Progress Report of the Independent Review Committee on Campus Culture


 

This document shall serve as a progress report of the Independent Review Committee (IRC) on campus culture. The IRC committee is the result of an agreement made between the St. Cloud State University Administration and the Faculty Association and is composed of elected representation from each bargaining unit (MSUAASF, AFSCME, MAPE, MMA), elected faculty representation from each academic unit including at least one woman, at least one faculty representing GLBT, at least one representing faculty of color, at least one representing Jewish faculty, two appointed representatives of administration and volunteer students.[1]

 

President Saigo, Vice President Church and former Faculty Association President Fisher convened the first meeting of the IRC on December 20th, 2002. The committee’s main charge is to review and respond to all environmental scans, recommendations and related materials concerning campus culture at St. Cloud State University (SCSU). In addition, the committee is responsible for conducting interviews with individuals and groups on issues and areas of concern specifically related to campus culture and climate. IRC is expected to formulate and submit a set of recommendations with a final report to the President and to the entire campus community two months after the committee has received the final environmental scan.[2]

 

To date, the committee has received and reviewed, in full, three of the four official reports submitted to President Saigo and SCSU: the Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC) report of July 13, 2001, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) report of February 5, 2002, and the cultural audit/cultural assessment report of Nichols and Associates, Inc. (Nichols) of October 2002. The IRC awaits the final report and recommendations of the campus climate assessment conducted by Sue Rankin and Associates (Rankin) commissioned by SCSU Student Government in 2002.

 

The JCRC report is based on a series of interviews with Jewish and non-Jewish faculty, former faculty and students regarding anti-Semitism on SCSU campus. The EEOC report is founded on charges of employment discrimination filed with the EEOC office and represents documents gathered from both SCSU and MnSCU sources, interviews with current and former faculty, administrators, students and staff. The Nichols report is a cultural audit of campus climate that includes qualitative and quantitative data collected from focus groups and interviews with faculty and staff as well as data obtained from faculty and staff survey results.

 

While some members of the IRC and campus community believe that some of the reports may have serious methodological flaws as well as problematic concerns with respect to their design and implementation, the IRC as a whole also understands that these reports represent formal forums through which underrepresented segments of our campus community have been invited to voice concerns, critiques and problems encountered as employees and students of the SCSU campus community. In addition, each report consistently demonstrates that similar problems, as voiced by these constituencies, exist. IRC works from the framework of understanding that America continues to struggle with systems of oppression, including but not limited to, racism, sexism, homophobia, xenophobia, anti-Semitism, ableism and, anti-Islamic sentiments. As such, IRC maintains that these systems of oppression are also present and exist at SCSU.

 

From its earliest meetings, the IRC agrees to several overarching principles: 1) that what we have been charged with and are attempting to construct is extremely important, difficult work that requires time, patience, sensitivity, respect and commitment, 2) that we operate cooperatively with no one person selected as spokesperson or contact person, 3) that we are not a secretive or exclusive body, rather we are open to recommendations, input and inquiries and our work will be freely shared with the entire campus community, 4) that we make decisions according to an agreed upon process of “consensus minus one”.[3] This process inherently slows down the committee’s work; however, the committee agrees that following a democratic process is essential to ensure fair representation, to our continual work together, and to the ultimate legitimacy of our final report and recommendations.

 

The Independent Review Committee meets twice a week and communicates daily through an e-mail distribution list. IRC began its work by reviewing the JCRC, EEOC and Nichols reports. As the committee discussed these documents, members proposed recommendations based on the data presented in these reports. The committee then announced and held five open forums; three for faculty and staff and two specifically for students.[4] These forums were an attempt to solicit input and recommendations from the entire campus community on issues pertaining to campus climate and culture. IRC members volunteered time as facilitators and note takers for each open forum. Because the list of recommendations, concerns and suggestions created is lengthy, the next step the committee took was to divide the list into the following topical categories:

 

Affirmative Action

Complaints

Courses

Disability Efforts

Discrimination and Harassment

General and Uncategorized

Implementation and Assessment

Leadership and Communication

Ombudsperson

Recruitment and Retention

Religious and Cultural Celebrations

and Training.

 

Each category may contain anywhere from 10 to 15 separate recommendations, totaling over 130 recommendations in all. IRC is working to make this list more manageable and reasonable by carefully reviewing each category with the goal of collapsing those recommendations contained therein that may be duplicates and editing others so that they include elements of implementation and assessment. It is important to note that once a recommendation has been edited and placed before the committee for approval, the committee then takes the time to discuss and debate the implications of such a recommendation for our campus community. One might easily see that this process is oftentimes weary and daunting, requiring the utmost patience, respect and sensitivity of each committee member. Once each category has been reviewed and members have agreed (voted) upon a preliminary list of recommendations, the IRC will move to another phase in its work. To facilitate this entire process, a committee member has created a website accessible to each IRC member containing all recommendations, notes from each of the five forums, all reports and any other relevant documents. This website will be available to the entire campus community once the IRC has completed its review of recommendations and seeks campus feedback on those recommendations being proposed.

 

While the IRC has been extremely busy, it still has work to accomplish. For instance, the IRC has not yet received the full Rankin report or the list of recommendations that accompany it. IRC has yet to meet with St. Cloud community leaders and any interested community constituencies. Committee members are also scheduled to meet with International students in the very near future. Finally, once a list of recommendations is made available for comment to the campus and the public, IRC will be available to meet with any group or individual that may wish to contribute additional suggestions that the recommendations may have overlooked. Once these final steps are taken, the IRC will submit a final report and a definitive list of recommendations.

 

The Independent Review Committee would like to commend the students and those responsible for having the vision and courage to commission the cultural audits and assessments on our campus climate and culture. SCSU is struggling with issues that are deeply rooted in histories of oppression and privilege. These issues necessitate proactive rather than reactive solutions.  IRC recognizes that the problems identified in the reports are not limited to any one area of the university and transformation will require everyone’s involvement. Responsibility for effecting change at SCSU must include a commitment to implementation and accountability. IRC also acknowledges that our processes are time consuming. We respectfully request your patience as we move forward in our efforts to provide SCSU with recommendations that are specific to our needs and struggles and that offer fair, equitable and responsible solutions.

 

Attachments

            1. List of current IRC members

            2. Document of December 20, 2002 - Duties of the IRC

            3. Consensus Minus One: A Proposal for Decision-Making

            4. Announcement of Open Forums

5. Article: “Enhancing Campus Climates for Racial/Ethnic Diversity: Educational Policy and Practice” by Hurtado, Milem,Clayton-Pedersen, and Allen. The Review of Higher Education. Spring 1998. Vol 21, No. 3.  pp 279-302.

http://muse.jhu.edu/journals/review_of_higher_education/v021/21.3hurtado.html

 

Written by Dr. Jeanne Lacourt on behalf of the

Independent Review Committee on Campus Culture

May 6, 2003

 

Submitted to:    President Roy Saigo, SCSU

President Andrew Larkin, Faculty Association

President Brett Sween, Student Government

 

 

List of current IRC members

 

Heidi Aldes (alhe9903stcloudstate.edu)                                       5166

Sharon Cogdill (scogdill@stcloudstat.edu)                                   3093

Steve Frank (sfrank@stcloudstate.edu)                                       4131

Semya Hakim (shakim@stcloudstate.edu)                                   3264

Steve Hornstein (shornstein@stcloudstate.edu)                           4099

Tomoo Inoue (into0201@stcloudstate.edu)                            493-6270

Jeanne Lacourt (jlacourt@stcloudstate.edu)                                1048

Cory Lawrence                                                                         9305

Keisuke Mizuno (kmizuno@stcloudstate.edu)                              4239

Mary Pygnasak (pyma0001@stcloudstate.edu)                     282-4006

Renee Rude (rrude@stcloudstate.edu)                                        2028

Carol Tembreull (catembreull@stcloudstate.edu)                         4014

Rex Veeder (rveeder@stcloudstate.edu)                                    4066

Bob Weisman (scsweisman@stcloudstate.edu)                           3247

Gary Whitford (gswhitford@stcloudstate.edu)                             4880

Owen Zimpel (ojzimpel@stcloudstate.edu)                                  3117



[1] See attached list of IRC Committee members.

[2] Document of December 20, 2002 submitted by President Saigo, Vice-President Church and Faculty Association President Elect Fisher and presented to the Independent Review Committee on Campus.                                                                                                                   

[3] See attachment: “Consensus Minus One: A proposal for decision-making”.

[4]Announcement for Open Forums posted on the SCSU Announce List-Serv