Salisbury University has received a
number of plaudits in recent years. We are celebrated among the top 10 best
regional public universities in the North by U.S. News & World Report and
among the top 331 universities in the nation by The Princeton Review. These
accolades are based upon the efforts of faculty, staff and students over the
past two decades. In order to build upon the recognition the University has
received in the past, as SU's eighth president I ask that you join me in
taking this institution to its next level of greatness.
In order to do so, we must embrace change
to better serve the needs of our students and the citizens of our state.
There is one area where we must make rapid progress, and it will be the
subject of today's column. It is the issue of campus diversity. Salisbury University is clearly "diversity-challenged," especially when
we consider the racial and ethnic population profile of both the Eastern
Shore and the entire State of Maryland. We have a history of being a
"white" school and, indeed, we are the least racially diverse of
the traditionally white institutions within the University System of
Maryland. This past fall, our freshman class included only 36
African-American students (and only 70 non-white students) out of 856 new
enrollees. Only 19 (or 6.9 percent) of our full-time teaching faculty are
minority. Beyond these stark statistics, local community leaders, SU
employees, and past and present students report that SU has much work to do
to become a campus that truly welcomes diverse peoples and ideas.
The goal of diversity is not only a concern
of this campus but of all institutions that comprise the University System of
Maryland. USM staff have recently devised a statistical "diversity
indicator" (DI) that estimates the probability that any two randomly
selected members of a campus student population would be from a different
racial or ethnic group. At one end, a campus where every student is of the
same racial or ethnic group would have a probability or diversity indicator
(DI) of zero; and, at the other end, where every student is of a different
racial or ethnic group - a theoretical possibility, I guess - the probability
would be one.
Here are the diversity indicator estimates
for USM institutions, using fall 1998 data of standard federally-defined
Total USM 0.51
You can see that SU ranks second from the
bottom, and these numbers include the students who enroll in SU courses
through collaborative programs with UMES.
Given that on a regional and national basis
SU is viewed quite positively and that we receive many more student
applications than we can possibly accept, why should we be concerned with
increasing inclusiveness and the diversity of our students, faculty and
staff? What is in it for us? Besides the obvious answer that this is the
"right thing to do," we would be remiss in not acknowledging and
responding to the changing demographic profile of our state. Diversity across
the SU community is important in order for us to fulfill our primary
mission: to provide a quality education.
In an article written by Drs. Jeffrey Milem
of UMCP and Kenji Hakuta of Stanford University for the American Council of
Education ("The Benefits of Racial and Ethnic Diversity in Higher
Education" in the 17th annual Status Report on Minorities in Higher
Education, 49(3), February 14, 2000), the authors lay out four overarching
reasons why the goal of diversity is part and parcel with the objectives of a
solid undergraduate education. First, diversity enhances the educational
experience by bringing first-hand exposure to beliefs, perspectives and
experiences that are different from our own and from those with whom we have
grown up. Second, diversity furthers personal growth through the increased
opportunity to question stereotyped beliefs and to think critically on
critical social issues independent of previously-held assumptions. Third,
diversity promotes the experience of working with others of different
backgrounds--a skill that is crucial and expected today in our pluralistic
work world. And, finally, diversity offers the opportunity for all citizens
to become educated and use their talents and abilities as productive citizens
and as community and family members.
While "diversity" has been a
buzzword on this campus for a number of years, we must begin to make real
progress. In order to move ahead as we seek to make ours a more inclusive
campus, I am pleased to announce the following:
- I have allocated $76,000 to Admissions for
implementation of the Partnerships for Success program. This program has
the goal of recruiting a more diverse incoming class of freshmen and
transfers and will be in place in time to make a difference in our Fall
2001 enrollments. Jointly proposed by Jane DanŽ and the Admissions staff
and the Committee on Multi-Ethnic Concerns, and endorsed by the Faculty
Senate, the Partnerships for Success Program is designed to establish an
affiliation between SU and a high school or community college program
that identifies potential college students who may need additional
guidance and support during the college search, admission and enrollment
processes. Partnerships for Success will waive application or acceptance
fees, when appropriate; guarantee qualified candidates who enroll at SU
a minimum scholarship of $1,000 per year for up to four years (students
receiving this scholarship are eligible for additional need-based or
merit-based financial aid); and provide student and faculty mentors to
enhance social and academic support.
for Success program and other recruitment initiatives will be much more
likely to succeed if we view them as collaborative projects to which we can
all make some contribution. I ask academic departments to work with
Admissions and the Committee on Multi-Ethnic Concerns to help make our
efforts in this area more effective.
Over a year ago, the
Multi-Ethnic Concerns Committee and several student groups advocated
increasing the number of support staff in Student Affairs. We may
successfully recruit students to SU, but we must be ready to back up
recruitment with assistance in the transition to college and retention
through graduation. Accordingly, the position of Minority Student Achievement
Specialist has recently been created, and, following an internal search, Leon
Burks was selected as the successful candidate for the position. Leon brings
a wealth of experience from his previous work with students in Admissions and
his more recent service as campus Affirmative Action officer.
In the area of
retention too, it is important that our work be collaborative and
coordinated. Hence, I am asking Vice President of Student Affairs Carol
Williamson and her staff to spearhead collaboration with our Advising
Coordinators and Academic Counselors to ensure that we are prepared to meet
the needs of a more diverse student population.
I am reconfiguring the
current position of Special Assistant to the President for Affirmative
Action. We will soon begin a national search for the position of Special
Assistant to the President for Diversity Initiatives/Affirmative Action. This
position will serve as the coordinator of information on efforts to enhance
the diversity of the SU community and to promote the ideals of tolerance,
inclusiveness and celebration of the differences in cultures and lifestyles.
In order to improve relations
with the larger community, I am initiating a series of meetings with
African-American and Hispanic leaders of the Greater Salisbury community. I
held a luncheon just last week attended by over 15 members of the local
community to solicit their opinions and ideas on how SU can become a more
inclusive campus. One individual related that in 1964 he was denied admission
solely on the basis of the color of his skin. No wonder the perception
persists that SU has not been welcoming to non-whites. We must break down
existing barriers and improve community relations. The message should now be
clear: The "welcome mat" is out!
It is estimated that 10
percent of the region's population is Hispanic, representing about 45,000
individuals. Few educational opportunities are directed toward this growing
sector of our community. We already have a very successful English as a
Second Language (ESOL) program on the SU campus, but more must be done.
Accordingly, we will begin to consider ways to better meet the needs of the
Hispanic community. I have already had preliminary conversations with
President Hoy of Wor-Wic Community College, and he and I hope that our
institutions together will develop proposals to make college more accessible
to our region's Hispanics. We are considering an initiative that might be
called "HOLA," Hispanics' Opportunities for Learning Assistance.
These efforts are in the very earliest planning stages.
For many years, the Lower
Eastern Shore was somewhat geographically isolated from the rest of the
world; indeed, the rest of Maryland. Since the opening of the Bay Bridge in
1952, things have changed, but we still lag well behind other top flight
universities where globalization is concerned. We have students who come to
SU from other nations and we have study abroad opportunities for SU
students, but our efforts can be better coordinated. Different campus groups
and committees for years have noted the need to focus our efforts. Because of
budget constraints, we have handled these activities out of the Admissions
Office. In order to provide academic direction, vision and better
coordination for all international education activities on our campus, we
will commence the search for a full-time Director of International Education
to be filled by July 1, 2001.
For some 20 years, the
SU-UMES collaborative agreement has allowed students at both campuses to
share programs, facilities, and resources. This special collaboration between
a traditionally white campus and an Historically Black Institution (HBI) has
been recognized as a national model and has received the prestigious Theodore
M. Hesburgh Award. Under the leadership of Nelson E. Townsend, Salisbury University, in conjunction with UMES, will renew its efforts to strengthen
opportunities for academic and social exchange.
I know this letter has not addressed many
important issues such as the challenges in enhancing the diversity among
faculty and staff, gay and lesbian issues, the needs of the disabled, and
broadening the global awareness and sensitivity of everyone within our
community. What needs to happen on this campus is no less than a
transformation in terms of inclusiveness, campus climate and dialogue within
our SU community. With that change will come a greater awareness of
ourselves as human beings within a complex and ever-changing world. We will
celebrate the traditions and strong academic reputation of Salisbury University while extending our success to better serve the citizens of the
Eastern Shore, of Maryland, and ourselves.
In my efforts to clarify and specify my
commitment to diversity at Salisbury University, I have been ably
assisted by the Multi-Ethnic Concerns Committee; University System of
Maryland administrative advisors; members of the University Forum, Faculty
and Staff Senates; and by individual faculty, staff and students at SU who
have taken the time to talk with me or email me their concerns and their suggestions.
But have I heard from you? Let me know your ideas and, please, find your own
personal avenue to be a part of this diversity effort.