One of the defining characteristics of an Inclusive Excellence university is the attentiveness to diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) and its willingness to listen to its students, staff, faculty, and administrators regarding their experiences in negotiating the campus climate for diversity. Equally as important is an institution’s effort to make changes by undertaking action based on the voices of its constituents and driven by a vision to be inclusive, welcoming, and equitable to all. In the past few years, Rocky Vista University has completed three campus climate surveys for diversity (2018, 2019, 2022) designed to learn more about the DEI perceptions, values, experiences, and opinions of students, staff, and faculty. The results of those three assessments are presented in the Rocky Vista University Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Climate Survey: Full Report (see link below).
As the new Vice President for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, I would like to point out two general observations emerging from the analysis of the survey data. First, Rocky Vista University is no different than the many other colleges and universities in regards to campus climate issues. The RVU assessment suggests we have a student, staff, and faculty population struggling with communicating across differences in diversity. This includes microaggressive comments and behavior, ingroup-outgroup perceptions, free speech issues, intolerance for disparate political views, perceived inequities across gender, racial, and religious groups, and fear of retaliation for speaking out on DEI issues. Second, many of the results and their implication for practice are already being addressed by the President’s Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Advisory Council (DEIAC); the RVU-UT Diversity Committee, and the RVU-CO Diversity Committee. Moreover, four task forces appointed to examine DEI dynamics at RVU made recommendations which have been vetted and are currently being implemented by the DEIAC. And although the work is not finished, I am heartened that we are addressing issues identified in the survey.
Making the survey results accessible and transparent is a priority for the DEIAC. On this webpage, you can find the Executive Summary and the complete campus climate report to include comments and analysis. Moving forward, the plan involves a two-prong strategy. The first involves continuing to learn from your voices by conducting focus groups with students, staff, and faculty to examine the issues more in-depth. Second, and more importantly, to continue the process of implementation using Inclusive Excellence, the structural, cultural, systemic, and transformational framework developed by the American Association of Colleges and Universities (AACU).
I want to acknowledge all the RVU individuals involved in undertaking the DEI work at RVU. Thank you to all the students, staff, and faculty who responded to the survey. Your involvement is very much appreciated. We are grateful to President David Forstein for his leadership of the DEIAC and their support of the campus climate assessment effort. Thank you to Dr. Jacqueline Powell, Chair of the Diversity Committee RVU-UT and Jensen Fisher, Chair of the Diversity Committee RVU-CO for their work on DEI issues. Thank you to the chairs of the four taskforces (as well as those who served on them): Community – David Paltza, Registrar, Office of the Registrar; Curriculum – Dr. Nicole Michels, Chair, Department of Medical Humanities and Professor of Physiology; Climate – Dr. Jacqueline Powell, Associate Professor of Physiology, Department of Bio-medical Sciences; and Communications – Dr. Elizabeth Dahlberg. Clinical Rotations Liaison for Northern Utah, Department of Clinical Education.
Finally, a heartfelt and sincere thank you to Dr. Jennifer Williams, Senior Data Analyst for her work on the survey and the resulting reports. We are very grateful for her commitment and contributions to DEI.
In the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr, “All labor that uplifts humanity has dignity and importance and should be undertaken with painstaking excellence.” Let us move forward with due diligence in our actions to transform RVU into an Inclusive Excellence university for the 21st century.
Jesús Treviño, PhD
VP for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion