Diversity Initiatives at the University of Mississippi – Action Plan Update
The University of Mississippi is committed to being a leader and paving the way for diversity and inclusion for our university, our state, and the nation. The university’s history regarding race provides not only a larger responsibility for providing leadership on race issues, but also a larger opportunity; we have a unique responsibility to learn from the past to lead into the future.
The university’s success in improving diversity within the faculty and student body has been dramatic, and yet there is more to do. In 2014, under the leadership of then-chancellor Dan Jones, guided by recommendations from the 2013 expanded Sensitivity and Respect Committee, the university began an earnest and hard look at how to address race and related issues, as well as how to make our campuses more welcoming and inclusive. The result was the 2014 Action Plan.
The 2016 action plan update outlines the progress and actions the University has made in shaping a stronger and healthier university, bringing UM closer to the goal of being a welcoming place for every person every day, regardless of race, religious preference, country of origin, ability, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, or gender expression.
Below are summaries of the six recommendations in the 2016 action plan update. Click here to view the 2016 action plan update in its entirety.
Recommendation 1: The University of Mississippi should create a vice chancellor-level position for diversity and inclusion.
The position of vice chancellor for diversity and community engagement was established in 2014, and a national search for a recognized leader was initiated in late 2014. Eight semifinalists interviewed in 2015 did not meet the search committee’s criteria, and the search was closed. A national search was re-launched in February 2016 and is currently underway.
Recommendation 2: The University of Mississippi should establish a portfolio model of diversity and engagement.
The vice chancellor for diversity and community engagement will be responsible for working with the university community to establish a portfolio of diversity and engagement and to update the campus diversity plan.
Recommendation 3: The University of Mississippi must deal squarely with the issue of race while also addressing the other dimensions of diversity.
UM’s commitment to diversity including guiding statements, campus resources, and the UM Diversity Plan are featured at diversity.olemiss.edu. The University has created institutional programs to enhance diversity and diversity training among faculty, staff and students, to support all dimensions of diversity, and to assess and respond to campus climate concerns.
Recommendation 4: The University of Mississippi should consider a symbolic and formal dedication of all new students to the ideals of inclusion and fairness to which the university is devoted.
The UM Creed, established in 2003 as a compass and core values for the campus community, has been elevated further through a series of events and activities such as Respect the M, MPower, Creed Week, and Creed Justice. In addition to elevating the UM Creed as a foundational element, UM has enhanced curriculum and related training for all students.
Recommendation 5: The University of Mississippi should offer more history, putting the past into context, telling more of the story of Mississippi’s struggles with slavery, secession, segregation and their aftermath.
Chancellor Vitter announced the formal establishment of the Chancellor’s Advisory Committee on History and Context which will be charged with undertaking campus contextualization projects in a process that is transparent, inclusive, and aligned with the UM Creed (spring 2016). The Advisory Committee will recommend which sites should be contextualized, so as to better explain the environment in which they were created and how those environments compare to our core institutional values.
Recommendation 6: The University of Mississippi should consider the implications of calling itself “Ole Miss” in various contexts.
UM will continue to use Ole Miss as an endearing nickname. Data show that the term Ole Miss is broadly viewed as one of connection and affection, with strongly positive national (and international) recognition, and describing an esprit de corps that binds members of the UM community together. To be a member of the Ole Miss community means to effect positive change, challenge the status quo, protect and dignify the rights of every individual, and advance ideas that are innovative and transformational.
Updated: June 2016