The University of Minnesota’s current campus climate initiative on the Twin Cities campus began in 2014 when President Eric W. Kaler made it a top priority for his administration. Since then, the initiative has made progress and gained momentum. A Campus Climate Workgroup comprised of senior leaders studied the issue and issued a report in 2015. The Campus Climate Engagement Team, comprised of staff from several units and colleges, has offered a variety of projects and events to address campus climate needs. The Bias Response and Referral Network, formed in January 2016, has responded to over 140 incidents since its inception. And many colleges and units have robust campus climate efforts underway.
In order to better advance campus climate and connect the work happening centrally and in colleges and units, President Kaler has asked the Office for Equity and Diversity (OED) to lead a refreshed collaborative campus climate effort and has asked Ann Freeman to continue her leadership more formally as the Director of Campus Climate Initiatives, moving from University Relations to OED.
“The time is right time for this change,” said Kaler. “Campus climate work has evolved significantly since I first charged this initiative. In 2017 we face a much different climate – the landscape on campus, locally and nationally has changed. Moving this position and Freeman’s leadership to OED will allow for greater alignment with the equity and diversity work underway in OED and the creation of natural partnerships with units such as the Office for Student Affairs to form a renewed and robust Campus Climate Initiative.”
To develop the most effective model for addressing current campus climate needs and advancing the work, the next step will be a needs assessment, using available anecdotal and empirical data, information from scholarly research by U faculty, and best practices from campus climate work already underway in colleges and units.
To lead this assessment and recalibration, Freeman will work with a Campus Climate Executive Oversight Committee comprised of representatives from the President’s Office, Provost’s Office, Office for Equity and Diversity, the Office for Student Affairs and University Relations, and assigned staff from those offices. The result of this effort will inform and guide the long-term makeup of the Executive Oversight Committee and the development a collaborative structure and staffing using existing resources.
“The goal of the campus climate initiative is to ensure that the University of Minnesota is a place where all persons feel welcomed, are treated with respect, and have the opportunity to thrive,” said Michael Goh, interim vice president, Office for Equity and Diversity. “Beyond institutional diversity is the critical goal of interactional diversity - our capacity as students, faculty, and staff to be able to interact with the differences that make us great, to hold tensions in life-giving ways, and to be able to approach controversies with civility. Enacting inclusive excellence requires a healthy campus climate that is everyone’s everyday work.”