Newark Branch NAACP asks General Assembly to support diversity study at University of Delaware

Dear Honorable members of the Joint Finance Committee,

Newark Branch NAACP has written you in the past regarding the deficiency of diversity programs at the University of Delaware, as evidenced by UD’s poor performance on student of color recruitment and retention rates.

Of the approximately $120 million of state funds appropriated to the University of Delaware in 2015, HS 1 for HB 225, signed by Governor Jack Markell on July 1, 2015, appropriated $200.00 to “conduct an independent, comprehensive review of, and recommendations to improve, the University of Delaware’s student, faculty and staff recruitment practices and its policies and practices for admitting diverse student candidates”.  Furthermore, a final report was to be submitted to the University of Delaware, the Diversity Coalition and the members of the Joint Finance Committee by May 1 of this fiscal year.  We are disappointed that this study was not conducted and the final report was unable to assist the University in its development of a comprehensive diversity plan.

Since we communicated with you in February 2015 regarding the lack of diversity and racial disparities at the University of Delaware, little has changed to make the University accessible, welcoming or rewarding for students of color.  UD’s “Inclusive Excellence” (An Action Plan for Diversity at UD), over a year in the making, is not an action plan, but yet another assemblage of rhetoric on the issue.  Clearly, their similar, past rhetoric has translated into little action or change.

We feel as though their current plan does not include sufficient information to evaluate how the University proposes to accomplish diversity.  The plan omits community concerns.  Although it notes intentions to develop external community involvement and an advisory board, there is no actionable plan.  There is no basis for oversight or evaluation, and no timetable or measurable goals.  There are no consequences for failing to fulfill the plan’s “commitment to a diverse campus that reflects the cultures, views, experience, hopes, and dreams of our society as a whole.”

In their 2011 report, 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.” “Recommendation: The institution should commit forcefully and visibly to improving its diversity” (2011: pg 8 & 9).

The poor condition of diversity at the University today is a reflection of the policies and practices of the University today, as well as in the past.  We appeal to the Delaware State Legislature to address these issues in upcoming sessions and in budget considerations.

We are concerned that:

  • The UD Diversity Plan does not address or evaluate how the university proposes to implement the plan.  It does not include specific programs or measurable targets to redress the long-standing lack of diversity and no plan for documentation.
  • There is no timeline for implementation to achieve meaningful change.
  • There are no SMART goals: specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, timely; and there are no “best practice” goals.
  • According to student enrollment data there has been no substantial change in the enrollment of minority students at UD.  Although the plan alludes to resolving this, there were no action items developing specific programs to accomplish this.
  • The plan lacks specific programs of action to reach out to minority students K to 12 in order for them to fulfill the “academic roadmap” to admission set out in UD’s 2006 “Commitment to Delawareans.”
  • The plan lacks specific programs of action to improve outreach to the community in Newark, or statewide to be equitable and inclusive.
  • UD professes to building a culture of opportunity and wellness locally, nationally, and on a global level.  While it envisions its global character, it seems to have forgotten that it exists within the local setting of the Newark community, a once vibrant, historically black community around the university, which has been swallowed up by the university.
  • This plan espouses action, but once again provides only rhetoric rather than specific programs and initiating actual action item.

The University has developed this 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 ask the Delaware General Assembly to continue your commitment to diversity at the University of Delaware, and create opportunities for higher education for all Delawareans.  To that end, we ask that you extend the funding for the diversity study for another year, increase the allotment to $400,000.00, and increase the scope of the study in the following ways:

  1. Expand the study to include recruitment and retention programs for students of color and faculty of color.
  2. Establish a steering committee comprised of stakeholders, including advocacy groups, to guide the research questions of the study.

We look forward to continuing to work with you to improve diversity at the University of Delaware.

Sincerely,

Gary Hayman, President

Newark DE Branch NAACP

 

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