February 1, 2023
Ithaca, NY | 15°F


Ithaca College on track to meet diversity training deadlines

Ithaca College administration and staff appear to be on track to meet the mandatory diversity and inclusion education and training requirements set forth in the diversity action plan, which was made in response to student protests in the Fall 2015 semester. The faculty was not included in the requirements.

The college announced the requirements after hosting the “Addressing Community Action on Racism and Cultural Bias” event Oct. 27, 2015. According to the announcement, staff and administrators have until June 30 to meet the requirement of attending at least two education and training events.

Michelle Rios-Dominguez, manager of diversity and inclusion at the college, said 86 percent of staff have attended at least one event, and 44 percent have attended the two required events, as of May 3. She said she is confident this number will reach 100 percent by June 30 because the Office of Human Resources is working with other departments to set up departmentwide efforts with external facilitators. In addition, Rios-Dominguez said that once students are off campus, staff might have an easier time attending the events.

She said if people do not meet the requirements, it will be up to their supervisors to determine what to do. Since this is the first year implementing the requirements, she said there probably will not be severe punishments, such as firing.

“Supervisors are also on board with helping their employees reach the requirement, so I am confident that we reach close to the 100 percentile by June 30,” Rios-Dominguez said.

Currently, faculty members do not have a requirement to attend a certain number of events per year. Wade Pickren, director of the Center for Faculty Excellence & Sponsored Research, said this policy benefits busy faculty members.

“Faculty don’t like to be forced to anything,” Pickren said. “As the semester winds down … faculty members have even less time.”

Peter Rothbart, chair of the Faculty Council, said there is a difference between the job scope of staff and faculty.

“Faculty is much more of a collegial entity,” Rothbart said. “Staff is much more of a top-down entity. They’ve got a boss. They’ve got directors that tell them, ‘That’s part of your job. You will do this.’”

Roger Richardson, associate provost for diversity, inclusion and engagement, said the faculty does not have the requirement because the administration was unsure how these events would impact their schedule.

“Faculty do not have direct supervisors,” Richardson said. “When we talk about requiring a faculty, that becomes an issue of concern for many. When you don’t have the infrastructure in place in terms of regulating individuals, it’s a different type of infrastructure between faculty and staff.”

Luca Maurer, program director for the Center for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Education, Outreach and Services, is also a member of the Diversity Awareness Committee, a committee that provides educational sessions in relation to issues of diversity. Maurer said having a requirement does not mean that all people will be willing to listen to his message.

“There are probably always people that my efforts are not going to reach because those people do not want to be reached,” Maurer said.

Peter Earle, multimedia lab technician and Staff Council member, said having the requirement for the staff but not the faculty is unfair.

“If you’re going to be inclusive, you should be broadly inclusive, and that should include as many people as you can,” Earle said. “It seemed to be very staff-heavy because we were required to attend. I would have been more happy if I saw a larger presence of faculty. But sadly, that wasn’t the case. They didn’t volunteer, and we didn’t have a choice to volunteer or not.”

Patricia Rodriguez, associate professor of politics, said having requirements for staff and not faculty creates issues within the sessions.

“[Staff members are] looking around and seeing there’s no faculty,” Rodriguez said. “So who’s really engaging into conversations with each other? I think it creates more questions.”

Rios-Dominguez said the requirement for staff and administration has worked to increase attendance at the training and education sessions. So far, her department has offered about 65 events this academic year.

“I think on average, on the beginning part of the year, September through December, we probably saw about on average 20 to 25 individuals each session,” Rios-Dominguez said. “Now I can’t produce enough sessions. And in fact, some are capping out at 50 to 55.”

Rios-Dominguez said some of the facilitators have felt overwhelmed because of the spike in attendance. She said some facilitators prefer to have discussions in smaller and more intimate settings.

“I think it’s been like jumping on a moving freight train because the reality was I wasn’t necessarily the person who had made that decision, to make it a requirement,” Rios-Dominguez said. “Even if we have to bring them there in a way that’s a little bit more formal by saying, ‘You must attend these,’ the hope is that when they leave, they leave with some information that will be helpful.”

Earle said he thinks the workshops are a good idea but that he is not sure what he has gotten out of them.

“I do feel they’re important,” Earle said. “I think it’s a good first step. In some ways, the problems we had, like the staff had, are some of the same problems that I think we’re going to have with diversity and inclusion.”

Although Maurer also said he has noticed an increase in attendance, Pickren said he has not noticed a change in faculty attendance for Center for Faculty Excellence events, which are offered specifically for faculty. He said workshops have a typical attendance of 1620 faculty members and the number of workshops offered varies per month.

In an attempt to reach out to more faculty members, the Center for Faculty Excellence will host a daylong workshop about identities May 16 with facilitators from Columbia College Chicago. As of May 2, the event is filled. Rios-Dominguez said she is working with her office and other departments to offer more training sessions from now until June 30. The college’s current calendar lists five sessions in May and nine in June.

Elena Piech can be reached at epiech@ithaca.edu or via Twitter: @elepiech