College, including recruiting more women in STEM fields and more members of underrepresented populations to positions in all disciplines. Three faculty appointments are expected to be made this year as a result of the program.
You may recall that during the summer, Dean of Students Paul McLoughlin invited members of the community who were on campus to participate in conversations about racism and classism, in sessions sparked by national incidents. This year’s New Student Orientation included a new program called Our Connected Community, in which Commons groups met to discuss the “Big 8 identities,” engaging in activities to understand their own and group identities, the power and privilege associated with group memberships, and how students can enact social change. The selection of this year’s first-year reading, Ta-Nehisi Coates’ Between the World and Me, signaled for our incoming students that talking about difficult issues is an expected part of the college experience. And those difficult conversations continued throughout and after an unusually divisive presidential campaign.
Diversity and inclusion at Lafayette are a work in progress. We offer our thanks to all of the student groups, faculty committees, administrative offices, and members of the community who are working together to help Lafayette become a more diverse, inclusive, and welcoming community for all.
Alison Byerly, President
Robin Rinehart, Dean of the Faculty and Chief Diversity Officer