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When Good Intentions Aren't Good Enough

January 22, 2018

Est. reading time: 3 min. 1 sec.

Dear staff and faculty:

The Campanile stands as a memorial, but also as a reminder to stretch and be something greater.All of us understand the value of a level playing field – one where no single individual, group, or entity has an intrinsic advantage over others.

Yet, try as we might, the concept has been elusive for many – particularly in the realm of hiring practices.

Many of you have heard me say we are temporary stewards of this great institution. I’ve shared with you my four priorities for the University of Kansas, and so many of you have responded that you, too, share my commitment to doing the best we can for KU, especially in the area of diversity and inclusion.

I’m truly pleased with the progress on the collaborative effort to develop a more informed and impactful hiring approach for faculty and staff that centers diversity and inclusion. Vice Provost for Diversity & Equity Jennifer Hamer, Vice Provost for Faculty Development Chris Brown, Senior Associate Vice Provost for University Administration Mike Rounds and several others on the Lawrence and Edwards campuses have worked to refine a process that will help KU embrace the strength of diversity and ensure hiring activities rooted in diversity, equity, and inclusion principles become universal practices in every KU office.

At KU our diversity ranks fall short of reflecting society at large. Nearly 35 percent of the U.S. population is racial and ethnic minorities that are historically underrepresented in academia. At KU these groups comprise only 10 percent of our tenure-track faculty and senior administrators. In Kansas 23 percent of the population lives with a disability. Meanwhile less than 3 percent of KU employees have reported that they too have a disability. While we’ve made improvements in recent years, there’s an obligation, and an opportunity, to do more.

The recently established Campus Equity Implementation Committee improving our processes has enumerated several ways a more diverse – in the broadest sense – and representative faculty and staff is good for KU. Let me share three of them. A diverse faculty and staff:

  • Expands scholarly discovery, creativity, and outreach through broader experiences and perspectives
  • Ensures better university governance and administrative decision-making
  • Buttresses the recruitment, retention, training, mentoring, and success of a diverse student body, and better prepares all graduates for the diversity of the world in which they live and work.

The forthcoming handbook for recruiting and hiring a more diverse and inclusive faculty and staff also acknowledges issues detailed in the KU Climate Study report and by the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Advisory Group. Focused steps toward greater diversity, equity, and inclusion must extend to all marginalized communities and include race, ethnicity, religion, disability, gender identity and gender expression, sexual orientation, and more. For example, although women hold a slight majority in the student population, they remain significantly underrepresented in administrative roles and in faculty positions in many academic units.

The framework being crafted enhances our existing Hiring for Excellence program in simple yet meaningful ways. The biggest change required of us is to hold ourselves and others accountable as we stretch beyond our good intentions and replace them with thoughtful purpose-driven practices. We’ll be asked to set aside our assumptions, take note of our inherent biases, and ensure our job posts reach beyond our usual channels and networks.

It will take teamwork and a fresh mindset to bring diversity and inclusion to the forefront of the hiring process at KU. The handbook will be shared more broadly in the weeks ahead, and the payoff will be enhanced potential and stature. When we succeed in leveling the playing field, KU will rise above our peers with an effort that is more than guidelines or good intentions, but rather a new standard of practice.



News & Notes

Applications for the Jeannette Johnson Staff Professional Development Fund are due to Staff Senate on Friday, Jan. 26. Awards from the fund help staff cover the costs associated with professional development and can provide up to $300 per applicant.

KU’s Eighth Annual Staff Leadership Summit will be Thursday, Feb. 22. This year’s theme is “Shared Commitment: Exploring the Give and Take of Staff Engagement.” Staff will receive registration information soon.

Faculty and staff who have yet to complete the annual “Harassment/Discrimination, Sexual Misconduct/Violence Reporting Obligations” training should finish the online module by Feb. 16. Please visit KU’s Talent Development System to begin the process and allow at least 1 hour.

Nominations for the Fall 2018 Langston Hughes Visiting Professor are due on March, 1. The professorship attracts established or emerging ethnic minority scholars from across the country and is open to scholars in any discipline.

Thank you to all who took part in KU’s annual Martin Luther King Jr. events. The weeklong celebration concludes with tonight’s 8 p.m. showing of “Moonlight” in Woodruff Auditorium, Kansas Union. The free event is sponsored by the Office of Multicultural Affairs and Student Union Activities.

Hall Distinguished Professor of American Literature and Culture Robert Warrior will present his Inaugural Distinguished Professor Lecture at 5:30 p.m., Wednesday, Jan. 24, in the Big 12 Room of the Kansas Union.  His talk is on “Home and Away: Indigeneity and the Spaces of Critique.”

State Relations Director Kelly Reynolds welcomes all KU employees and students to the next Legislative Issues Brown Bag lunch from noon to 1 p.m., Friday, Jan, 26, in the Jayhawk Room of the Kansas Union. Bring your questions and concerns.

The Natural History Museum and the KU Biodiversity Institute will celebrate Kansas statehood with Discovery Day, from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m., Sunday, Jan. 28. There will be hands-on activities and touchable specimens that help illustrate the spectrum of flora, fauna and fossils of Kansas.

The 4th annual Power of Sport: A Conversation on Business, Race and Sports will be 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. Feb. 1 in the Kansas Union Ballroom. Claire Smith, a sports writer and ESPN news editor, will deliver the keynote address. Registration is required for this free program. The event is sponsored by the School of Business, the Langston Hughes Center and KU Athletics.

Jill Ellingson, professor of human resource management and Dana Anderson Faculty Fellow, will be a panelist at a National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine workshop called “Workforce Development and Intelligence Analysis for National Security Purposes” on Wednesday, Jan. 24, in Washington, D.C. The panel will focus on how autonomous learning can be used to develop intelligence analysts. Interested individuals can follow along through a webcast of the workshop beginning at 9 a.m.

Outstanding teams of three or more KU employees can be nominated for KU’s annual Exceptional Team Award. Nominations are due Jan. 31 and should reflect exceptional work on a project.

Provost's Message Signature: 

Rock Chalk,

Neeli Bendapudi

Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor

Follow me on Twitter at @KUProvostNeeli and the Provost Office at @KUProvost. Join the office on Facebook at /KUprovostoffice/. Join the office on Instagram at /KUprovost/.

This issue of Strong Ties as well as past ones can be found on the Provost Strong Ties web page25.

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