Campus & Community / Magazine Feature

Diversity Summit focuses on inclusive action

As attendance has grown for the University of Denver’s annual Diversity Summit, so too have expectations grown for spreading inclusive excellence across campus.

“We’ve been making great progress, but we need to do more,” said Chancellor Robert Coombe. “We need to extract excellence from the energy of our diversity.”

Registrations for the seventh Annual Diversity Summit approached 500, a 50 percent increase over last year and a reflection of the continued growth and significance of what Coombe called “one of the most important things we do.”
The theme for this year’s summit, sponsored by the Center for Multicultural Excellence and a wide range of campus organizations, was “One DU: Greater Expectations for Inclusive Excellence.” Speakers, panelists and attendees at the May 2 event talked about how to move beyond the numerical reflections of race, gender and ethnicity to an ethos of inclusion that permeates every part of DU.

“It’s got to be about more than words,” said the Rev. Jamie Washington, this year’s keynote speaker. “It’s got to be about the work.”

Washington, a well-known diversity expert with more than 25 years of higher education experience, said DU is ahead of most institutions in its diversity work but outlined some steps students, faculty and staff could take to create an even more inclusive environment.

He called for a rigorous assessment of the current campus climate; creating awareness of patterns of privilege and exclusion on campus; and engagement in “authentic” conversations about diversity at the individual, group and organizational level.

“It needs to be everywhere,” said Washington. “It’s a marathon.”

This year’s attendees seemed ready for the marathon. In addition to Washington’s morning address, they chose from 26 workshops in three sessions running through the morning and afternoon. Workshops covered topics from student-athlete outreach to social justice organizing to sessions on gender expression and identity.

At the halfway point, participants ate lunch while they listened to digital storytelling and heard from a faculty panel taking up the day’s mantra of how to turn words into actions. Faculty members from several disciplines encouraged their peers to accommodate diversity in the classroom, encourage collaboration among students from different backgrounds and to challenge homogeneous thinking. They also suggested considering diversity in faculty evaluations and tenure decisions.

“We need to take a broader look at how DU evaluates faculty,” said Dean Saitta, anthropology professor and president of the Faculty Senate.

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