Some call for more diversity at UMD

DULUTH, MN — University of Minnesota Duluth faculty say there are signs of improvement after a renewed focus on enhancing diversity inclusiveness and equity among faculty.

This comes nearly a year after former Bulldogs women’s hockey coach Shannon Miller won millions in a discrimination lawsuit filed against UMD.

In the months following the verdict in the Shannon Miller case, UMD leaders put a renewed focus on creating a more inclusive campus.

But some say they’re falling short.

“In my opinion, we have not done enough of a deep dive of looking at structural and systemic issues,” said Dr. Rebecca de Souza, Chair of the Faculty Senate.

When the Miller verdict was reached in 2018, the University was, and still is in the midst of a five-year plan to determine their vision for the future of the school.

Dr. de Souza, says after the verdict, chancellor Lendley Black sent out an email that she perceived as being dismissive of the jury decision.

“We felt that the letter might have the unintended consequences of preventing faculty from coming forward, and talking about their experiences with gender discrimination,” said Dr. de Souza.

Dr. de Souza says that prompted a renewed focus on one of the university’s main goals, to create a more inclusive campus.

“I’m not sure we’re doing really good in that,” she said.

A university spokesperson says they did an intense campus climate survey in 2015 and are taking action based on themes that came from the campus community.

Along with that, Dr. de Souza says guest speakers and educational material have been prevalent around campus..

“We need to be able to take the conversation, take the discussion, take all that we have learned through the data–through our work in these areas–and translate those into actionable items that create a real perception of change and equity,” said Dr. de Souza.

Dr. de Souza says they need to go below the surface and tackle what she calls systemic issues at their origins.

“I would like to see more attention being paid to pay gaps among faculty, more attention to how resources are allocated among faculty, as well. I would also like to see more faculty from diverse backgrounds being hired here at UMD. This is something that is of value to us,” she said.

Dr. de Souza says the university has begun conducting a gender audit of the Swenson College of Science and Engineering.

She hopes that opens the door for more of her concerns to be brought to the forefront.

Chancellor Black issued the following statement concerning the matter:

“Ensuring a welcoming and inclusive campus climate at UMD continues to be one of our top priorities and it is central to my personal core values. This type of work requires all members of our campus community to be active and engaged. It requires all of us to ask tough questions, self-reflect, take action, and work together. I am appreciative of the work our campus has done and the dedication of our students, faculty, and staff. While I realize that we have made progress, I also understand there is always more work to be done. There are many current activities on campus that reflect our on-going commitment to campus climate work –  from last week’s summit on equity, race, and ethnicity – to on-going trainings such as implicit bias – to digging into data and then setting up action plans to minimize gaps and areas of concern – we are deeply committed to this on-going journey. “

Reporter Anthony Matt

Reporter Anthony Matt

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