Editor’s note: This is part of a series of campus updates on diversity, equity and inclusion that will continue throughout the year.
IDEA Council issues guidance on faculty, staff retention during fall forum
Faculty and staff retention, the need for a greater sense of belonging and more effective strategies for recruiting a diverse workforce are among the critical challenges faced by the campus’s academic and administrative units, according to a presentation by the Inclusion, Diversity and Excellence in Academics (IDEA) Council.
During an Oct. 27 fall forum, Lisa Flores, who chairs the council and is a professor of communication and associate dean of diversity, equity and inclusion in the College of Media, Communication and Information, presented guidance from the council about these challenges based on feedback from campus units and recommendations in the IDEA Plan.
About 200 students, faculty, staff and campus leaders, including Provost Russell Moore and COO Patrick O’Rourke, attended the forum in person and via Zoom to learn more about the council’s meetings with 15 academic and administrative units and the challenges and lessons they learned about faculty and staff recruitment and retention.
Based on input gathered by IDEA Council members, faculty and staff retention is the highest priority for most campus units. The pandemic magnified existing inequities, hierarchies, structures and systems on the campus that exacerbated the crisis of belonging among students, and it’s the same with faculty and staff, Flores said.
“All faculty and staff are experiencing increased alienation, isolation and loneliness,” she said. “This is not unique to CU Boulder. It’s endemic in all of higher education.”
Since fall 2020, the council’s charge has been to prioritize recommendations in the IDEA Plan, the campus’s roadmap for creating greater diversity, equity and inclusion at CU Boulder. This semester, the council has worked to prioritize seven recommendations from the IDEA Plan: four focused on faculty recruitment and retention and three on staff recruitment and retention.
Faculty-focused recommendations include ensuring inclusive search practices and increasing the number of diverse candidates; improving retention strategies for diverse faculty; regularly assessing and building opportunities to improve the campus climate for faculty; and implementing performance plans and evaluation recognition.
Staff-focused recommendations include empowering the campus community to recruit a diverse workforce; investing in staff retention strategies; and implementing performance plans and evaluation recognition.
Flores said the lessons learned after meeting with campus stakeholders is that CU Boulder has a “crisis of retention” because faculty and staff are working in a “hostile campus climate,” which results in isolation and loneliness. In addition, faculty and staff also reported having limited access to the city of Boulder, with the area’s cost of living a barrier to their success. Other challenges included “elitism and singular models of excellence.”
Lessons learned about staff recruitment, according to Flores, include feedback from units that in-person work is prohibitive; there are limited opportunities for staff development and advancement; supervisors for faculty and staff are poorly trained; the campus lacks a unified approach to staff support; and, while schools and colleges have a shared mission, they also have distinct students, processes, challenges and opportunities.
According to the results of the 2021 Campus Culture Survey, employees’ sense of belonging, retention and other experiences hinge on their relationships with supervisors. Survey results indicate that people with minoritized identities are more likely to feel the impacts of ineffective working relationships than other colleagues. People with minoritized identities include people with disabilities, people who identify as LGBTQ+, people who identify as women, people from marginalized racial and ethnic groups and first-generation scholars.
During the forum, participants also received an update from Sonia DeLuca Fernández, senior vice chancellor for diversity, equity and inclusion and the council’s executive sponsor, who outlined the campus’s Five DEI Goals inspired by the IDEA Plan and how they align with recommendations in the plan.
DeLuca Fernández said that 34 planning units on campus had been asked to pick one or two of the goals to guide desired outcomes for diversity, equity and inclusion in action plans they will finalize by December, which will be publicly available to the campus soon after.
With the support of DEI consultants from her office, units will use the goals for unit-focused work and will determine what the findings of the 2021 Campus Culture Survey mean to their units. The units may connect their initiatives to Academic Futures, the IDEA Plan, the chancellor’s priorities and the campus’s strategic imperatives, among other existing initiatives.
“My office will synthesize the action plans so we will have a comprehensive, campuswide answer to the question, ‘What is CU Boulder doing to advance diversity, equity and inclusion?’” DeLuca Fernández said.
Provost Russell Moore and COO Patrick O’Rourke also spoke with forum participants, sharing how Academic Affairs and Strategic Resources and Support are prioritizing faculty and staff recruitment and retention.
In collaboration with the provost’s office, Academic Affairs is working to improve the campus climate so that faculty feel a greater sense of belonging, Moore said.
Efforts include initiatives such as the Faculty Diversity Action Plan; the Justice, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion or JEDI series; Boulder Faculty Assembly resolutions in partnership with the provost’s office to include DEI work in the faculty merit process; expanding cultural competence among faculty leaders through Office of Faculty Affairs onboarding; training in pedagogy through the Center for Teaching and Learning; and antiracism and inclusive community of practice modules in Canvas, among other actions.
For his part, O’Rourke said he had asked the leaders of the nine Strategic Resources and Support units that report to him to focus on employee retention and engagement this year. CU Boulder is up about 5% with employee turnover rates when compared to pre-pandemic years, which aligns with trends across the country and in higher education in general, he said.
To reverse the trend, O’Rourke said his division will focus on Goal No. 3 in the five goals inspired by the IDEA Plan, which calls on units to support existing and new community building initiatives, communicate the imperative of advancing diversity, equity and inclusion, and enhance a sense of belonging for all employees.
The campus has implemented new policies to support employees, including an updated parental leave policy and a lactation space policy, but O’Rourke acknowledged that challenges remain, including affordable housing in Boulder and salaries that keep up with the cost of living in and around the city.
“We’ve got some big structural work to do, but we’re willing to take it on,” O’Rourke said.
During a spring forum, council members shared recommendations for better supporting undergraduate and graduate student success based on the feedback they received from staff and student leaders during the 2021–22 academic year.
Campus recognizes Native American Heritage Month
National Native American Heritage Month begins Nov. 1, and members of the CU Boulder community can access a variety of campus resources to learn more about the nation’s First Peoples, acknowledge their past and present experiences, and celebrate their histories, traditions and contributions throughout November and all year long.
For students, faculty and staff who may have missed it, Andrew Cowell, a professor of linguistics and the director of the Center for Native American and Indigenous Studies, recently shared his insights on the campus’s new land acknowledgment, the history of land acknowledgments across the Americas and why they matter, and how—when accompanied by meaningful actions—such recognition can raise awareness and lead to greater support for Native American communities.
Students, faculty and staff can also access a select list of recommended readings by faculty and graduate students in the Department of History. Recommended books include the 2015 Pulitzer Prize-winning Encounters at the Heart of the World: A History of the Mandan People by Distinguished Professor of History Elizabeth Fenn. Other selections include Indians in Unexpected Places and Becoming Mary Sully: Toward an American Indian Abstract, both by former CU Boulder history professor Philip J. Deloria, and A Misplaced Massacre: Struggling over the Memory of Sand Creek by Ari Kelman.
For its part, University Libraries has compiled a research guide on Indigenous Research and Knowledges in North America. The guide is intended to provide the campus community with an overview of Indigenous knowledge and starting points for exploring it by geography, materials format or theme. University Libraries anticipates the research guide will evolve and expand as new information and community needs emerge.
Save the date: CU Social Justice Summit coming in January
CU Boulder will host a virtual CU Social Justice Summit on Jan. 31. The biennial event will bring together students, staff and faculty from all four CU campuses and the system administration to discuss social justice in higher education and beyond.
More information about how to register and where to obtain additional information about the summit sessions and keynote speakers will be available on the CU Boulder diversity, equity and inclusion website before fall break.
The summit aspires to “ignite critical engagement and responsibility for cultivating and sustaining a diverse democracy,” according to event organizers representing CU Boulder, CU Denver, the Anschutz Medical Campus and the University of Colorado Colorado Springs.
The theme of the 2023 summit is “Operationalizing Liberation for a Diverse Democracy,” which calls on all four CU campuses and the university’s system administration to address oppressive behaviors, actions, structures and systems.
This work “is dependent on each of us working in community to learn and hold each other accountable if we are to build a more just world,” organizers said.
Sustaining our practice of inclusion
Campus efforts and investments to address pressing and painful inequities at CU Boulder are only a beginning. Creating a culture of belonging will take each member of our community practicing sustained personal work to truly embrace and support diverse perspectives and intersectional identities in our community.
During the 2022–23 academic year, Chancellor Philip DiStefano and other campus leaders urge every member of our community to join in learning more about diversity, equity, inclusion and anti-racism and to work continuously together to address these challenges more actively and in ways that can help authentically transform our campus culture in the coming year.