President's Office

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February 14, 2013
Dear Members of the Muhlenberg Community,

Over the past several weeks, many of us have engaged in thoughtful conversations about diversity on our campus.  Some of these discussions were in response to MLK Week events; others were prompted by my request for community feedback on a new draft of the College’ diversity statement.

In addition to many thoughtful e-mails, I have found two conversations to be particularly encouraging and helpful. The first of these, a meeting of concerned faculty at the Multicultural Center on January 31st, generated a letter signed by 71 faculty and staff that I received last Friday, February 8th.  The second was a meeting on February 1st that the members of the President’s Diversity Advisory Committee and I had with student leaders of the College’s multicultural organizations.

Both these conversations reinforced some common themes with which I am in complete agreement:

First, while the College may have made progress on diversity issues over the past several years, it is not sufficient.  There is much work still to be done. 

Second, the Muhlenberg community embraces a broad and inclusive understanding of diversity that includes the widest possible range of human differences.

Third, we must engage in comprehensive institutional planning to guide our efforts going forward.  The planning process, like Muhlenberg’s two previous strategic planning processes, must be broad-based, inclusive, and transparent.

Fourth, we must focus on results.  A worthwhile plan will develop, to quote the faculty letter, “specific, measurable, and attainable goals.” Such actions must derive from thoughtful conversations and informed planning, and they must be collaborative.  But to be considered successful, a plan must produce results.

Fifth, a strategic plan’s goals must engage the energies and potentialities of all segments of our community: faculty, students, staff, and alumni.

Sixth, the planning process must focus on a comprehensive set of interconnected matters, including (but not necessarily limited to):

  • Faculty recruitment, retention, and development
  • Student recruitment, retention, and development
  • Employee development and training
  • Curriculum
  • Co-curriculum
  • Quality of life
  • Relations with the Allentown Community

Finally, we must regularly assess our progress toward the goals we agree on, and we must review periodically whether they are, in fact, the right goals.

As the faculty letter noted, the President’s Diversity Advisory Committee (PDAC) is not the appropriate group to manage this strategic planning process.  The PDAC was not created for this purpose, nor is it suited to this kind of task.  Instead, I propose to convene and charge a special Diversity Strategic Planning Committee (DSPC) with this responsibility. 

Pending community feedback on this proposed process, the DSPC would be comprised of:


  • 6 faculty (1 elected by each of the four academic divisions; 2 appointed by the President with the specific purpose of assuring diversity in faculty representation not guaranteed by election).
  • 5 students (4 elected by the officers of student multicultural organizations; 1 appointed by the President of SGA).
  • Up to 3 members of the College staff, to be selected by the President from self-nominations.
  • 1 trustee (appointed by the Chair of the Board)
  • 1 recent graduate (appointed by the President)
  • The Director of the Multicultural Center
  • The Dean of Admissions
  • The Dean of Students
  • The Provost
  • The College Chaplain

I intend to chair the committee personally and Ken Butler, Executive Assistant to the President, will provide staff support.

I will expect the members of the DSPC to reach out to the campus community in a variety of ways to provide opportunities for reflection, discussion, and feedback, and to generate new ideas and proposals.  In the interest of transparency, I also expect the DSPC to disseminate regular progress reports on its work.

Among the responsibilities of the DSPC will be to create the next revision of the College’s diversity statement.  The feedback I received on the most recent draft was, frankly, irreconcilable in a single draft.  Some members of the community felt it was too long and detailed; others wanted to lengthen it with specific references to particular kinds of diversity.  Accordingly, we will keep the 2006 draft in place pending its review and revision by the DSPC.

The objective of the DSPC will be to produce a plan with specific goals and initiatives accompanied by a funding strategy for any efforts that will require currently unbudgeted resources.  Any initiatives requiring approval by standing committees of the College, the faculty, or the Board of Trustees, will be submitted to those committees for a timely review.  Once I have approved a draft of the plan, I will submit it to the Board of Trustees for formal adoption.

I invite feedback on this proposed process, but out of respect for the urgency which many members of our community feel for the beginning of this work, I would ask that anyone wishing to share suggestions or ideas do so via e-mail (helm@muhlenberg.edu) within one week – no later than 5 P.M. on Wednesday, February 20th.

I am confident that, working together in a spirit of collegiality, goodwill, optimism, and commitment, we can accomplish great things for Muhlenberg.

Cordially,
Randy Helm