UT leaders outline eight key areas for Diversity Action Plan

Brianna Stone

UT leaders and stakeholders are collaborating to develop the Diversity Action Plan, which aims to increase diversity and inclusion among University students, faculty and staff.

This summer, Gregory Vincent, vice president for diversity and community engagement, and Sonica Reagins-Lilly, vice president for student affairs, began constructing the plan, which focuses on eight areas of improvement: University leadership, students, faculty, staff, K-12 partners, alumni and supporters, and communication assessment and accountability. 

“The Diversity Action Plan is meant to be the blueprint for action around diversity and inclusion for the campus,” Vincent said. “It is meant to bring resources together across campus and to give the University some direction.” 

Vincent said the plan is currently being drafted, and the University is receiving feedback from key stakeholders in the eight different areas through interactions with students and the community. The plan will work with K-12 partners, alumni and supporters to build communication, assess progress and hold leaders accountable for diversity across campus. 

“We want to make this a student-centered process to make sure students are getting the benefit of learning in a diverse environment,” Vincent said.

Vincent said when it comes to University leadership, the deans of individual colleges will play a major role in developing the plan.

“I anticipate that schools and colleges will have, for example, equity and diversity committees that would help address these issues at school and college level,” Vincent said.

In his annual State of the University address, President Gregory Fenves said diversity is among his top priorities. 

“I want every student and every member of this campus and community to feel like they belong, that they are respected and that their voices are heard,” Fenves said. “Every student benefits from being educated in that diverse environment.”

One area of the plan works to recruit and retain diverse students. Over the last 30 years, the black student population has increased from 3.5 to 4.2 percent. The Hispanic student population has increased from 8.9 percent in 1985 to 22.1 percent currently, while the Asian American student population has increased from 4.2 percent in 1986 to 19.9 percent today.

The number of American Indian students has remained stable at around .2 percent since 1986. On the other hand, the foreign student population has decreased overall from 6.5 percent in 1985 to 4.9 percent today.

Jasmine Barnes, director of operations for Students for Equity and Diversity, said her organization creates spaces to hold important conversations about diversity, such as the My Black UT Matters event Thursday night.

“Through conversation, we can teach other,” Barnes said. “Both white students and students of color need to be in on the conversation about race and inclusion.”

Vincent also said he hopes to facilitate a well-rounded learning environment through employing a diverse faculty. Vincent said he thinks the University has done well in terms of recruiting faculty from a wide variety of backgrounds, but there is more to be done.

While 2016 faculty data is not yet finalized, in 2015, 77.3 percent of faculty members were white, 10.2 percent were Asian American, 7.3 percent were Hispanic, 3.6 percent were black, 1.2 percent were mixed-race, .4 percent were American Indian and .1 percent were unknown. 

Vincent said the numbers for certain demographics may be depressed, since the data does not account for adjunct lecturers, only full-time professors.