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Texas A&M State Of Diversity Report: ‘We Can Do Better’

The report reviews how far the university has come on the 2010 Diversity Plan goals of accountability, campus climate and equity.
By Lesley Henton, Texas A&M University Division of Marketing & Communications September 11, 2020

Visitors to the Diversity Gallery talk in front of one of the posters
The first ever Diversity Gallery exhibited in Rudder Tower early last spring to share the work in diversity and inclusion from across the university.

Texas A&M University has released its 2020 State of Diversity Report.

In the 2010 Diversity Plan, the university acknowledged that it “cannot achieve academic excellence without paying attention to and drawing from the richness and strength reflected in the diversity in our state and nation.” According to the Texas A&M Office for Diversity, the purpose of the 2020 State of Diversity Report is to explore how Texas A&M University is advancing its land-grant mission to welcome and to serve people “of all racial, ethnic and geographic groups as it addresses the needs of an increasingly diverse population and a global economy.”

The report shows both progress in the areas of diversity and inclusion, as well as areas needing improvement, said Vice President and Associate Provost for Diversity Robin Means Coleman.

“Progress has been evident in Texas A&M’s institutional commitment to diversity and inclusion and its candid, transparent and ongoing assessment of campus climate and equity,” Coleman said. “The major successes are the countless students, faculty, staff and former students who have been doing this important work for a long time and are wholly invested in making Texas A&M a place where everyone shares a sense of belonging and everyone is treated equitably.”

Such efforts include campus-wide advisory groups, and annual assessment and evaluation. In 2019, and again this year, Texas A&M has been awarded for it’s diversity and inclusion efforts for two consecutive years, 2019 and 2020, by INSIGHT into Diversity, a prestigious publication that recognizes colleges and universities for outstanding commitment to diversity and inclusion.

While the narrative of the State of Diversity Report is optimistic about Texas A&M’s progress in advancing diversity and inclusion, simultaneously it recognizes that the university needs to identify and dismantle systemic racist and discriminatory practices, said Assistant Vice President for Diversity Jennifer Reyes.

“Explicitly stated, dismantling systemic racism and discrimination requires an unrelenting dedication to examine practices and policies that impact admissions, hiring, promotion, graduation, resource allocation, budgeting, safety, course evaluations and expressive activity,” Reyes said.

Report recommendations

Coleman summarized the four major recommendations from the report:

  • Student, faculty and staff leadership in the campus community must be committed, in practice and publicly, to promoting and advancing diversity, inclusion and equity
  • Texas A&M’s primary concern must be for the physical safety and psychological well-being of current students, faculty and staff
  • As a land-grant university, Texas A&M’s students, faculty and staff should be representative of the demographic diversity of the state of Texas
  • Texas A&M is working to decrease achievement disparities across ethnicity, first-generation status, gender and socioeconomic status to ensure that academic achievement and graduation are realistic goals for every student.

A student’s perspective

Redeem Francis ’21

Redeem Francis ’21, from Crowley, Texas, is a 3+2 student at the Bush School of Government and Public Service and works as a student assistant in the Office for Diversity.

“Through my job, I get the unique experience of witnessing the amazing efforts that groups such as the Diversity Operations Committee (DOC) and the President’s Council on Climate and Diversity (PCCD) make in order to create a more inclusive campus and hold the various departments accountable to diversity efforts,” Francis said, adding the university needs to do a better job of communicating these efforts to students.

“Most students don’t know that diversity work is constantly being done and I believe that’s where the university can improve its efforts,” she said. “Transparency is needed so that students feel that their voices are heard and that their opinions are taken into consideration.”

Francis said her duties for the Office for Diversity include planning and coordinating special events, assisting in research projects including data analysis and literature reviews, and providing customer service to faculty, students, staff and community members regarding diversity efforts and initiatives.

“The most challenging part of our job is dealing with situations that don’t seem to have an easy or explicit answer and then making sure that our campus community feels supported in the answers and resources we provide,” she said.

Francis said she’s been able to have “amazing experiences” including participation in the 2019-20 Race, Identity & Social Equity (RISE) Fellowship, a yearlong initiative to research issues of race, identity and social equity, as well as attending and co-presenting at the 2019 NCORE annual meeting in Portland, Oregon.

Inclusion Is Everyone’s Job

After she graduates in 2022, Francis said she hopes to work toward becoming an executive director for a nonprofit organization that assists survivors of sexual and domestic abuse.

She said she continues to have hope that Texas A&M will rise to the complex challenges surrounding issues of diversity, inclusion and equity.

“Texas A&M has come a long way, but we have further to go to make this a university in which all feel represented and included,” she said.

To reach that goal, Reyes said everyone must contribute. “Everyone in the campus community shares the responsibility of creating a campus climate that fosters success and achievement for all,” she said. “We must communicate decisively and demonstrate our core values by embracing inclusion and rejecting hate. We can do the right thing by standing up for those who have been harmed.”

In light of the killing of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer and the resulting demonstrations for racial justice across the nation, Coleman said Aggies must ground themselves in the core values and lead by example.

“Now more than ever, I want to implore our community to spread our Aggie core value of respect far and wide,” she said. “Without respect, fear and ignorance can take hold. As Aggies, we will not engage in fearmongering. As Aggies, we embrace our core value of leadership by modeling affirming behaviors and rejecting bias and discrimination. More, as Aggies, we can show others how to love, support and protect people on our campus and in our communities from social stigma and discrimination.”

Learn more about Texas A&M’s diversity, inclusion and equity efforts from the Office for Diversity and Texas A&M Today.

Media contact: Lesley Henton, lshenton@tamu.edu

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