Building Toward Belonging
Est. reading time: 4 min. 31 sec.
Dear students, staff, and faculty:
Do you think and feel and believe you belong here?
It’s a serious question that has absolutely nothing to do with your academic and scholarly qualifications and everything to do with your academic, scholarly, and professional productivity and success. Inclusion doesn’t happen through a proclamation from on high. It happens when each of us, individually, can say “Yes, I belong here. This feels like home.”
So … Do you feel you belong here at the University of Kansas? I truly hope you do, and my team is working to ensure just that. Inclusion is such an important concept that, when properly cultivated, further reduces barriers and helps each of us succeed personally, professionally, and academically.
Vice Provost for Diversity & Equity Jennifer Hamer and her team are doing remarkable work to shape KU’s environment into one where all students, faculty, and staff can feel valued. The Diversity & Equity team — drawing upon the insights from KU’s Climate Study as well as assessment reports from the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Advisory Group — is making strategic changes designed to meaningfully enhance our environment. You may have seen some of the recent changes.
- We now have Community Table. The first Wednesday of every month during the fall and spring semesters KU community members are invited to a free lunch and casual conversation in Anschutz Library. All our academic units have agreed to support this endeavor, which last month served more than 300 individuals and provided a space for students, faculty and staff to engage and see each other as individuals, each worthy of our interest and support.
- The Center for Sexuality and Gender Diversity (SGD), previously a program coordinated through the Student Involvement & Leadership Center, now reports through Diversity & Equity. It’s long past time to acknowledge, elevate, and sustain the greater role and efforts the SGD plays on campus, providing outreach, information and support to and beyond our student population.
- The Diversity & Equity website is presently being revised and enhanced. In addition to more information on resources, the site includes a clearinghouse calendar for all diversity-related events and activities, as well as an interactive religious observance calendar to help students, faculty and staff visualize the breadth of spiritual traditions found on our campus.
- We are creating the Campus Equity and Implementation Committee with empowered representatives from each academic unit and major division from the Lawrence and Edwards campuses. The committee will serve as advisers to D&E as well as a network to each other. It will help develop campus-wide DEI-related protocols and policies that will be based on our existing reports, data and documentation. Members also will work with Vice Provost Hamer to develop DEI plans and implementation steps that address the specific needs of their respective units.
- This summer Diversity & Equity, Human Resource Management, and the identity based councils worked on initiatives to ensure staff are better supported. They directly address concerns raised through the KU Climate Study and include policy revisions that protect staff participation in committee service, and personal and professional development.
- To ensure we hear the voices of all KU, not simply the voices of those appointed by top administration, Vice Provost Hamer created the Council of Councils, an autonomous body that maintains a mechanism of accountability around matters of diversity, equity, and inclusion. The Council consists of the Black, Asian and Asian American, Latinx, Native American, Sexuality and Gender Diversity faculty and staff councils. This year, we expect to add two additional faculty and staff councils — international and disabilities — to the consortium. It will meet with both Chancellor Girod and me regularly during the year. We are also exploring the creation of a women’s commission and look forward to reporting more as it takes shape.
Our commitment to achieving inclusion isn’t simply a priority for one office, one unit, one person, or one program. Each of us can make a difference, even if it’s particular to our mission or interest. KU Libraries has used “You Belong Here” as its guiding principle for over a year. And the powerful “What Were You Wearing” installation in the Kansas Union Gallery, developed by our Sexual Assault Prevention and Education Center, has raised awareness that changed minds and crushed stereotypes about sexual assault victims and survivors.
Two weeks ago, I had the honor of meeting with members of KU Council of Councils and helped them kick off the start of the academic year. It was an opportunity to reaffirm my commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion as well as my other priorities for our Jayhawk family.
To further validate the importance of establishing, supporting, and maintaining an environment that values and respects others, I’ve asked that our Office of Institutional Opportunity and Access (IOA) now report directly to me. This realignment better acknowledges the breadth of constituents the office serves — faculty, staff, AND students. Many of you are closely following Friday’s announcement from the U.S. Department of Education establishing new guidelines on Title IX matters. Although IOA will in the near future review our policies and procedures to ensure compliance and service to the campus community, KU’s current Title IX notification, investigation, and adjudication process already features the recommended practices.
I want every one of you to feel you belong here. And even though arriving at that feeling is a personal journey, it requires a community of support. We need everyone to participate and work to make KU more inclusive. We have to get there together.
News and Notes
The annual Watkins Health Services flu vaccine clinics wrapped up visits on Edwards Campus last week. Now it will begin offering immunizations on the Lawrence campus. Visit the flu clinics webpage to see dates and locations, download forms and get information. The first Lawrence campus clinic will be Tuesday, Oct. 3, in Strong Hall.
Dr. Doug Dechairo, director of Watkins Health Services, advises that individuals traveling to hurricane-affected areas during Fall Break should take precautions to avoid potential health risks. All travelers should have a current tetanus vaccine and be immunized against Hepatitis A. Use DEET-based insect repellents to reduce risk of Zika virus, West Nile fever and dengue fever. Avoid exposure to open water as many bodies of water have been exposed to contaminants and can hide risks beneath the surface. Drinking bottled water is recommended.
KU Public Safety Office offers information sessions for offices, and student organizations on a number safety related topics, including de-escalation techniques, concealed carry and active-shooter response. The programs allow attendees to ask questions that can help address their concerns.
The Office of Multicultural Affairs is designated office for resources and support for KU’s undocumented students. A newly launched website provides an overview of the breadth of information and assistance. And KU School of Law is offering free legal assistance for area residents who need to review their DACA authorization before the Oct. 5 deadline.
The next Community Table will begin at 11:30 a.m., Wednesday, Oct. 4, in Anschutz Library. It offers a free Ramen Bowls lunch (while supplies last) and meaningful conversations until 1 p.m. Community Table is brought to campus by the Office of Diversity & Equity. This month’s Table is sponsored by the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences and the School of Journalism and Mass Communications with space generously offered by KU Libraries.
Congratulations are in order for two dissimilar KU programs that are perennial winners. KU Debate seniors Quaram Robinson and Will Katz won the first major policy debate tournament of the year. Meanwhile a team of Aerospace Engineering students claimed first prize for an international engine design competition. Kudos are also in order to the KU faculty and staff who help these students excel.
There is great news to share regarding a major grant from the National Science Foundation. Distinguished Professor of Chemistry Kristin Bowman-James will lead a $20 million multi-institution effort to study microorganisms in the water, soil and plants of Kansas. Partner institutions include Kansas State, Wichita State, Fort Hays State and Haskell Indian Nations University.
Foundation Distinguished Professor of Sociology Cecilia Menjívar will deliver her inaugural distinguished professor lecture at 5:30 p.m. today in the Summerfield Room of Adams Alumni Center. Her talk is titled “Immigrants’ Legal Status: Construction and Consequences.” All are welcome.
The Office of Multicultural Affairs and The Commons are bringing Amer F. Ahmed to campus. Ahmed will deliver “Addressing Islamophobia: Dispelling Myths to Break Down Barriers” at noon, Wednesday, Sept. 27, in The Commons of Spooner Hall.
Faculty, department chairs and directors are invited to the semi-annual portrait day hosted by the KU Photo staff of Marketing Communications. KU faculty and administrators can have free, high-quality studio portraits taken on a walk-in basis from 8:30 a.m. to 4:45 p.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 3, or Wednesday, Oct. 4, at the Wesley Building, across from the Kansas Memorial Union. Be sure to review clothing recommendations.
The KU Chapter of the National Organization of Minority Architecture Students is bringing Mario Gooden to the Forum of Marvin Hall at 5:30 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 29. Gooden, an associate professor of practice at Columbia University, is the author of “Dark Space: Architecture, Representation, Black Identity.”
Chancellor Douglas Girod will speak at “Straight Talk: Retention,” hosted by Multicultural Student Government. The event will be 4 p.m. to 6 p.m., Thursday, Oct. 5, in the Kansas Room of the Kansas Memorial Union.
Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor
This issue of Strong Ties as well as past ones can be found on the Provost Strong Ties web page.