President Davila’s 7-point agenda for diversity

President Davila announced a seven-point agenda for diversity at Gallaudet when he was a guest at the National Conference of Black Deaf Advocates in St. Louis, Mo., in the summer of 2007. Since that time he has worked diligently to see that as much of that agenda as possible is enacted during his tenure.

The following is Dr. Davila’s seven-point agenda and the progress that has been made to date toward fulfilling each initiative:

1. Make academic achievement for students of color, grades K – 12, a priority.

This point was expanded to include not only grades K through 12 but post-secondary students, as well. Two initiatives were started with the goal of improving retention and academic achievement among students of color:

  • Keeping the Promise. A pilot retention effort was started that targeted support for black deaf males, the group with the lowest retention rate. The program resulted in a 96 percent success rate in its first year in terms of students in the program who successfully completed the academic year, graduated, or returned. This was followed with the implementation of a second Keeping the Promise program for Latino students. The program attracted 73 percent of matriculating Latino students. The goal is to continue expanding the program to other traditionally under- represented groups.
  • Closing the Achievement Gap Research Planning Committee. This group, which has representation from the University and the Clerc Center, was established to review and research successful programs across the country that are involved in the education of K-12 students. The issue of closing the achievement gap will continue to be addressed within the Long Range Strategic Plan in goals A – E by establishing a center to continue research, development, and evaluation of diversity, equity, and achievement by traditionally under-represented groups at the University level and in pre-K-12 settings.

2. Direct the Development Office to make scholarships for students of color a priority.

  • Davila initiated this initiative by reallocating $100,000 from the University’s budget to the Office of Financial Aid to assist students of color
  • Funds ($106,348) were donated to Gallaudet through the Development Office to assist all students, including students of color, who are in jeopardy of leaving school for financial reasons. The funds were distributed to students during fall 2009

3. Appoint a person of color to the President’s Management Team.
Mark Amissah was appointed to the President’s Management Team in November 2007 as the president’s leadership fellow for diversity initiatives and has served in that capacity until the present.

4. Establish a Diversity Team.
The president hosted a Town Hall meeting in January 2008 to kick off “Living Team Gallaudet,” an initiative aimed at building a community of respect for all people and ideas. The chair, Dr. Ann Powell, and members of the Diversity Team were introduced to the campus community at a Town Hall meeting in May 2008. The team has made recommendations to the president and the recommendations have also been posted on the diversity website.

5. Establish measurable targets for the recruitment and retention of faculty and staff of color.

A working group was established to research the steps that need to be pursued to accomplish this goal. The past 10 years has resulted in a 40 percent gain in deaf professionals in our workforce. The current issue is how to diversify the workforce without diminishing our existing gains. The group recognizes the need to establish benchmarks on current faculty and staff at Gallaudet compared with our current student population and predictions for the diversity of future student populations.

6. Provide a University-wide training and education program to promote understanding, respect, and a commitment to diversity.

This effort has resulted in establishing an Intergroup Dialogue program. Intergroup dialogues are face-to-face meetings between members of two or more different groups that have a history of conflict. Based on the statistics collected from participant evaluations, this has been a successful initiative. Two formats for intergroup dialogues have been practiced on campus:

  • Eight-week dialogues. These one-credit dialogues are offered during the fall and the spring on the following topics: “Language, Race, and LGBT,” and “U.S. Born/International Born.” They offer a longer time for students to discuss issues in depth on one of the topics mentioned above.
  • Campus-wide dialogues. These are one-time events scheduled for two to three hours and are open to the entire campus community. The campus dialogue topics scheduled during academic year 2008-2009 were: “Campus Climate,” “Language and Bilingualism,” “Race/Ethnicity,” “Sex and Gender,” and “Sexual Orientation.”

7. Seek an active partnership with each of the national, local, and campus deaf organizations.
Community engagement has and is being addressed by the president and the president’s fellow on diversity initiatives.

Meetings have occurred with:

  • Local deaf organizations (DC Black Deaf Advocates, the National Deaf Blind Group, and the Deaf Latino Organization)
  • Student organizations to determine campus concerns
  • Faculty, staff, and students to establish better working relationships

“As a community we are encouraged by the progress that has been made with the seven-point agenda and look forward to a continuation of Dr. Davila’s diversity initiatives,” said Powell. “It is the desire of the Diversity Team that this emphasis on diversity will continue under the leadership of our incoming president, Dr. Alan Hurwitz.

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