With a student body that is nearly 70,000 strong and incredibly diverse, UCF must be a model for how a community fully commits to inclusive excellence, President Alexander N. Cartwright told university trustees during a meeting Thursday.
“Not only is our community dealing with added emotional, personal or financial stress because of the pandemic, but racial and social injustices also weigh heavily upon us right now,” he said. “Witnessing the peaceful demonstrations taking place across our nation and in our community these past few weeks has been very powerful.
“It has become clear to me that we must do better at UCF. University leadership, in partnership with our students, faculty, staff, and with this board, must take action together to make UCF more inclusive for all.”
Cartwright laid out a series of actions, including elevating the university’s chief equity, inclusion and diversity officer to a vice president position; recruiting and retaining more diverse leaders and faculty; and requiring training for senior administrators.
Excerpts from President Cartwright’s remarks, including many details of the plan, are below:
“I have had the opportunity to engage with our faculty, staff and students over the past two weeks, in addition to our recent virtual conversation on race and equity.
“We must do a better job promoting a culture of inclusion and holding each other accountable to speak out.
“UCF is not a place where anyone should ever feel that they cannot be their true selves or that they are not supported because of who they are or what they look like. What we need to do right now is listen to those voices to inform our actions.”
“UCF is not a place where anyone should ever feel that they cannot be their true selves or that they are not supported because of who they are or what they look like.
“What we need to do right now is listen to those voices to inform our actions.
“I would like to thank members of our community who have offered me candid insight into their concerns and their experiences, as well as ideas for how we can make UCF their institution, their home.
“Since interviewing, I have said UCF looks like the future of America. Looking like the future of America is a start, but certainly is not sufficient. We must be an example for the rest of the country and the world for how a community fully commits to inclusive excellence.
“I am truly grateful to groups, such as the Black Faculty and Staff Association, our African-American student leaders, Pride associations, Office of Social Justice and Advocacy, and our interim Chief Equity, Inclusion and Diversity Officer Kent Butler, who are supporting our students, faculty and staff every day, and I would like to recognize them for everything they are doing. But they cannot do it alone.
“They need the support of our leadership, of this board, and our entire campus community to commit to inclusive excellence.”
“First, we will formalize an action plan for equity, inclusion and diversity.
“In the past two years, there have been valuable recommendations made by those who are doing this work across our campus community, and now it’s time for us to document those recommendations in a plan that we adopt for the institution.
“I expect this plan will include:
- Making the position of chief equity, inclusion and diversity officer a vice president and, as such, a member of the president’s cabinet.
- Creating a President’s Executive Committee on equity, inclusion and diversity to help hold us accountable to this plan and to advise on the continued work we will need to do across campus. We know that sustainable change does not happen overnight. It requires commitment at every level, and is most effective when we are listening to the collective voices of our community on the steps we must take together.
- We need a requirement that all units and colleges demonstrate their own commitment to inclusive excellence, through dedicated resources and training.
- And we need to increase our institutional resources and full-time staff who are dedicated to helping deliver on these promises.
“I have to tell you that I am anxious for this plan to be complete by the time our fall semester starts. However, I also want Trustees [Joe] Harrington [Faculty Senate Chair] and [Sabrina] La Rosa [Student Government President] and their constituencies, as well as our staff council, and others across campus involved in this daily work, to ensure their recommendations are represented in our final plan.
“Second, we are launching a comprehensive review of our reporting processes at UCF. Our students, faculty and staff should feel comfortable speaking up when they see behavior they believe isn’t right or doesn’t live up to our values.
“The past couple of weeks have shown us that we need to help people understand where and how they can report, and we need to do a better job of raising awareness of both the mechanisms and the responsibility we each have when we hear or see something.
“Additionally, we will improve our search committee trainings and education. This is a concern I have heard from our faculty and staff, and we will be working with UCF Human Resources, Academic Affairs and our Office of Institutional Equity to conduct implicit bias training and other trainings for everyone who participates in our hiring and search committee processes.
“As Trustee Harrington mentioned yesterday, this also involves strong recruitment efforts to encourage qualified applicants from underrepresented backgrounds, and providing the resources to be competitive in attracting and retaining top talent.
“It is up to our leadership team to model behaviors for our entire campus community, which is why I will require equity, inclusion, and diversity training, starting with our senior administrators in my cabinet and senior leadership positions across campus.”
“It is up to our leadership team to model behaviors for our entire campus community, which is why I will require equity, inclusion, and diversity training, starting with our senior administrators in my cabinet and senior leadership positions across campus.
“The ways we act must be informed by the needs and experiences of our campus community, and we have a responsibility to listen to them, to hear their stories, and to have difficult conversations that help us moving forward.
“We will be hosting more open forums and smaller group dialogues to raise issues and talk about shared experiences and expectations of how we can better support each other.
“And, lastly, just as the institution will deliberately invest in equity, inclusion and diversity as a pillar of excellence, we will seek out partners who share these same values and, together, can help us make a bigger impact on campus or in our community, as part of a broader philanthropic strategy.”