In Progress: Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging Statement

On November 11, members of the Muhlenberg community gathered in Moyer Hall’s Miller Forum to review and provide input on the College’s proposed draft of an updated Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging (DEIB) Statement.

By: Kristine Yahna Todaro '84  Tuesday, November 22, 2022 02:51 PM

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President Kathleen Harring greets Muhlenberg faculty, staff and students at a community event that debuted an updated draft of the College's Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging statement. Photos by Meg Keller.

Following a welcome from Brooke Vick, chief diversity officer and associate provost for equity and inclusion, President Kathleen Harring offered both history and context to the day’s event.

Muhlenberg’s inaugural Diversity Strategic Plan and Statement, the result of advocacy efforts by a group of student leaders along with faculty and staff, was a public commitment that the College was deeply invested in justice and equality issues, said Harring. Approved by the Board of Trustees in 2014, it laid the foundation for the work being done today.

Our understanding of and language around DEI issues has evolved since then, said Harring, who was Muhlenberg’s associate dean for institutional assessment at that time and helped develop the first DEI statement. In 2020, she tasked the President's Diversity Advisory Council (PDAC) with developing a community process for renewing and revising the statement.

Her goal? “That each member of our community — students, faculty, staff, alumni, trustees — could not only see themselves in the language of the statement but also gain a deeper understanding of their role in making Muhlenberg an inclusive, equitable and anti-racist institution.”

Brooke Vick, chief diversity officer and associate provost for equity and inclusion and who is leading PDAC’s efforts to accomplish this goal, said, “We knew that we were going to have to have multiple points of connection with a broad swath of the community.” 

Those efforts began with the input of an external consulting group that reviewed all the institutional policies and processes at Muhlenberg through a diversity, equity and inclusion lens. It was followed by a gallery walk in 2019 to honor the work of the original DEI plan, provide an update on what had been accomplished and request community input. Attendees viewed large posters that listed a number of DEI initiatives and recommendations and provided feedback, including which elements were most important and which should be prioritized.

In the spring of 2021, PDAC held a series of community conversations, inviting participants to tell their stories and talk about their experiences of inclusion on campus. They then pulled these into themes to be addressed in the final statement.

After incorporating the data collected, the revised statement was presented to Harring this spring and went through several more iterations to arrive at this point.

Vick noted that the addition of “belonging” to the “diversity, equity, inclusion” focus is one of the most important changes to the statement, adding that it was “the strongest theme that came out of everything we heard from members of the community.” 

This month’s final community feedback will be integrated into the new DEIB Statement and presented to the Board of Trustees in January for their approval. It will be both the College’s guiding philosophy and marching orders, said Vick, because the commitments made as well as the progress toward those goals are imperative.

“We want to make sure each student, each faculty member, each staff member, each alum, each guest to campus feels they are welcome and they belong,” said Vick. “This work, the commitments we're making, the goals we've set, they belong to all of us. And they really can't happen without all of us.”