Does diversity committee delay show lack in planning?

By Editor-in-Chief

As Columbia makes strides toward better supporting diversity at the college, such as through the Nov. 30 announcement of the formation of the Strategic Plan implementation committee intended to oversee the application of its diversity, equity and inclusion goals, concerns remain about how these next steps will be carried out.

The emailed announcement, which came from President and CEO Kwang-Wu Kim, noted that faculty and staff will have the opportunity to self-nominate to join the committee by Dec. 15, as reported in the story on Page 4.

This news comes almost eight weeks after the other committees supporting the implementation of the Strategic Plan have already begun meeting. 

Kim said in an interview with The Chronicle that it took longer for the college to announce the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee because he needed “to gestate on an idea for a long time” so the next steps of the process could “materialize in [his] mind.”

While it makes sense that such a vital committee would require that it be well thought-out, it’s concerning that it took so long just to announce it. 

Kim made a point that the DEI Committee will now work to implement its goals into the college’s other implementation committees to ensure that diversity is supported across the board.

However, this also seems difficult to carry out because the other committees have been up and running for several weeks, and one ceases operating on Dec. 15.

A more productive and streamlined approach would have been to create the DEI Committee first and then have members guide discussions of diversity in the two ongoing committees that presumably lack expertise in this area.

Announcing the formation of the committee earlier in the year would also have proven the college’s dedication to the committee’s goals. 

Though the option to self-nominate to join the committee may be an open call for participation, some worry that the same faces will be seen participating as have already attended previous discussions on minority issues.

If the same members of the college are repeatedly the only ones attending meetings on how to better incorporate and support diversity at Columbia, some worry that those who need this training and education won’t be exposed to it.

Another concern is that minority faculty may already be pulled in several directions, so if they are relied on too heavily to uphold the goals of this committee, it may not succeed. 

Kim also invited students to self-nominate to join the committee. Adding the viewpoints of students to a committee focused on implementing such important qualities into the college environment is admirable but requires proper planning.

Students would likely be interesting in contributing to the DEI Committee to ensure all student concerns are adequately addressed, but serving on such a committee is tiring, time-consuming work. 

For students to be able to effectively contribute to the committee, there needs to be an incentive for them to do so such as receiving payment for their participation or course credits.

Committee members often have to conduct research and complete heavy reading assignments that might otherwise detract from students’ class work, but making participation in the committee a course substitution would be a learning opportunity that would allow students to participate without overburdening them.