Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

A dancer performs choreography for a hip hop piece

As a university with a past history of denying equitable access to qualified students, UT recognizes the profound benefits of creating an inclusive environment in which students can learn from one another. All students are better prepared to succeed in an increasingly diverse state and interconnected society when they receive the educational benefits of learning on a diverse campus. Many in the college understand and believe that advancing diversity, equity, and inclusion are responsibilities of all faculty, staff and administrators through their research, teaching, and/or service. It is our conviction as a College that an inclusive learning environment facilitates complex, critical and creative thinking and that differences in identities, values, beliefs and perspectives are fundamental to a comprehensive education.

In 2012, Dean Douglas Dempster formed the Fine Arts Diversity Committee (FADC). The committee includes faculty, staff, graduate students, and undergraduate students from across COFA as well as staff from UT’s Division of Diversity and Community Engagement and the Office for Inclusion and Equity. Charged with creating an ambitious and comprehensive five-year plan that conveyed the College’s commitment to diversity and articulated specific goals, objectives and action plans for implementation. The strategic plan outlined goals in three focused areas: Culture & Climate, Recruitment & Retention and Curriculum & Creative Programming.  

Culture and Climate

  • Over the past two years members of the FADC leveraged for The College of Fine Arts partner with the People’s Institute for Survival and Beyond to offer a series of workshops on “Undoing Racism.” According to the People’s Institute, their workshops focus “on understanding what racism is, where it comes from, how it functions, why it persists and how it can be undone.” The college piloted these two-day workshops with college leadership then expanding to all departments in the College of Fine Arts.
  • The college has surveyed the availability of all-gender restrooms in our facilities and has added an additional all-gender facility in the Doty Fine Arts Building and in the music building (MRH), in addition to the all-gender facility in Texas Performing Arts.
  • The college has partnered with the UT Division of Diversity and Community Engagement to offer workshops to all COFA TAs on “Inclusive Classrooms.” The college hopes to expand this opportunity to interested faculty in the future.
  • Through collaboration with COFA Staff Council, 20 COFA staff and faculty members participated in the Services for Students with Disabilities (SSD) disABILITY ADVOCATE training.

Recruitment and Retention:

  • The Fine Arts Diversity Committee (FADC) is directly involved in supporting the proactive identification of an inclusive pool of candidates in all future faculty searches. Each search committee includes a Diversity Advocate from the committee and an FADC Diversity Liaison to serve as a resource for the committee. The Diversity Advocate and FADC Diversity Liaison are in conversation with the search committee chair and search committee throughout the early stages of the search to support proactive efforts to build inclusion and diversity in the candidate pool. As the search committee reaches consensus on a list of finalists, the FADC reports to the Dean about the search committee’s efforts to expand the diversity of their applicant pool, which informs the Dean’s review of the finalist list.
  • The FADC provided support for the new recruiting event “Fine Arts Fest” in which College of Fine Arts Admissions invited 400 prospective students and their families to visit campus. Admissions saw a 75 percent yield rate from the students who attended this recruiting event.
  • FADC provided support to bring 20 high school juniors and seniors from the Rio Grande Valley to visit the Department of Art and Art History and to take a tour of Landmarks art on campus.
  • The FADC has provided partial support for campus visits and events in diversity recruitment initiatives with Dallas' Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts and Edinburg High School in Edinburg, Texas.
  • The FADC has also provided partial support to bring the Department of Theatre and Dance show Luna to the Rio Grande Valley as part of a diversity recruitment effort. The college has been increasing its budget for recruitment efforts to the Rio Grande Valley and under-represented school in various Texas urban areas to help build diversity in the student applicant pool.
  • FADC provided support to allow College of Fine Arts representatives to attend the South Texas Theatre Auditions to give students in the Rio Grande Valley an opportunity to audition for performing arts programs around the state.

Curriculum and Creative Programming:

  • All departments and programs are working toward explicit goals for improving diversity in student admissions and enrollment which has included some programs centering diversity, inclusion and belonging in how they construct and deliver curriculum.  In other instances it has led to creation of new areas of focus in departments and programs.  One example of this can be seen in the mission of Dance Program housed in the Department of Theatre of Dance which is to center social justice in all areas of its course offerings- from technical training to creative methodologies- in service to cultivating artist citizens.  As a result, it has become one of the most diverse programs in the College of Fine Arts and garnered national attention for this approach.
  • The FADC requested and received curriculum reports from each unit in the College of Fine Arts. The objective of these reports was to assess how diversity is represented in the curriculum of every discipline and sub-discipline in the college. We want to make sure that diversity is integrated into all disciplines and not relegated to the fringes of our curriculum. The FADC is exploring ways to incentivize better curriculum practices and to build in accountability measures and assess success.
  • The FADC successfully leveraged for the inclusion of a statement of diversity in annual reporting from faculty which has become a part of consideration for merit in most programs and departments in the College of Fine Arts.
  • All departments have established internal working groups, intersecting with the Fine Arts Diversity Committee, to review and establish guidelines and principles for diversity and inclusion within core academic curriculum and creative programming.
  • The FADC launched a Guest Artist Initiative that provides supplementary funding for visiting artists and scholars who might expand our understanding as a college community of under-represented cultures and viewpoints.
  • The FADC has expanded funding for its Guest Artist Initiative Program and is accepting proposals from students for projects that will support the inclusion and diversity goals of the college.

Ultimately the FADC has led the college in establishing and fostering a culture of inclusivity throughout the College community. The committee assists in the development of recruitment and retention strategies for underrepresented students, faculty, and staff; provides forums for mutual respect, an appreciation of differences, and cross-cultural understandings.  As a direct result of these efforts, The College of Fine Arts is recognized by the University of Texas at Austin as one of the most diverse colleges at the University of Texas at Austin. It is committed to fostering a culture and climate of equitability that is inclusive and welcoming of students, faculty, and staff of all backgrounds, experiences and viewpoints.

Demographics in the College

51% white students, 49% non-white students

Undergraduate Students in the College of Fine Arts as of fall 2019

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