This letter is in response to The Signal story “Minority students experience culture shock” included in the Feb. 5 issue.
I’d first like to thank the students who had the courage to share their personal experiences for this story. The College agrees with the desire the students expressed to see greater diversification of the student body. This remains a goal of our admissions office and our outreach efforts. We want to assure the students that we hear and share many of their concerns, but we’re reassured by the fact that the college remains committed to doing the work necessary to make our community as diverse and inclusive as possible.
This work is evident in a number of ways. In January of last year, President Foster announced that she was creating a cabinet-level position and merging units to create a Division of Institutional Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. She appointed an interim vice president while a national search was being conducted and the team has been working diligently. Over the past year, we have made strides toward our goal of becoming an inclusive campus. To highlight a few accomplishments:
• We established a Bias Response Team and created an online bias incident form to centralize the College’s efforts to track bias incidents, identify trends, collect aggregate data, plan campus educational responses to benefit the community, and connect individuals affected by bias incidents with supportive resources.
• There have been multiple training sessions, campus-wide events, and initiatives introduced to educate our community on issues related to diversity, equity, and inclusion.
• The College also recently undertook a campus climate survey as a way of better understanding the experiences of those in our community and benchmarking our progress in this important work. The resulting data is currently being analyzed and will help inform future efforts and programming.
In December, President Foster announced the appointment of James A. Felton III to the position of Vice President for Equity and Inclusion. Dr. Felton brings over 20 years of experience as an educator, practitioner-scholar, author, mentor, and national leader in diversity in higher education to our campus. Dr. Felton recently received recognition as Top Chief Diversity Officer of the Year for 2019 by the International Association of Top Professionals. He begins his tenure at TCNJ on March 2 and will help the College continue the work it has started toward creating a culture where all members of our community feel welcome and thrive.
While this doesn’t change the important perspective shared by the students in this story, I would like to note that the data cited is somewhat misleading. The data quoted is sourced from what the federal government requires for reporting purposes (IPEDS). Unfortunately, this forces the college to group students into only one category, which undercounts students in multiple categories, and as a result is not a true reflection of how our students have chosen to self-identify. The Office of Institutional Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion is working to create a more accurate manner to share this information with our community in the true spirit of inclusion and transparency.
We encourage students, faculty, and staff to continue to provide feedback and suggestions to the Office of Institutional Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion to help us determine additional actions that should be considered along with those already underway.
Interim Vice President
Institutional Diversity, Equity and Inclusion