College of Natural Sciences enacts UT Senate-approved DEI initiative

Ireland Blouin, Senior News Reporter

The Senate of College Councils passed S.R. 2203 last semester, which will require faculty within the College of Natural Sciences to complete the Allies in Action program. Now, Senate and CNS representatives are working with administrators to put the piece of legislation into action.

The UT Gender and Sexuality Center offers the Allies in Action training programs, a two-part diversity and inclusion workshop, to staff and faculty. Once they complete the program, along with a signature of the GSC pledge, the faculty and staff members will receive an ally card that they can display in their workspaces.

Completion of the programs is optional for most of the University’s colleges. Currently, 1,393 faculty members and students have completed the workshop university-wide, according to the Gender and Sexuality Center webpage. As of fall 2021, there were 3,133 teaching faculty alone.

“We noticed that there was a really severe lack of participation by CNS faculty and staff members,” Arvind Subramanian, Senate representative for Natural Sciences Council, said. “Because we noticed this gap, we realized it would be very important and valuable for CNS faculty to go through this program.”

This legislation only pertains to CNS faculty members, but since its passing, representatives from other colleges want to enact similar procedures, said UT Senate president Echo Nattinger.

“Because this was passed, it’s drawn attention to the issue and so now other colleges —  communications, liberal arts, engineering — are expressing interest in doing something similar,” said Nattinger, a Plan II and government senior.

The University implemented a few initiatives that make sure faculty are participating in the diversity, equity and inclusion movement. One of these initiatives is having faculty write DEI statements, which according to the University website will “address multiple facets of how your values and experiences advance diversity, equity and inclusion in your work.”

“I did have to write a vision statement where I certainly articulated my values around diversity, equity (and) inclusion, as a scholar, as an educator and as an aspiring leader,” said Victor Saenz, department chair for educational leadership and policy in the College of Education. “I think we are seeing more and more faculty positions requiring or expecting a diversity statement that is often submitted alongside a teaching statement or research statement.”

UT claims to be one of the most diverse universities in the nation, according to the University DEI website. Because of this, Saenz said it is important to include diversity as a flagship for education in all colleges, including in STEM areas.

“These future students going into these careers are future doctors, engineers, etc.” Alice Timugura, student assistant for the DEI concentration at CNS, said. “Just having that extra knowledge and building new social and emotional intelligence would actually go a long way in having more diversity in these fields.”