Adelphi University's aim is to foster a culture where every member of the University feels valued, supported and inspired to achieve individual and common goals. This includes providing opportunity and access for all people.
According to Anne Mungai, PhD, associate provost for strategic initiatives and graduate studies, “Adelphi University’s aim is to foster a culture where every member of the University feels valued, supported and inspired to achieve individual and common goals. This includes providing opportunity and access for all people.”
To this end, the faculty-led Academic Diversity Implementation Team (ADIT) was established in the fall of 2020 as a directive of President Christine M. Riordan and Christopher Storm, PhD, Adelphi’s provost and executive vice president, in response to nationwide protests after a police officer murdered George Floyd.
The team is overseen by Dr. Mungai and Charles Cal ’95, MS ’01, MBA ’03, ADIT chair and clinical assistant professor in the College of Nursing and Public Health.
“As an institution, we have put in place initiatives that will help us make the needed changes against racism and equity issues,” Cal stated. “We are proud that we continue to foster diversity, equity and inclusion, and a working environment that supports all people.”
“The University continues to be committed to fostering a sense of belonging in its community,” Dr. Mungai said. “To meet our strategic imperative of diversifying, our institution requires taking into account structural inequities and making changes. Our aim to build inclusive communities is at the core of our values.”
The task force is seeking to identify and dismantle racism in academic programs across the University, Dr. Mungai said, explaining that the “work of the team is to inform and support what the University has been doing, and will continue to do, to show our commitment to become a model of diversity, equity and inclusion. These antiracism efforts have been a push for Adelphi. We are now looking at the academic side. How can we diversify our faculty? What do we need to do with our curriculum to make sure that our curriculum is decolonized?”
“I look at challenge as an opportunity for change,” Cal said. “I believe that we all have an opportunity to learn, to develop and to change if we respectfully open ourselves up to try to understand other perspectives. This is a tremendous opportunity.”
The Importance of Diversity Councils
Cal is also the chair of the College of Nursing and Public Health’s diversity council. The ADIT Task Force works closely with all of the University’s 10 diversity councils, as well as other initiatives in the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion.
“The diversity councils help to initiate conversations in their own units,” said Dr. Mungai, who also serves as the diversity council facilitator. “We had to shed light into issues of racism and policies and practices that needed to be changed at the University level.”
Race is not the only diversity issue, she noted. “When you talk about diversity on campus, it’s more than a Black/white issue. Age is a diversity issue. Gender is an issue. First generation. Veterans. When we talk about diversity, we are talking about anything that marginalizes people. We are very inclusive on campus.”
Improving Hiring and Retention Efforts
The ADIT process began with a review of Adelphi’s policies, practices and procedures for promotion and tenure with the goal of identifying specific changes and procedures.
“We had mentorship for tenure-track faculty members, but not tenured faculty,” Dr. Mungai said. “This semester, I’m proud to say, we launched the first meeting with associate professors and it was very well attended. So we are on the move for that. The mentoring piece has been important.”
The diversity councils have offered several kinds of education for faculty members, including microaggression and implicit bias workshops.
In addition, most members of the unit peer review committees and the Faculty Committee on Reappointment, Tenure and Promotion have now completed cultural competence, implicit bias and microaggression workshops. Search committee members are now required to take antibias training before serving.
On a concrete level, the ADIT Task Force asked the diversity council chairs to do a walk-through in their buildings to identify outdated and potentially offensive artifacts and pictures.
“They removed whatever needed to be removed, or they suggested the item be changed,” Dr. Mungai said. “People are really talking about this. You’re having all this conversation and you realize, wow, ‘this is really colonization’ or ‘this is racism,’ and you have to take it down. It’s the first time I’ve seen white people and people of color having that conversation. It means people have gotten to the point where they can really talk about it.”
Evaluating Curriculum and General Education
Exploring and implementing curricular changes is a more delicate process, given academic freedom, Dr. Mungai said, explaining that curriculum discussions about needed changes to include diversity, equity, inclusion and race have been held by all departments and faculty are implementing the needed changes. Furthermore, there are efforts to improve teaching and learning environments to support students of color.
For instance, the dean of the Honors College, Susan Dinan, PhD, who is a part of the Academic Diversity Implementation Team, has made several changes in that curriculum, such as including literature from countries besides those in Europe, Dr. Mungai said.
The diversity council’s curriculum task force in the College of Nursing and Public Health decided its first step was to develop a diversity statement that would be the driving force behind changes related to racism, equity and belonging. Following unanimous faculty support in May 2021 for the use of the statement to be used throughout the syllabi across the college, the language is posted on the College’s homepage. Currently, all colleges and schools are in the process of including a diversity statement in their syllabi and on their homepages.
“I see this process as a springboard to whatever the next strategic steps would be,” Cal said. “It includes everyone. It includes respect and an understanding that we don’t have all the answers at this moment. It is a very inclusive way of trying to go down a pathway that is not completely lit.”
Cal said that future ADIT goals include “workshops on how to be a culturally responsive instructor with the recommendation that if Adelphi is unable to utilize the talents of diverse faculty because they are either unwilling to step forward or challenged by the burden that comes with always being tapped to do this challenging work, then facilitators should be hired to assist faculty who are not sure how to address race in the classroom. Additionally, recommendations include capturing and utilizing exit survey data to further understand faculty development and retention and devising next steps towards recognizing and valuing the role that faculty plays in the climate and culture of the University.”
Dr. Mungai likened the changes to a pipeline. “It’s a win-win for our students. When you’re working with faculty who accept diversity, and they are able to teach all kinds of students, it trickles down to our students. When you recruit students and hire diverse faculty and staff from different ethnicities, backgrounds and identities, that’s also a benefit to the University.”
It all points to student success in this diverse world, she noted. “We are teaching our students that by the time they graduate, they can work with anybody. They’re not going to work with people who just look like them. They are going to be CEOs—or working with CEOs—of companies full of people who don’t look like them. These changes that we are working on are going to benefit the entire University.”