Ithaca College is beginning to encourage alumni volunteers, including the Board of Trustees and members of the Alumni Association Board of Directors and alumni committees, to complete diversity and inclusion training, beginning with a training session during alumni weekend Oct. 7–9.
The training will consist of multiple on-campus meetings along with interactive online modules led by Craig B. Clayton, a consultant and speaker who founded and works as the chief diversity officer of the Equitable Workforce Institute, a firm that specializes in company diversity training. Clayton said the training will inform alumni volunteers on how to listen effectively, resolve conflicts respectfully in a multicultural setting and have tough conversations.
The volunteers that will be participating in the first training session led by Clayton, are in leadership positions on alumni boards and were highly encouraged to join the program by the Office of Alumni Relations, said Carrie Brown, executive director of alumni relations. She said 40–60 volunteers from the alumni board, the alumni advisory boards for each school, and committees that alumni sit on, will participate in the programs, but the training is not mandatory.
Among those volunteers, Marc Hudak, president of the alumni board, will also be attending. Hudak said volunteers have been made aware of these training sessions since last spring.
“We are getting people trained as quickly as we can, and I’m sure in due time we will have 100 percent participation,” Hudak said.
The Board of Trustees will also go through diversity training by Clayton as a part of their fall meeting on-campus Oct. 19–21.
Brown is overseeing the implementation of these training sessions. She said the training is important for alumni to understand the priorities of the college and to support those values and goals when volunteering.
“Administrations come and go, but students and alumni are forever, and without them, the college couldn’t be what it is today,” Brown said.
The idea for a volunteer diversity–training program was first introduced last year when Chris Biehn, vice president for institutional advancement, presented three action steps at the college’s Addressing Community Action on Racism and Cultural Bias town hall meeting Oct. 27, 2015. He prompted the college to begin a program for volunteers to learn about shared respect and inclusivity, to continue to keep and gain diverse volunteers and to require more inclusive language from volunteers.
Clayton, who visited campus recently to speak with the Student Governance Council on Sept. 27, said the main issue he will be addressing in his alumni weekend workshops is how to foster greater respect at the college.
“The issue was looking at how you create an environment that leads to a culture of respect,” Clayton said. “A lot of the issues that occurred last year from the perceptions of the students, staff and faculty was that the communications were not being done in a way that was respectful.”
Clayton began visiting campus in July 2015 and continued to visit campus twice a month to have conversations with students, staff and faculty to inform him in creating a specific program for the college, he said. In those conversations, he said, the topic of microaggressions came up frequently.
“It’s not the question of ‘did I intend to be disrespectful,’ — it doesn’t matter if you intended it or not because now you are looking at unconscious incompetence because if you don’t know what you don’t know then someone can enlighten you that that was inappropriate,” Clayton said.
Brown said she sees this program as a positive step for the future but wishes to see a more unified, overarching program form out of this experience.
“Because there is no unified strategy on campus, it’s challenging to see where everyone’s things fit together and measure progress,” Brown said.