DEI announces new mission statement, nomination process


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The Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee will be holding an open forum Oct. 31 to allow the college community to give feedback for their mission statement, released through an Oct. 5 email from President and CEO Kwang-Wu Kim.

By Campus Reporter

Columbia’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee is taking steps to complete the third goal of the college’s Strategic Plan pillar “Diversity, Equity and Inclusion: Engaging Difference,” according to recent emails sent to the campus community by President and CEO Kwang-Wu Kim and the DEI committee. 

Kim announced the first draft of the committee’s mission statement, as well as a nomination process for new members. The committee, formed in Spring 2016 when 11 members were appointed, is now looking to fill vacant positions. The two student members, Luther Hughes and Brooke Thomas, both graduated in May 2016, according to Kim. Hughes and Thomas could not be reached for comment.

Jeffrey Howard, Kathleen Loftus, and Janet Pena-Davis have all stepped down from their positions on the committee, said college spokeswoman Cara Birch.

In the Oct. 3 email, Kim said he would consider nominations received by the Oct. 14 deadline and added that self-nominating individuals should submit a onepage statement listing their experience and expertise, consistent with the first nomination process.

Onye Ozuzu, committee chair and Dean of the School of Fine & Performing Arts, said the determining factor for membership selection is an understanding of diversity at an academic level or experience with implementing structural change at either Columbia or other institutions.

“[The committee is] a group of people that are identified by their expertise either in diversity as a subject matter, or in having participated in structural change in institutions,” Ozuzu said. “All of us represent that type of experience in our actual resumes.”

In an Oct. 11 interview with The Chronicle, Kim said after all nominations are submitted, they will be discussed with the committee, but he will ultimately be the one to appoint them.

According to Birch, there are six remaining committee members. Coordinator of Asian-American Cultural Affairs and committee member Ramona Gupta said there is no set number of members to be selected.

“The most important thing is that we have folks coming together who have experience and can contribute something substantive to the committee’s work and to the advancement of diversity, equity and inclusion at Columbia,” Gupta said.

Kim said he wants to appoint as many new members as possible while still keeping it a “true, working committee.”

Kim and Ozuzu said there is no specific date set for the announcement of the new members. The first draft of the mission statement was sent in a collegewide email Oct. 5. According to Gupta, the committee began working on the mission statement at the end of the Spring 2016 Semester and finished the draft at the beginning of the summer.

The college’s five-year Strategic Plan calls for completion of the mission statement during the 2015-2016 school year.

According to Kim, the committee waited until fall to send out the draft instead of summer, because people were not on campus.

 “We hold to the commitment that the diversity of the society we live in and the students we engage should be reflected in our faculty, staff, and students and as a College we are committed to creating policies and programs that will ensure that diversity, equity, and inclusion thrive and are at the center of all that we do,” The statement said.

According to Ozuzu, the committee researched diversity statements from other institutions to create the first draft. The statement expressed the beliefs and commitment to diversity and inclusion at the college.

Gupta said it is important to get feedback to ensure the statement resonates with everyone in the Columbia community.

“If this is a statement that speaks to the entire college’s commitment, then it’s important to check with the community and see if it truly does reflect where they want to see the college go,” Gupta said.

The Oct. 5 email also stated that there would be an open forum to get additional feedback on the mission statement. According to Ozuzu, the forum will be held Oct. 31. Gupta said the forum will likely be held at Stage Two in the 618 S. Michigan Ave Building, at 1 p.m., but that place and time is yet to be confirmed.

“We want to make sure this is a statement the college believes in,” Kim said. “We don’t want it to just be a small group of people writing words and then claiming it to represent the college.”

Kim stated that these steps are central to the college’s Strategic Plan implementation, in which one of its goals calls the college to become national leaders in higher education for commitment to diversity and inclusion. Other steps the college plans to take include ensuring diversity within curriculum and the college community.

“I’m excited about getting to the point where we’re actively working on making the kinds of structural changes that will help us be more effective in this area,” Kim said.