Four experts appointed to external review board

by Alex Fredman | 1/13/17 2:30am

Last month, the College announced the appointment of four experts on diversity and inclusion to an external review board charged with evaluating Dartmouth’s ongoing Action Plan for Inclusive Excellence.

The selected board members are Kimberly Griffin, John Rich ’80, Keivan Stassun and Kiva Wilson ’04.

An associate professor for the University of Maryland’s higher education, student affairs and international education policy program, Griffin focuses on studying underrepresented communities and their experiences in higher education.

Griffin thinks it is essential at this time to think about campus climate and diversity.

“I really hope to bring to bear some of the ways that scholars and researchers have approached the same questions that the Dartmouth faculty, staff, administration and students are asking and come up with solutions and answers,” she said.

Rich is a professor at the Drexel University School of Public Health, where he leads the Drexel Center for Nonviolence and Social Justice. In 2006, he was named a MacArthur Fellow. He was inducted into the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences in 2009 and served as a Dartmouth trustee from 2008 to 2016.

Stassun is a professor of physics and astronomy at Vanderbilt University, where he co-chaired the Diversity, Inclusion and Community committee. In 2015, the magazine “INSIGHT Into Diversity” gave him the Diversity Visionary Award.

“One of the accomplishments that I’m proudest of at Vanderbilt over the last decade with regards to diversity and inclusion has been finding new ways of identifying and supporting students and faculty from traditionally underrepresented or marginalized backgrounds,” Stassun said. “I know from very recent experience how timely and essential this work is for our great institutions of higher learning.”

Wilson is a diversity business partner with Facebook, where she manages the company’s diversity program. After graduating from Dartmouth, Wilson served with the Peace Corps in El Salvador and later acted as a program manager in the organization’s office of diversity and national outreach.

Last October, the Executive Committee on Inclusive Excellence announced that Shaun Harper, the founder and executive director of the Center for the Study of Race and Equity in Education at the University of Pennsylvania, would chair the external review board. Harper will be leaving UPenn for the University of Southern California in July to found the USC Race and Equity Center.

“I kept my fingers crossed as we were pursuing Professor Harper,” vice president for institutional diversity and equity Evelynn Ellis said. “He’s a genius. That’s not an overstatement: as far as educational policies, issues, challenges, he’s a genius.”

The panelists were chosen by the College’s Executive Committee on Inclusive Excellence, comprised of College President Phil Hanlon, Provost Carolyn Dever, executive vice president Rick Mills and Ellis.

“The board was selected based on their ability to provide input and ... evaluate our actions,” Ellis said. “They can look at the action plan and the actions we are taking ... so that we have objective views on our successes and our challenges.”

Initiated last May by Hanlon, the Action Plan for Inclusive Excellence charges the College to take specific actions in the next several years to improve diversity and inclusivity on campus. It outlines six initiatives for the College to improve upon: increasing faculty diversity, increasing staff diversity, building a more inclusive community, increasing transparency, confronting and learning from the past and being accountable.

Each of the six initiatives features specific tasks to be achieved, such as “double faculty diversity recruitment fund” and “commission public projects on Dartmouth’s history of diversity and inclusivity.” The Action Plan for Inclusive Excellence’s website lists the tasks proposed by the action plan, and labels each as “in planning,” “in progress” or “complete.”

The “Be Accountable” initiative specifically includes a task requiring the creation of an external review board.

Board members will be tasked with independently monitoring the implementation and ongoing progress of the action plan and then making annual reports to the Board of Trustees, according to Ellis. “One of the agreements we had with the community is that everything we do will be transparent,” Ellis said.

She added that all reports made by the review board will be made available on the website.

Decisions regarding when and where the board will meet will be up to the members of the panel, according to Ellis. However, she added, the board members are likely to visit campus at least once before their first report, which is scheduled to be released this spring.

It will also be up to board members to decide how the review board will function in the future. While the action plan specifically calls for the creation of an external review panel, there are not many explicit instructions detailing the board’s goals.

Nonetheless, Griffin was impressed with Dartmouth’s efforts to create an action plan for increased diversity and social accountability.

“It’s so good to see an institution taking such an intentional path toward increasing inclusion on their campus,” she said.