During his October inauguration ceremony, Ohio University President Duane Nellis touted a goal of making OU a national leader in diversity and inclusion efforts. 

As part of those efforts, the Office for Diversity and Inclusion released an audit of university activities related to diversity and inclusion, as well as a list of recommendations for improvement. The audit comes amid a national search for the university’s first vice president for diversity and inclusion. 

“It is clear that we need to continue to evolve in the way in which we think about diversity and inclusion in terms of Ohio’s culture,” Nellis wrote in a university news release. “Considerations must be made for nearly every aspect of university decision-making, from personnel recruitment to budgetary decisions to curriculum planning.”

The report included comparisons with the 2017 recipients of the “INSIGHT Into Diversity” Higher Education Excellence in Diversity, or HEED, Awards, which include Indiana University, the University of Cincinnati and Kent State University. It also highlighted diversity training programs, resource centers, diversity grants, recruitment and retention.

Here are some of the key takeaways from the report. 

OU’s student body is still overwhelmingly white

About 84 percent of full-time undergraduate students identify as white, according to a breakdown of race and ethnicity at OU.

Meanwhile, black students account for under 4.7 percent of the university population, followed by multiracial students at 3.9 percent and Hispanic/Latino students at 2.6 percent. 

Within the graduate student population, white students make up 61 percent of the student body, followed by international students at 22 percent. 

HEED improvements

OU offers unconscious bias training to nine of 11 groups recommended by the HEED awards. According to the report, the training is offered to a variety of faculty and staff groups, including OUPD and full-time staff. Unconscious bias training, which focuses on subconscious stereotypes that affect behavior, is not offered to full-time students and members of the university governing board. 

In terms of services offered on campus, the university has seven of nine offices recommended by HEED, including those for disability services, LGBT students, veterans and international students. The university does not currently have a religious services office or a supplier diversity office. 

Although OU upholds most HEED standards when it comes to making accommodations for students with disabilities, the university has yet to install elevators in all buildings, make online learning systems accessible to all students and ensure its website is compliant with a section of the U.S. Workforce Rehabilitation Act that requires electronic and information technology be accessible to people with disabilities. 

Faculty diversity is improving

Among full-time, non-tenured faculty and administrative leadership, representation increased dramatically within a four year period. The number of underrepresented faculty at OU increased by 118 percent from 2012 to 2016. 

On the administrative side, the university hired four new executives with minority backgrounds from 2012 to 2016 — a 133 percent increase. 

The number of underrepresented employees in administrative leadership, including management, jumped from four to 30 in that same period — an increase of 650 percent. 

“We need to hire leaders who look beyond the immediate fit to make diversity happen, and we need to hire people who have the diversity skills we lack,” Executive Dean for Regional Higher Education William Willan wrote in the report. “We need to be purposeful.”

@lauren__fisher

lf966614@ohio.edu

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