President Byerly appoints three-person council to oversee diversity, equity, inclusion efforts

The new Diversity, Equity and Inclusion council was newly appointed by President Byerly to more adequately address related efforts around campus. (Photo by Elle Cox ’21).

The college’s ongoing efforts to create a more inclusive campus community for students, faculty and staff will now be spearheaded by the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) Council, a newly appointed team replacing the previous individually led Senior Diversity Officer position. 

President Alison Byerly made the announcement of the new council in an email to the campus community this past Tuesday. The council will report directly to her and will be charged with ensuring that all “constituencies at the college — students, faculty, and staff — are represented in conversations about advancing our goals for diversity, equity, and inclusion,” Byerly said in a separate email. She added that she expects to meet with the team on a monthly basis. 

The DEI council is comprised of three senior administrators: Jamila Bookwala, Dean of the Faculty, Chris Hunt, Dean of Students, and Alma Scott-Buczak, Associate Vice President for Human Resources. Of the three, Hunt is the only one to have previously served in the Senior Diversity Officer Role.

Hunt said he believes, however, that this new structure will enable the administration to advance conversations and actions about diversity, equity and inclusion throughout the institution.

According to Byerly, the team will work to coordinate and support the efforts of several offices and groups around campus, such as the faculty Diversity Committee, the Office of Intercultural Development, and the Equity, Transformation, and Accountability Board which was created in response to a list of concerns of marginalized students in the fall of 2016. Hunt, then Dean of Equity and Inclusion, was also an advisor to the board. 

The team members are familiar with the list of concerns made by students in 2016, Byerly added, and said that she expects that the team “will be looking at the 2016 list of concerns, the report of the Student Support Task Force from two years ago, the recent Campus Climate Survey, and other relevant information in developing their agenda.”

Additionally, the council will be responsible for generating initiatives and collaborative programming across campus, ensuring open and transparent communication as well as facilitating connections between standing committees. On top of that, according to Byerly’s initial email, the team will “work actively to promote diversity, equity, and inclusion on campus, broadly speaking, with attention to such issues as hiring, retention, climate, discourse, curriculum, and programming.” 

Hunt said that in addition to his role on the council, as the Dean of Students, he always welcomes “opportunities to spend time and connect with students in one-on-one or small group meetings so I can hear their lived experiences and listen for feedback from their perspective.”

“I will continue this effort so we can keep working to improve the campus environment for all students,” he added. 

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