Documenting the history of the Fine Arts Diversity Council (formerly Fine Arts Diversity Committee) from founding to the creation of the 2014 College of Fine Arts Strategic Plan for Diversity
On Feb. 24, the Fine Arts Diversity Committee convened for its first diversity planning meeting. At the outset, the committee included the diverse perspectives and experiences of faculty, staff, administrators and students from across the college.
In April, Dean Doug Dempster announced the creation of a Fine Arts Diversity committee to “assess the educational and cultural environment in the College of Fine Arts to design and implement strategies that advance diversity along such vectors as race and ethnicity, disability/ability, gender, gender identity and expression, national origin, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status and religion.”
The college collaborated with the Division of Diversity and Community Engagement in a diversity planning partnership that was the first of its kind on the UT campus. The effort was led by Senior Associate Dean Ken Hale and Dr. Sherri Sanders, associate vice president for campus diversity and strategic initiatives.
The committee was tasked with establishing an ambitious and comprehensive five-year plan to convey the college’s commitment to diversity and articulates specific goals, objectives and action plans for implementation. The plan was outlined in six stages:
- Stage 1: Establish an inclusive, forward-thinking Fine Arts Diversity Committee
- Stage 2: Develop a process that engages multiple constituencies in the college and draws upon national best practices and research literature for diversity planning
- Stage 3: Collect and analyze relevant qualitative and quantitative data related to diversity in the college
- Stage 4: Produce an ambitious diversity plan with goals, objectives and action plans for completion within the next five years
- Stage 5: Develop a process for implementing the goals, objectives and action plans of the diversity plan that measures the success of the college’s diversity initiatives, services and programs
- Stage 6: Support and collaborate as a role model for other colleges or schools and portfolios across the University in campus-wide diversity planning efforts
In April, the committee launched a climate survey for Fine Arts faculty, staff and students to assess perceptions of diversity, climate, intergroup relations and discrimination within COFA and UT-Austin.
The committee also began collecting information regarding current diversity initiatives and best practices in the college.
The Fine Arts Diversity Committee added members to represent undergraduate and graduate students, as well as Texas Performing Arts.
The committee members for the 2012-2013 academic year included
Ken Hale, Professor of Art and Art History (through fall 2012)
John Yancey, Professor of Art and Art History (beginning spring 2013)
Butler School of Music
Dr. Charles Carson, Assistant Professor
Joseph Ovalle, Undergraduate Student
Ashley Pribyl, Graduate Student
Dr. Sonia Seeman, Assistant Professor
Dr. Andrew Dell’Antonio, Associate Dean for Undergraduate Studies
Karoline Liu, Director of Recruitment and Admissions
Department of Art and Art History
Carris Adams, Undergraduate Student
Michael Ray Charles, Professor
Sandra Fernandez, Assistant Professor
Ken Hale, Professor
Dr. Moyo Okediji, Professor
Rose Salseda, Graduate Student
Dr. Cherise Smith, Associate Professor
John Yancey, Professor
Department of Theatre and Dance
Stephen Gerald, Associate Professor
Nicole Martin, Graduate Student
Dr. Rebecca Rossen, Assistant Professor
Janet Solis, Undergraduate Student
Texas Performing Arts
David Stewart, Academic Production Manager
Campus Diversity and Strategic Initiatives, Division of Diversity and Community Engagement
Dr. Kiersten Ferguson, Postdoctoral Fellow
Ryan Miller, Associate Director
Dr. Sherri Sanders, Associate Vice President
During the fall semester, the committee drafted a guiding mission statement:
The Fine Arts Diversity Committee supports and collaborates with the College of Fine Arts units in the design and implementation of strategies that advance diversity. By actively 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; and prepares our community for a changing global society.
In fall 2012, the committee shared the findings from the climate survey conducted in the spring. The results were shared in an executive summary and a full report. The survey, completed by 702 students, faculty and staff (26% of the college overall), asked about perceptions of diversity, climate, intergroup relations and discrimination within COFA and UT-Austin.
Overall, survey respondents indicated that the college promotes a welcoming and inclusive environment and that diversity is integrated to varying degrees in the curricular, performative, scholarly and social aspects of the college. Still, those taking the survey indicated a greater need for sensitivity and inclusion of diversity in the COFA experience, and there was less satisfaction with particular aspects of the environment noted by those identifying with underrepresented groups within the college.
Some examples of the assessment’s findings included:
- 86% of survey respondents agreed that skills related to diversity are needed for the professional success of COFA graduates.
- Two-thirds of survey takers felt comfortable discussing diversity in the classroom or workplace.
- 60% of respondents said that the curriculum prepares students for careers that recognize the needs of diverse populations. People of color and those who identified as low-income, lesbian, gay, bisexual and queer were more likely than their peers to disagree.
- 61% of survey respondents felt that diversity is adequately reflected in COFA’s productions, performances, exhibitions and events.
- People of color, women and people who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual and queer were more likely than their counterparts to say they had experienced or witnessed discrimination on campus.
- Respondents indicated that students, faculty and staff interacted most positively across three types of diversity — sexual orientation, national origin and disability — and slightly less positively across differences of socioeconomic status, religion, race/ethnicity and gender.
In January 2013, John Yancey stepped in as the new chair of the Fine Arts Diversity Committee, after Ken Hale retired from his role as senior associate dean in in the College of Fine Arts.
In February, the committee convened 10 focus groups with undergraduate students (3 focus groups), graduate students (3), staff (2), and faculty (2) to seek insight and perspectives on diversity and equity within COFA.
In March, the FADC completed 16 interviews with internal and external stakeholders to seek insight and perspectives on diversity and equity within COFA.
In April/May, the FADC identified overarching goal topics that emerged across the data collection process and creates sub-committees to craft goal statements, rationales, objectives and implementation proposals.
In October, the FADC shared a draft diversity plan with COFA chairs and directors, and they facilitated five focus groups to obtain feedback on diversity plan draft from students by department/school (3 focus groups), staff (1) and faculty (1)
In November and December, the diversity planning process paused to engage in frank and open conversations with students, faculty and staff concerned about race and representation in the audition process and casting decisions for the Department of Theatre and Dance’s In the Heights production. The FADC, in partnership with department leadership, contributed to the development of action steps aligned with the FADC’s mission, diversity plan goals and objectives and implementation proposals
In January, the FADC developed and outlined metrics including methods, instruments and criteria to support each of the diversity plan’s goals and corresponding objectives and implementation proposals and to measure the success of each implementation proposal.
In February, the FADC identified priorities for the first year of the diversity plan’s implementation process and the types of resources needed for each proposal.
In March, the FADC leadership met with Dean Dempster to update him on the committee’s progress and to obtain his assessment of the proposed plan and steps for moving forward.
In March/April, new members from across the college asked to join FADC and participate in a final in-depth examination of the proposed diversity plan.
In June 2014, the Fine Arts Diversity Committee delivered its five-year strategic plan to Dean Doug Dempster, along with a letter from John Yancey and Sherri Sanders. The diversity plan focused on three areas: recruitment and retention of diverse faculty, students, and staff; academic curriculum and creative programming; and the college’s climate and culture.