Editor’s Note: Investment in diverse education necessary for DEI initiatives

By Ariana Portalatin, Editor-in-Chief

As the college is praised for its current diversity and inclusion initiatives at the local and national level, those here on campus are still waiting for holes to be filled.

Several Diversity, Equity and Inclusion initiatives are outlined in the college’s Strategic Plan, including the addition of a more diverse faculty and curriculum to better represent the college and serve the community.

As reported March 21 by The Chronicle, the campus community is still waiting for an Asian Studies minor to be added to the college’s curriculum more than a year after initial discussions took place during a town hall hosted by the Humanities, History and Social Sciences Department. According to the article, the minor did not even make it to the proposal level, despite interest in it, due to difficulties getting the resources to create a formal proposal. Even if a proposal was able to be made, faculty discussed the complex and potentially costly approval process needed for a new program to be implemented.

Columbia’s Curriculum Policy Manual states new programs must be approved at multiple stages before final approval by the provost. These stages, in order, include: the Department Curriculum Committee of the relevant department, department chair, the School Curriculum Committee, school dean, the Faculty Senate Academic and Financial Affairs committees and then the full Faculty Senate.

A detailed and thorough approval process is important to ensure the new programs are adequate and will truly benefit the campus when implemented. At the same time, faculty are required to prove the financial sustainability of such programs, something that proved difficult for the HHSS Department.

“Given the fiscal environment and the enrollment environment at Columbia, [it is] challenging to advance or ask for all the resources that one might want to,” said Richard King, HHSS Department chair in the article.

Adequate funding is necessary, but lack of resources is also an easy excuse to fall back on when shutting a program down. Financial investment is important to support programs such as an Asian Studies minor that are extremely important to our campus, especially if Columbia is to be a leader in diversity and inclusion. Although Columbia is currently experiencing an enrollment decline, more students may be inclined to attend Columbia if they felt represented in their courses and saw the college was making strides toward diversity. This would bring in more money to the college through more tuition dollars. The college should do what it can to prevent any unnecessary systematic roadblocks that keep critical DEI curriculum from being approved.

Columbia’s diversity initiatives were considered an achievement by the Higher Learning Commission during the college’s reaccreditation, as reported March 19 by The Chronicle. President and CEO Kwang-Wu Kim recently hosted a March 14 forum with DEI Co-Directors Raquel Monroe and Fo Wilson about the status of these initiatives. The discussion included the college’s plans to hire faculty and staff members who are both diverse and produce diverse work. The DEI Office also plans to include a requirement of six DEI credits for graduation beginning with the 2019–2020 academic year and restructuring the current DEI Committee to assist with developing and implementing DEI initiatives.

There is no doubt Columbia is taking steps in the right direction to come out ahead of other higher education institutions with diversity and inclusion initiatives. There’s also no doubt the college has a long way to go. During this critical moment of change and advancement, it’s crucial for the college to pay special attention to what students and faculty want to see on the campus they attend and do what they can to make it happen.