Transition of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion
June 25, 2020
Dear Students, Faculty, and Staff,
I am writing to you today to inform you of the changes to the organizational structure of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I) at Texas State University.
Although we have been working on this reorganization for many months, the last three weeks have demonstrated how critical it is that we get this right, that we elevate DE&I at Texas State. Our students, faculty, and staff have a right to live, learn, and work in a truly inclusive and equitable environment, where people of all backgrounds feel safe and valued, can learn and grow, and achieve their fullest potential. For this to come to fruition, DE&I must be foundational to our culture as an institution.
In May, we completed a comprehensive review of Texas State’s DE&I organizational structure, which I commissioned Vice President for University Administration Lisa Lloyd to conduct last fall. Today, I’d like to provide you with a summative overview of that process, including how the review has informed my decision to restructure and advance the DE&I framework at Texas State, which includes the merging and elevation of the DE&I efforts across different university divisions.
Historically, the university has operated two separate but similar offices housed in different divisions: the Office of Student Diversity and Inclusion (SDI), which reported to the Vice President for Student Affairs; and the Office of Equity and Inclusion (OEI), which reports to the Vice President for University Administration. These offices have worked with other teams of faculty and staff dedicated to DE&I, including the talent acquisition team in the Office of Human Resources and Dr. Scott Bowman, Special Assistant to the Provost for Inclusion and Diversity. Our students are more successful, and our university is a better, stronger place because of the work of DE&I teams spread across different divisions.
These talented teams have been the driving force in promoting the advancement of an equitable and inclusive community. For example, SDI has been instrumental in leading the university’s initiatives for DACA students, veterans’ programming, TRIO programs, and cultural celebrations; Dr. Bowman created the toolkit and best practices for inclusive excellence in faculty hiring and retention; the talent acquisition team recently unveiled the staff diversity hiring toolkit; and the OEI successfully launched the Bobcat JEDI program (a DE&I certification program) and Bring it Up Bobcats (a Bias Response Protocol), and offers training programs aimed at hiring a more diverse body of faculty and staff. The programming, events, and outreach of these DE&I teams have touched lives, hearts, and minds in our Bobcat family. This has not been easy work, and we are indebted to all who serve on these teams with great passion, expertise, and commitment.
In and of themselves, these teams have accomplished tremendous things and have built a strong foundation of DE&I excellence. I am confident that in bringing these teams together, and elevating the newly-combined unit, we can create the synergy to do even more and achieve profound, institutional-level change.
Organizational Review Completed
During fall 2019, I worked with the President’s Cabinet to begin assessing the organizational structure of the OEI, which at the time was responsible for overseeing Title IX and Title VII investigations, as well as the university’s strategic plan for diversity and inclusion. I tasked Dr. Lloyd with initiating a process to address two distinct, but complementary, university priorities that cross divisional boundaries: 1) elevate our culture of diversity, equity, and inclusion by building on the strong foundation established by SDI, OEI, and other DE&I teams; and 2) build a best-in class compliance program.
Dr. Lloyd engaged in institutional benchmarking, looking at more than 50 universities, including Research I universities, emerging research universities, and aspirant universities, to identify where the following functions were housed: diversity and inclusion; compliance, including Title IX and ADA; equal employment opportunity and affirmative action; and disability services. Additionally, she led more than 30 interviews with Texas State stakeholders, primarily in DE&I, one-on-one, and in small groups. The data she gathered informed a new organizational framework for the centralization, oversight, and coordination of DE&I efforts university-wide.
Now, the university is on a path to coordinate its DE&I efforts across divisions and further elevate the platform of this work to an institutional level. I would like to share several strategies we are enacting now that resulted from the organizational review.
Changes In Effect/In Progress: Elevating and Colocating DE&I
- On June 1, 2020, OEI and SDI officially merged into a new institutional-level office, with SDI shifting from the Division of Student Affairs to the Division of University Administration.
- We will begin expanding the DE&I physical space on the second floor of the LBJ Student Center to include more staff dedicated to DE&I, while maintaining a commitment to student space.
- The primary DE&I leaders and units will eventually be housed together in this central, visible DE&I office suite, to strengthen collaboration and synergy across DE&I units. That office suite will include space for Dr. Bowman to office part-time.
- The talent acquisition team from Human Resources is also in the process of merging and moving into the new office and then reporting to Dr. Stella Silva, Assistant Vice President for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion for Faculty and Staff Initiatives.
It is important to note, we are not eliminating any staff positions, and no jobs will be lost. Rather, we are elevating existing positions and will create new ones in the future if our budget allows.
- I have approved the creation of an Associate Vice President for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion and Chief Diversity Officer (CDO) position. Once the current hiring freeze is lifted and funding becomes available, we will conduct a nationwide search to fill this position. For now, Dr. Stella Silva will continue to serve as interim CDO.
- Dr. Sherri Benn’s current position of Assistant Vice President for Student Affairs and Director of the Office of Student Diversity and Inclusion has been renamed Assistant Vice President for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion for Student Initiatives.
- Dr. Stella Silva’s current position of Director of the Office of Equity and Inclusion has been renamed Assistant Vice President for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion for Faculty and Staff Initiatives.
- We have shifted ADA Workplace Accommodations responsibilities to the Office of Institutional Compliance, reclassified Mr. Fernando Rojas’ position to ADA Compliance Coordinator, and moved his position to the Office of Institutional Compliance.
What is not changing?
- The focus of these DE&I teams has always been -- and will always be -- student success. Even as their office space and reporting lines change, their operations, programming, and mission will remain student-centered.
- Organizationally, the Office of Disability Services will remain in the Division of Student Affairs.
- The CDO will continue to be a member of the President’s Cabinet, an important change I announced last fall.
Why make these changes?
First and foremost, achieving true inclusivity in our university community is not the responsibility of any one office or team; rather, our entire institution is responsible for contributing to our culture, and demonstrating a commitment to equity and inclusion in everything we do -- at every level.
Consolidating our DE&I efforts and elevating them to an institutional level is a critical first step in building and strengthening cross-university partnerships that support our diverse community. This also brings together all the DE&I initiatives for students, staff, and faculty under one umbrella.
Academic excellence and student success are the end goals at Texas State, and supporting our diverse student body is fundamental to achieving these goals. Everything we hope to achieve through DE&I initiatives -- offering tailored student programming and support, hiring and retaining diverse faculty and staff, and providing cultural competency training to faculty and staff, and beyond -- maps back to academic excellence and student success.
What happens next?
The DE&I Planning and Transition Team, led by Dr. Sherri Benn and Dr. Stella Silva, will recommend: 1) a name for this institutional-level unit; 2) a mission statement for the unit; 3) an organizational chart, including revised position titles and responsibilities by position that align with this transformation; 4) a narrative articulating the institutional and stakeholder benefits of centralizing DE&I efforts; and 5) a method for assessing our progress, including determining the milestones that we would like to achieve during the next year.
I’d like to share my deepest gratitude to Dr. Benn, Dr. Silva, and recently retired Vice President for Student Affairs Joanne Smith for their many years of passionate service on behalf of our students and the university, and for shepherding this transition process.
I hope you join me in recommitting to the values of diversity, equity, and inclusion. Together we will make Texas State a better place.
Denise M. Trauth