History of the Office of Diversity and Inclusion

(excerpt from A Way Forward: Report of the President's Task Force on Diversity and Inclusion)

In 2012, the Harper College Board of Trustees and the president established as an institutional priority the involvement of the entire institution in assessing and evaluating the College's performance by means of key indicators, called Institutional Effectiveness Measures (IEMs). These measures align with the mission and vision of Harper College as well as the needs and expectations of the College's internal and external stakeholders. The institutional effectiveness activities at Harper College measure the quality of the institution in eight categories, one of which is the diversity of its employees.

Board members wanted to convey to both the College’s employees as well as district residents that they value diversity, are aware of the changing demographics of the district, and are committed to having the demographics of our employee base represent the diversity in the district. While targets were established for the other IEMs, the College was challenged, for a variety of reasons, to reach consensus on setting targets for the IEM on diversity.

As a result, a series of candid and revelatory conversations took place in 2012 with members of DREAM, Diversity Committee, Human Resources Committee, and the president's cabinet, leading President Kenneth Ender to conclude that the time had come to bring renewed attention to matters of diversity and inclusion and to set an IEM for employee diversity at Harper College. In the summer of 2012, Dr. Ender tasked twelve faculty and staff members with determining how to make these considerations an institutional priority so that movement would not remain flat.

The president charged the task force to:

  1. examine the current attitudes and beliefs across employee communities of Harper related to race, equity, and inclusion—specifically, to engage the College in an institutional survey on diversity, equity, and inclusion, and report the findings of the survey to the president; 
  2. examine the best practices of the most recent recipients of the "College Equity Award" of the American Association of Community College Trustees (ACCT) or other institutional models and make recommendations to the president regarding programs the College should engage to improve the awareness, understanding, inclusion and celebration of a diverse community; and
  3. recommend to the President the desired goal for an Institutional Effectiveness Measure on Diversity, and outline a plan, timeline and budget for achieving that goal.

Over the course of the 2012–2013 academic year, task-force members reviewed key Human Resources and institutional data on employee hiring, resignation, and turnover patterns, as well as Higher Learning Commission report recommendations on diverse employee hiring. The team divided its work into two subcommittees: one on assessment, the other on best practices. The work of the former led to the adoption of the Cultural Values Assessment (CVA) to assess issues of climate that related to diversity/inclusion across employee sectors.

While the CVA demonstrated remarkable alignment for personal, current, and desired cultural values across all employee groups, diverse employees tended to be more likely to single out limiting values such as discrimination, blame, isolation, and internal competition. These findings were supported by focus-group and campus feedback sessions.

What emerged was the portrait of an institution poised for transformation. To facilitate this forward momentum, the task force envisioned a path that begins with the hiring of a senior-level Chief Equity and Inclusion Officer (CEIO) empowered to move Harper's diversity and inclusion initiatives forward. The task force outlined a new IEM that was both aspirational and achievable in its phased approach and emphasis on hiring (diversity) and retention (inclusion) of diverse employees, particularly within faculty and administrative categories, where Harper stands to realize the most significant appreciable gains.

 

Afterward

Since 2012, Harper has made great progress. There have been two Special Assistants to the President for Diversity and Inclusion: Michelé Smith (2013–2016) and Pearl Ratunil (2016–2019).  The Diverse Faculty Fellows program has mentored and developed 8 young professionals into community college teaching, and Harper has been recognized with three awards:

Insight into Diversity - Higher Education - Excellence in Diversity Award 2017       Insight into Diversity - Higher Education - Excellence in Diversity Award 2017

Recipient of the 2017 and 2018 INSIGHT into Diversity Higher Education Excellence in Diversity (HEED) Award

2017 Equity and Diversity Award – Illinois Community College Trustees Association

2017 Central Region Equity Award – American Community College Trustees Association