There have been some delays in implementing diversity and inclusion initiatives at Ithaca College, including the establishment of a community review board, the creation of a body camera policy and the release of the results of the external review of the Office of Public Safety and Emergency Management.
These initiatives were created as part of the college’s diversity and inclusion action items in an effort to address racism and cultural bias, spurred by student protests regarding the racial climate on campus and a tense relationship between Public Safety personnel and students.
In the fall of 2015, the Student Government Association, now known as the Student Governance Council, passed a bill stating that body cameras should be worn by Public Safety officers.
So far, the body camera policy has been reviewed by the General Council and the Office of Human Resources, and it is now being reviewed by Rory Rothman, associate provost of student life. The policy will be reviewed by the Residential Life/ Office of Public Safety Work Group next week, Rothman stated in an email. Rothman said he cannot give an estimate as to when the review will be completed.
Once the policy is completed, it will be returned to Public Safety, which will review the policy with two Residential Life work groups. Terri Stewart, former director of Public Safety, had said in a previous interview with The Ithacan that the policy would be finished by the end Fall 2016.
Roger Richardson, associate provost for diversity, inclusion and engagement, said the reviews of the draft documents for the community review board have not yet been completed, but they have to be reviewed by the Office of Public Safety Union, which has slowed down the process for its establishment.
The community review board would include students from diverse backgrounds and serve as an impartial third party for campus community members to report concerns regarding Public Safety, according to the action item listing on the college’s website.
“We haven’t finalized it because the Office of Public Safety union still has to go through a review process,” Richardson said. “We just need to get agreement from all parties involved.”
All framework and operational aspects of the community review board have been drafted, Richardson said. He said he believes the campus community will have an opportunity to see the framework before anything is implemented.
Marieme Foote, president of the Student Governance Council, said she understands that there may be concerns from students if the delays continue but that they might be influenced by Public Safety’s change in leadership with the departure of Stewart.
“I am kind of sad that we do have those delays because these are really important things that we need in our community,” Foote said.
Richardson said he believes the process is equally as important as the outcome, and the process of analyzing any possible nuances takes time. The firm that conducted the external review of Public Safety has also taken more time than anticipated to turn over results, Richardson said.
Third-party firm Margolis Healy conducted the external review Nov. 8 through 10, 2016. Dave Maley, senior associate director for media and community relations for the college, said the firm is currently preparing the report that will be shared with the campus community once it is finalized.
“I don’t have a time frame at this time for the presentation of the report to the campus community,” Maley said.
Foote said the results of the external review were projected to be released this semester, meaning the results are not considered delayed until the semester is over. She said that if the results do not come out within the next couple of months, she would be concerned.
Derek Adams, assistant professor in the Department of English, said he thinks it is problematic that there have been no updates regarding the progress of these diversity initiatives.
“If we remain out of the loop, we’re running into an issue in that we’re assuming an incredibly small group of people know what’s best for the entirety of the campus community, so much so that it doesn’t require more collective input,” Adams said.
Foote said there is going to be some anxiety when there are delays in notifying the public about progress with diversity initiatives.
“We definitely need more transparency in terms of administrators communicating with students exactly where they’re at in the process,” Foote said. “Right now, I’m not too concerned with the updates not having been released yet, but I will be if it doesn’t happen within the next couple of weeks.”
In terms of further diversity initiatives, Foote said she hopes the administration will do a thorough job of searching for and selecting the new chief diversity officer. The position was created Nov. 10, 2015, to provide leadership over ongoing work to improve the college’s racial climate. Richardson has been serving as an interim during the search to fill the position.
Richardson said he anticipates submitting a diversity and inclusion update message to the campus community before the end of this month.