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Task force aims to promote diversity

February 4th, 2010

According to John Carroll University’s Web site, one of JCU’s core values is acting as “an inclusive community where differing points of view and experience are valued as opportunities for mutual learning.” 

In order to achieve this core value, the Rev. Robert Niehoff, president of JCU, established an Institutional Task Force on Diversity in July 2008. The group met from Sept. 2008 to Sept. 2009 to investigate issues of diversity and discrimination within the University. They explored specific campus issues concerning community relations, as well as planned steps to improve the experience of students, faculty, staff and administrators through an institutional structure based on a commitment to diversity. 

Lauren Bowen, academic vice-president and co-chair of the task force said that the group was formed in order to better understand issues of diversity, and more broadly, issues of inclusion. 

She said, “The task force met to exchange a variety of ideas concerning not only race, sex, and religion, but moreover it became focused on looking at a wealth of diverse perspectives and helped raise more questions as to what everyone should be doing to promote a better atmosphere of inclusion.”

Bowen added that, as a member of staff at JCU for 20 years, her experiences with diversity had been positive. 

“Diversity is something that is both progressive and prospective. At John Carroll, I feel that there is a genuine commitment made by faculty and students to promote inclusion. Nonetheless, all of us could be more culturally competent and the Task Force concluded that fostering inclusion is an ongoing process,” said Bowen.

The Task Force outlined several goals in a report, stating that the college was aiming to make central its commitment to ‘diversity, inclusion and cultural competence’ and to creating a campus climate in which differences are explored openly and respectfully. 

The Task Force also proposed the creation of an Ombudsperson, someone for all students and faculty at JCU to speak to in cases of discrimination. A Diversity Committee is currently working on this. 

The Task Force also proposed that each department within the university should seek to establish goals for advancing diversity and articulate possible ways of attaining them. 

Sophomore Kevin Rossignol felt hat John Carroll needs to work harder to promote diversity across campus. 

Rossignol said, “I think that JCU could definitely look further into issues of inclusion. As a student body, JCU could be more diverse in terms of race, economic status, religion and sexual orientation. Hopefully the Task Force has helped identify which areas need improvement.”

The Task Force also looked into the University’s core curriculum. All students at JCU are required to take a class that satisfies their Diversity requirement within the core curriculum in order to graduate. The report argued that although those requirements were ‘sufficiently innovative’ and beneficial towards promoting diversity in 1995 when the core curriculum was originally adopted, those diversity (D) or international (R) courses are now viewed as requirements to check off. 

The report also found that approximately 55% of students fulfil the diversity requirement by taking Introduction to Sociology and other courses that fulfil the diversity requirement rarely exceed 5%. 

The Task Force is now considering looking at the possibility of introducing changes to the core curriculum to further satisfy issues of diversity and foster community relations. 

Freshman Kyle Hutnick has found the atmosphere at JCU to be very diverse and welcoming to all students. 

“It’s one of the main reasons I chose to come here. I think the atmosphere at JCU is great and I’m happy to be a part of it,” said Hutnick.

The Task Force worked in conjunction with JCU organizations such as the Student Diversity Initiatives Working Group, the Office of Multicultural Affairs and other affiliated groups across campus in the hopes that diversity can progress further. 

The Task Force concluded that although JCU is a community that fosters diversity and welcomes all cultures, there is a constant need to reinforce the topic of inclusion and make it a central focus point across the university. 

Bowen added, “The Task Force raised a lot of good questions and will hopefully act as a catalyst for change.  It’s our duty now to ensure that the issue of diversity is placed at the top of our priorities.”