Departments can benefit from having a diversity plan

Michael Bugeja has been trying to get the conversation started since 2004. That is when the former director of the Greenlee School of Journalism and Communication began working with a committee to come up with a diversity plan that would satisfy accreditation standards for the school. The same year he chaired the first diversity committee in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

He has heard the argument that diversity cannot be forced on anyone, but his reply is simple and direct.

"I am not forcing anything on anyone," said Bugeja, a Distinguished Professor. "I am asking the faculty and staff to have a discussion about whether they want to adopt a plan. Everyone has an obligation to at least discuss it and embrace the consequences of what you decide to do."

Bugeja saw the work done on diversity at the Greenlee School earn the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication's 2014 Equity and Diversity Award.

What is it?

Diversity plans serve multiple purposes for a department and hold department members accountable to its details.

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Michael Bugeja wrote "Creating and publicizing a diversity plan" for Inside Higher Education.

"It is a bottom-up document that talks about the importance of diversity, defines what diversity is for that department and describes procedures for assessment of progress or setback."

Diversity plans can be tailored to a department's needs, but there is a three-part structure they follow:

  • Preamble
  • Goals
  • Assessment

The preamble focuses on why diversity is important and aligns with the university strategic plan. An action plan sets long-term goals -- for example, encourage diverse applicant pools or diversifying the curriculum. Finally, determine how to measure results.

When formulating a diversity plan, Bugeja suggests students and alumni be included to draft the most complete document. Talking to and learning from departments that have strong diversity plans can help others shape their plan.

Once a plan is approved by the faculty and staff and put in place, it acts as a guide when disagreements occur and as a cause of celebration when progress is made.

"Unlike a strategic plan, which is typically a five-year plan, a diversity plan is assessed every year," Bugeja said. "The report is given to the faculty and put online."


Bugeja believes every department should have three documents:

  • Mission statement
  • Strategic plan
  • Diversity plan

"A mission statement defines what the curriculum is for a department, but also it should have a statement on diversity," he said. "In every single department there is some element of diversity. It's not only related to ethnicity. Every department also needs a strategic plan, and if not, it is not fully participating in shared governance."

By the end of this semester, every department will have instructors complete inclusive classroom training to addresses racism and discrimination on campus in response to concerns from Students Against Racism. Bugeja believes diversity plans can add another important layer.

"President (Wendy) Wintersteen is committed to an inclusive environment," he said. "But there is a lack of assessment, and if diversity plans are adopted collegewide, we won't need regular inclusive training. The department will take that over."

Everyone impacted

Every department should have a discussion on diversity, inclusion and equity, even if the need may not be evident. Issues that arise will be more time consuming and disruptive for faculty without a diversity plan, Bugeja said.

The mathematics department has been addressing diversity for years.

"For us it is not curricular. It is about diversifying and supporting a diverse population of graduate students, postdocs and faculty," said Leslie Hogben, professor of mathematics and Dio Lewis Holl Chair in Applied Mathematics, who also served as the department's director of diversity for 10 years (2009-2019).

Hogben said the math department has built relationships with minority-serving colleges to bring a more diverse group to campus and try to retain some as faculty. Mathematicians of Color Alliance, a group of minority graduate and undergraduate math students, focuses on recruitment and retention of underrepresented students.

"We value diversity of all kinds," Hogben said.