The Newark Branch NAACP thanks the University of Delaware for making the draft of their Action Plan for Diversity publicly available. We will be carefully reviewing the Action Plan to evaluate its ability to meet the present and future needs of the community, including enhancements to people of color and low-income student recruitment, retention and support, efforts to increase the diversity of faculty and staff, and improved relationships with the University’s off-campus neighbors.
While we will be evaluating the Action Plan in detail and providing feedback to the University, we would like to take note of a few immediately apparent concerns.
We feel as though the Action Plan does not include sufficient information to evaluate how the University proposes to address diversity. The Action Plan pointed to a longer version of the plan that will be made available at some later date, and will contain “a comprehensive list of suggested action items, appendices, and a fuller explanation of the diversity infrastructure at UD and the role each entity plays in advancing the diversity agenda”. We would like to see the University’s diversity plan in its entirety, including the longer version with presumably the missing details that we are seeking, in order to provide constructive comments to the University.
Despite the efforts beginning in 2009 with the Diversity Task Force (2009), the University’s progress on achieving meaningful diversity has been painfully slow. In 2011 the Evaluation Team representing the Middle States Commission on Higher Education stated that “UD is not diverse in either absolute or relative terms. With few exceptions, we believe that the university trails its peers in every measure of diversity in every constituency of the institution” (pg 8). The poor condition of diversity at the University is a reflection of the policies and practices of the University today, as well as in the past. How the University’s policies and practices will change is unclear by the Action Plan.
The University has developed this Action Plan within an academic silo and without the collaboration of the wider community within which the University is housed and from which it receives financial and other forms of support. We are unclear how the University is seeking community input on the Action Plan at this time. The University has not disclosed any timeline for which comments can be submitted and has not revealed if the University will solicit public input or how that input will be taken under consideration. We ask the University to engage in direct outreach with the community in the greater Newark area and to initiate a discussion on how to proceed. A town hall meeting would be an appropriate activity to include in a wider outreach plan.
We have learned through our correspondence with Interim President Dr. Nancy Targett that community engagement will be important as the University implements the action plan. We see the implementation of a plan that was developed without a rigorous community outreach component, particularly without the local community in Newark, as problematic. We ask the University to take the steps now to ensure that the Action Plan for Diversity is developed in a manner that is inclusive and equitable.