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For Community Comment – DEI Action Items

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Jeremy Haefner

Announcement  •

Dear DU community members,

Twenty years ago, the University of Denver held its first Diversity Summit. At that time, we took one of the first major steps toward making our campus more inclusive. For many, looking back on those 20 years brings up conflicting emotions. We recognize the ways we’ve moved forward, and we feel proud. But we also recognize there is always more to be done.

Overcoming barriers in diversity, equity and inclusion is not easy work. It is also not quickly achieved. Our progress at DU has not been stymied by a lack of passion, interest or commitment. Individuals and groups across campus have made real change, but this change has occurred largely in pockets and has failed, in some cases, to reach the people who need it most. The reasons for this are complex, and we are now pivoting and finding ways to identify leadership, take action, and increase accountability and consistency.

As part of this process, we continue to think deeply about how we can make meaningful, lasting, and real impact at the institutional level. To that end, I asked Tom Romero, our interim vice chancellor for diversity, equity and inclusion, Niki Latino, our interim vice chancellor for student affairs, and Jerron Lowe, our interim vice chancellor for human resources, to use their institutional and professional knowledge to work with colleagues and develop a list of action items for this academic year. You can read this list of action items in its entirety here.

These items are not complete nor codified, though they have been shared among affinity group leaders, governance groups, and senior leaders. I am sharing them with the entire DU community now with the hope that many of you will weigh in. Opportunities to do that are shared at the bottom of this message. As we continue to build upon our efforts, do these items help us to be a more inclusive, just, and welcoming community? And do they include the most impactful changes we can begin to make this coming year?

I encourage you to read the action items carefully, but I also want to share with you the five areas of impact that will ground our diversity, equity, and inclusion work in the coming year.


Improve how we talk about, understand and measure diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) at DU

DU’s DEI efforts are missing a unifying philosophy. We need a shared vision to collectively work toward. Diversity, equity and inclusion are not hollow buzzwords nor boxes to check in our messaging; they must instead be clear goals against which we measure our progress. And, to measure that progress, we need metrics, regular assessments, and transparency. 

To accomplish this, DU should:

  • Clearly define what diversity, equity, and inclusion mean to our campus community
  • Implement the Intercultural Development Inventory to set our baseline intercultural competence—and then grow from there
  • Establish and use metrics and assessments to publicly identify progress as well as gaps
  • Document our progress on a new, dedicated webpage that will house all previous reports, recommendations, assessments and demands


Give DEI power, authority and accountability

To make the big leaps we desire, we need to both centralize our efforts and establish accountability structures. 

To accomplish this, DU should:

  • Hire a strong vice chancellor for diversity equity and inclusion(VCDEI) with centralized authority reporting to the chancellor
  • Provide resources from strategic imperative planning funds to the office of diversity, equity, and inclusion to implement the action items
  • Guarantee regular contact between the VCDEI and leadership in human resources, student affairs, enrollment, advancement, academic deans, student and alumni leaders, and the chancellor’s and provost’s offices
  • Help every division on campus create a DEI strategic plan that includes accountability parameters
  • Identify and train diversity representatives in each unit who will facilitate that unit’s DEI efforts and serve on a University-wide steering committee chaired by the VCDEI


Invest in our faculty and students

We must support our faculty of color and ensure they feel welcome and valued at DU. And we must attract more faculty of color across all programs and disciplines. This, among other efforts, will ensure DU’s classrooms are inclusive, so all students, of all backgrounds, can get the most out of their DU experience and education. 

To accomplish this, DU should:

  • Grow DU’s existing DEI leadership by expanding the ODEI fellows program
  • Use data to overhaul the faculty search process so it prioritizes DEI as well as fit and discipline
  • Provide targeted professional development for faculty of color
  • Further invest in inclusive teaching practices and training, giving our faculty deeply valuable skills
  • Close the three-to-four percent graduation achievement gap between students of color and white students 


Build support specifically for our Black community 

The Black community in this country—and DU is no exception—is particularly the target of injustice and minoritization. It’s imperative we address why DU struggles to attract and retain talented Black faculty members and students.

To accomplish this, DU should:

  • Hire a response coordinator to help DU address systemic and institutional exclusion of Black people 
  • Explore a Center for Black Studies 
  • Establish a Black advisory board 


Conduct training and launch University-wide programming 

Diversity, equity and inclusion work requires humility and a commitment to listening and learning. Training and providing programming tailored to the unique needs and perspectives of the DU community are central to improving our culture. 

To accomplish this, DU should:

  • Continue baseline mandatory training for administrators, faculty, staff, and students
  • Create a widespread culture of DEI through new programming related to power and privilege, as well as thinking more expansively about existing programming, such as heritage months
  • Rethink the story we are telling about ourselves and our history through our marketing to our various community members


We will hold a town hall on Tuesday, August 18 from noon to 1 p.m. MDT to explore all of this in greater detail. You can join us then via Zoom. We welcome your feedback there and in a survey that will be available following the town hall. Responses to the survey are due by Friday, August 28, 2020.

It is urgent that we activate our words with real change. By doing so, we will improve lives, and our students will take valuable skills into the world, building a better future for all of us—but especially for marginalized populations. 

I look forward to seeing you all at next week’s town hall.


Jeremy Haefner