Diversity Council formed to carry forward work from report and survey

The University has formed a new Diversity Council to advise the offices of the provost and executive vice president on diversity-related matters.

The council, composed of 28 staff members, will build upon the foundations laid by the Diversity Working Group. It is co-chaired by Lianne Sullivan-Crowley, vice president for human resources, and Terri Harris Reed, vice provost for institutional equity and diversity.

The Diversity Working Group, appointed by President Shirley M. Tilghman in 2004, was charged with identifying strategies and potential barriers that affect the recruitment, hiring, retention and promotion of a diverse workforce at Princeton. It issued a report in fall 2005 that resulted in a number of changes intended to make Princeton a more diverse and welcoming workplace for people of all backgrounds. In fall 2006, the working group sponsored a confidential survey of Princeton staff members on topics including the fairness of employment practices, the openness of Princeton's culture, and the extent to which people's ideas are sought, listened to and utilized in decision-making.

Using information from the report and the survey, the new Diversity Council is charged with recommending and promoting policies, practices and programs that foster effective participation in a diverse and inclusive community; examining formal and informal structures and processes that impede or facilitate progress toward diversity goals and recommending improvements; and identifying strategies and approaches to raise awareness and sustain dialogue.

"Princeton's mission requires that we create a community that is diverse, inclusive and equitable," said Provost Christopher Eisgruber. "I am grateful to the talented members of the new council for their willingness to work with us to promote this fundamental University commitment."

Members of the new council were selected in part because of the roles they already play in promoting, supporting or influencing diversity-related work issues on the campus.

"We sought out people who have some responsibility for diversity or equity as part of their current portfolio," said Reed. "We tried to identify individuals who are already engaged in these efforts so we can collaborate and leverage one another's activities. We want to find out where they need additional support. We want to involve members of our community who have access to information that will help us accomplish our mission -- who have their ears to the ground and are listening."

She expects the large group will meet three to four times a year, with subgroups gathering more frequently to focus on priority issues. While those issues have yet to be identified by the council, Reed said she believes several likely topics have emerged from the employee survey.

The survey was developed by Cornell University and customized for Princeton. Administered both online and on paper, it had a 29 percent response rate, which is considered statistically valid for this type of survey. In early 2007, a diverse team of external consultants who spoke Spanish and English also conducted 25 focus groups with 167 employees to follow up on themes that emerged from the survey data.

Reed said the findings reveal that staff members view the University as committed to diversity. Men and women are equally likely to say that they are treated fairly, experience a workplace culture that is open to their differences and have the opportunity to participate in decision-making. Less than 10 percent of the respondents believe that overall the University is not open to difference or is an unfair place to work.

According to the survey, Princeton employees are extremely conscientious, good University citizens and helpful to coworkers. They are very loyal and committed to the University.

However, the survey indicated that staff members' relationships with senior managers can be improved, especially in the areas of communication (about goals, trends, challenges and priorities). Some employees perceive compensation and promotion practices to be unfairly applied, while others have a general concern about the quality of supervision and limited opportunities for career development and learning. The majority of staff members did not perceive themselves to be included in decision-making or as having opportunities to contribute new ideas.

In general, members of underrepresented groups responded less favorably to questions on the survey.

In response to the survey, administrators already have implemented several initiatives:

  • Expanded diversity training.
  • Created and expanded training for managers.
  • Added multilingual employees in the Office of Human Resources.
  • Hired several additional employee relations professionals.
  • Added English as a Second Language programming.
  • Improved work skills training.
  • Established support for five employee affinity groups.
In addition to Sullivan-Crowley and Reed, the administrators responsible for these efforts include the director for equal opportunity programs in the Office of the Provost, Cheri Lawson, and the manager of diversity and inclusion in the Office of Human Resources, Robert Martinez. The positions held by Lawson and Martinez were created in 2006 in response to recommendations of the Diversity Working Group. These four individuals constitute the institutional equity and diversity team, which works closely with other colleagues in human resources.

"Our team's responsibility is to promote, encourage and monitor the University's goals for fairness, openness and participation," Reed said. "Human resources has the responsibility to help managers address issues related to recruitment, hiring, merit review, promotion and pay. We will work with the Diversity Council to target these areas."

Reed cited the issue of openness as one that the council wants to understand more fully. "The survey shows us that people feel they can really be themselves. But they also feel an opposite sentiment -- that they have to hide a part of themselves. We need to look at that. Why are people saying 'I get to be myself' and at the same time they are saying there are clear 'in groups' and 'out groups'? Is there a whole population of people who won't come here or who don't stay here because they feel like they will never be in an 'in group'? The council will be able to provide feedback from their experiences and create settings where we can get more information."

"In some instances, the decision-making process can be more inclusive, so we are encouraging managers to be more open to hearing people who are doing the day-to-day implementation of a unit's work plan," she added. "The Diversity Council will help us figure out if we can better facilitate this goal, where appropriate. If we're going to be an inclusive place and take advantage of each person's gifts, talents and perspectives, we have to see if there are institutional structures in place that contradict or impede this goal. Sometimes those structures are in place because we have other goals we're also trying to achieve. The question then becomes whether we can make changes that allow us to do both, or does one goal have to take precedence, say for safety reasons?"

While the changes may take time, Reed feels the survey and the council are important continuing steps toward improving the workplace climate at Princeton.

"We're signaling to the community that our commitment to inclusiveness is genuine," she said. "We believe there are benefits to having a diversity of opinions and backgrounds, and that we'll get better results and be a stronger community."

In addition to Reed, Sullivan-Crowley, Lawson and Martinez, working with the council and serving as members will be Felicia Edwards, equity and diversity program specialist in the Office of the Provost, and Zia Bartley, events/diversity/communications specialist in the Office of Human Resources.

The Diversity Council's current membership also includes: Hetty Baiz, manager of the project office for finance, administration and planning in the Office of Information Technology; Mary Baum, associate dean of the faculty; Debra Bazarsky, director of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Center; Patrick Caddeau, director of studies in Forbes College; Makeba Clay, director of the Fields Center for Equality and Cultural Understanding; Diedrick Graham, associate ombuds officer; Melva Hardy, operations administrator in University Health Services; Karen Jackson-Weaver, associate dean for academic affairs and diversity in the Graduate School; Kim Jackson, director of parking and transportation; Pierre Joanis, director of labor relations in the Office of Human Resources; Melissa Lee, graduate program office director at the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs; John Martin, director of development administration; Andrea Moten, employment manager at the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory; Alan Napier, library human resources officer; Loretta O'Connor, director of staffing in the Office of Human Resources; Susan Powell, assistant director of the Lewis-Sigler Institute for Integrative Genomics; Paul Raushenbush, associate dean of religious life; Jennifer Rexford, professor of computer science; Victoria Ridge, senior human resources manager in the Office of the Vice President for Facilities; Lauren Robinson-Brown, director of communications; Sankar Suryanarayan, University counsel; Eve Tominey, director for disability services; Marguerite Vera, associate director for affiliated group affairs for the Alumni Association; and Treby Williams, director for planning and administration in the Office of the Executive Vice President.