Communication College’s diversity advisor responds to criticism of DCI’s action plan
The College of Communication’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) Working Group conducted a year-long research report in 2018-2019, interviewing students, faculty and staff to identify areas for improvement. Based on the findings of the project, the college developed an action plan in September 2020 to address practices and policies across the college. Despite the college’s stated commitment to dismantling racism, many in the community have condemned DePaul’s communications department for discrimination.
The current of the College of Communication action plan includes short and long term goals that will be changed as needed, according to the College of Communication website. The plan aims to meet the needs of the members of Communication by providing a supportive, diverse and inclusive environment.
Communication professor Dustin Goltz took over as the college’s diversity advocate last fall. Goltz heads the DCI Advisory Group of faculty, staff and students from the College of Communication.
“As a diversity advocate, I’m also in touch with college advocates across the university, although our focus is primarily on the college level,” Goltz said.
Professor Maria DeMoya predated Goltz as the College of Communication Diversity Advocate. DeMoya is currently the president of public relations and advertising for DePaul, the College of Communication representative for the Faculty Council on DCI and a member of the President’s Diversity Council.
DeMoya conducted a college-wide study of areas for improvement regarding DCI initiatives. She interviewed community members within the college and led focus groups made up of students, faculty and administration. The results of the studies informed the college’s current action plan.
“So this is definitely the start,” DeMoya said. “It’s not like the solution to cure everything, not at all. And yes, it will be revised. “
The action plan has four main objectives, the first of which is to tackle structural racism, power, privilege and oppression within the College of Communication.
Some of the initiatives include organizing ongoing anti-racism conversations with faculty, students and administrators. An anti-racist reading group is available for faculty and staff, and at least twice per term, listening sessions will be available for college students. These programs were launched last fall and will continue.
The second main point of the DCI action plan is to strengthen existing initiatives on diversity, equity and inclusion.
The College of Communication will continue to offer diversity training to research committees and, starting this spring, the College will also offer diversity training in leadership positions, including those who conduct examinations.
Training and funding are also destined expand the diversity and representation offered in readings and course materials. Ongoing assessment will identify course progress and areas for improvement, with an emphasis on decolonizing course content across the college.
In order to foster greater engagement and increase transparency on the progress of the college’s DCI initiatives, plans to implement a centralized web and social media space are underway. The web space will also function as a student feedback system.
The third initiative of the action plan involves examining practices, procedures and policies within the college that perpetuate racism in order to create new systems that promote diversity, equity and inclusion.
Beginning last fall, mandatory quarterly meetings for faculty and staff were put in place to continually reaffirm the College’s commitments to DCI.
The plan also institutes a policy that all faculties undergoing formal review will meet individually with the college diversity advocate to identify concerns or issues related to FDI. Professor DePaul Lisa Calvente and Sydney dillard, two black professors at the college, both underwent formal examinations before filing discrimination lawsuits, which they described as irregular and unfair.
The final main element of the action plan includes the ongoing support and provision of opportunities for an inclusive community within the college. These opportunities include hiring a DEI scholarship student to help with the college’s ongoing anti-racism work, among other initiatives.
“One thing we continually learn is that our students, staff, faculty and administrators bring unique perspectives and experiences to discussions about DE&I,” said Goltz. “Our goal is to foster a workspace where each of these perspectives can better shape and expand the scope and reach of our action plan.”
On April 12, communications researchers from across the country and around the world signed a petition criticizing DePaul’s College of Communication for fostering a “toxic environment that threatens the health, well-being, livelihoods and lives of scholars of color.”
The petition was sent to the deans of communication and the senior management of the school. Despite the college’s current plan of action, the petition calls on DePaul’s communications department to take next steps to ensure a fair working environment.
“Racism is a description of the failure of individuals and institutions to dismantle ideologies, systems and structures – and by that definition DePaul’s College of Communication is racist,” the petition reads. “By taking these anti-racist measures, DePaul will not only improve the institutional environment for black and brown professors, but also for white professors who will benefit from increased transparency and fairness.”
The petition includes three main demands, including recognition and treatment of racist structures that prevent the color faculty from advancing, as well as support for BIPOC staff. The petition also calls for the resignation of Acting Dean of Communications Alexandra Murphy and Acting Provost Salma Ghanem, both of whom conducted the formal reviews of Calvente and Dillard.
DePaul’s Black Affinity Groups also released a university wide letter after the petition, calling on the DePaul administration to follow through on its declared anti-racist commitments with action. The letter also refers to the lawsuits of Calvente and Dillard and offers solutions to address the university’s questionable racial climate, according to the letter.
“Faculty, staff and students have consistently discussed a gap between DePaul’s stated commitment to DCI and their actual record of accomplishment,” the letter read. “They noted that the stated engagement was for marketing purposes and was in words only, and that DePaul did not do a good job of creating DCI metrics and goals to hold himself accountable and measure progress.”
DePaul’s black community letter includes similar demands regarding dismantling structural inequalities and promoting greater opportunities for diverse students, faculty and staff across the college. The letter cites the disproportionately low percentage of black students and faculty on campus.
According to DePaul’s Institutional research and market analysis, about 16 percent of all teaching teachers are members of minority groups. Black faculty and staff occupy even fewer positions on campus.
Black staff members make up 9% of the “Executive, Administrative and Manager” and “Other Professional” categories, while white staff occupy 64% of the same categories, according to the letter.
The petition and letter call on DePaul to do more regarding their DCI initiatives, including making substantial changes to DCI leadership and implementing a retention plan for the color school, among other requests.
“Looking through the breadth of initiatives that we have been able to put in place, I think we have taken some important steps and I encourage people to look at what we are doing,” said Goltz. “I must stress that no person at the college has been more engaged and influential in supporting our initiatives than our acting dean.”
The petition called for an official response on behalf of the university by April 26. As of Friday, May 7, there was no indication of a public response.
DePaul’s Black Community Letter also requested a meeting with President A. Gabriel Esteban and Gerald Beeson, Chairman of DePaul’s Board of Directors, before May 12. On May 2, Esteban posted a response, but did not indicate whether he would meet with the community. members as requested.
“I will discuss your concerns with my leadership team and board leadership as part of our ongoing strategic conversations on these topics,” said Esteban.
Former and current College of Communication diversity advocate DeMoya and Goltz told DePaulia they agree there is more work to be done to ensure DePaul is more fair.
“I think as a member of the color faculty if you feel like you are being abused or being discriminated against [against], having the support of other professors, even outside of your university, can be very heartwarming and powerful, ”said DeMoya. “I think there is always an opportunity for deeper thinking and for deeper learning.”
While DeMoya sympathizes with the sentiments of the petition, she echoed Goltz’s support for Acting Dean Murphy.
“I certainly wouldn’t plead for the loss of our dean since she was very supportive, or the provost, but I understand why they are making such big demands,” she said. “I think they want to communicate the seriousness of the problem they think it is.”
DeMoya and Goltz agree that the college DCI action plan is not a solution to the lingering problems of racism and discrimination within the communications department; rather, it is a starting point for progress.
“I wouldn’t say the current plan is enough – there’s a lot of work to be done,” Goltz said. “The college action plan is an ongoing process and project, not a fixed destination. The action plan invites and is reinforced by continuous reflection, dialogue, responsibility, a diversity of perspectives and room for change. It details our current initiatives and makes more visible our ongoing work in questioning our systems, practices and processes.