On Friday 25 September we shared AUC’s Framework and Action Plan for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion with the AUC community. This Framework and Action Plan outlines the importance of diversity at AUC and the targeted measures we are taking to make AUC an inclusive community. It is the result of work conducted following the 11 June commitments made by AUC’s Management. On that day, AUC’s Management acknowledged the prevalence of institutional racism in our society and committed to a new approach.
This statement was followed by focus groups where students and staff participated, and conversations with the Student Council, Works Council, and Board of Studies. This summer, the Diversity Leadership Group was formed to convert our commitment into action. The group, consisting of the Dean and members of AUC management, examined VU and UvA policies, reports, and recommendations. We collected past, ongoing, and planned AUC initiatives related to diversity, inclusion, and equity. Furthermore, we gathered staff and student feedback expressed during focus group discussions and in correspondence. In a next step, we sought input from critical friends, including the Chief Diversity Officers of both UVA and VU, liaised with co-governance bodies, colleagues and external partners with relevant professional expertise. AUC’s Framework and Action Plan for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion is the result.
The Framework and Action Plan combine to provide a living document, an invitation to the community to remain involved, and will evolve and adapt over time in response to our continuing conversations and reflections. At the same time, the plan also serves as a tool for increased transparency and accountability for the commitments we have made, by introducing concrete milestones, actions and a regular reporting mechanism.
The Framework and Action Plan start with our framework for diversity, in which we define what diversity means to AUC, and establish the principles that guide our growth as a diverse, inclusive, and equitable community. We then move to the action plan, with a focus on four pillars and enabling structures.
The aim of this pillar is to address how we integrate Diversity, Equity and Inclusion within our curriculum at AUC. We will host curriculum conversations, with an initial focus on the first-year experience, to explore how our commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion translates into learning and teaching at AUC. We also want to create projects that engage with and enhance AUC’s expertise and practices in areas of diversity. Furthermore, we focus on effective feedback loops such as diversity-related questions in evaluations and surveys and look ahead to AUC’s next strategic vision exercise.
This pillar addresses the steps preceding students’ arrival at AUC. To increase applications from first-generation students, students from migration and/or refugee backgrounds, and students from lower socio-economic backgrounds AUC must be more visible and actively reach out. We will thus revive and enhance AUC’s school network strategy, focus on student ambassador training and activities, integrate AUC in VU and UvA pre-university programmes, connect with prospective students and engage with local partners. To avoid the exclusion of prospective students, we will also examine the language we use to promote the College and explain its admissions process. Since AUC’s admissions procedure plays an important part in realising fair access for all applicants, we will review our admissions criteria and process. To ensure that we have insight into the changing diversity of our student body, we will research how we can gather data and develop a knowledge base. Furthermore, we will attend to the diversity awareness and skills of teams involved in admissions. Since scholarships help create fair and equal access to AUC, we will approach new ASF sponsors and donors, and evaluate and re-launch a Diversity Awards Programme.
Our approach to diversity, equity and inclusion recognises the multitude of backgrounds and experiences that affect our sense of ourselves and our places in the world, as well as the inequities that some must contend with in their journeys before, during, and after AUC. We commit to providing support that is tailored when needed, and available and easy to access always. Discrimination and racism in our community are not tolerated and will be confronted actively and transparently, born out of a shared responsibility to understanding and fairness. While challenging our ideas is a precursor for learning, safety will never be compromised. AUC will invest in ongoing efforts that give students the opportunity to learn more about themselves and their community, as well as come up with new initiatives. We will do more to create physical and virtual spaces, platforms, and moments for conversation, interaction, and co-creation. We will engage with other institutions, alumni networks, and the city at large in examining and improving our approaches to student experience. Our tutors are a vital node in the AUC support network, and we emphasise professional development and sharing of best practices to ensure tutors stay abreast of the newest developments in academic advising and guidance. Tutors are not the only node in the support network though, and will be supported with the necessary resources, as well as clear, student-centred institutional policies and administrative mechanisms.
AUC aims to enhance diversity skills, awareness and experience in its staffing base and ensure our approach to HR is attentive to different needs. We aim to be an employer that values diversity and proactively supports all those who work with us. As educators, we also aim to foster inclusive classrooms, and to ensure students encounter role models that reflect their own experiences and promote a diverse and equitable society. Our approach includes attention to recruitment and selection, deployment, and arrangements for on-boarding and induction, support, supervision, training and advancement, with independent reporting channels for staff experiencing discrimination.
Ensuring that progress is made on completing the actions in this plan needs follow through, cross-referencing and forward planning; these in turn require cultural and structural change. In specific, we will foster a collective understanding of and responsibility for our approach, with clear direction and opportunities for participation, consultation and review.
The publication of the plan will be followed by an invitation to a launch, where we will outline the Framework and Action Plan and the opportunities to get involved, respond to questions, and discuss the platform and set-up for implementation. Colleagues and students will be invited to join these events during October.
In a next step, we will invite participation in the Diversity Forum, which will take place twice a year (January and May) for both staff and students, providing opportunities for discussion of the plan with management and representatives, offering comments, and providing ideas and recommendations for implementation. In this way we will refresh the plan annually, capturing new initiatives and reflecting the community’s priorities. At the same time, we will ensure an active, involved role for the Student Council, Board of Studies and Works Council in the process.
Look out for events and activities underway this semester, both within AUC, including the launch of an annual lecture series, focusing this year on James Baldwin, and in collaboration with UvA and the VU. Many of these will be included in our newsletters and on the Diversity section of our website.
AUCSA has made available this year the Anti-racism Fund, to be allocated for projects and events dedicated to awareness, information on anti-racism and community resources for the BIPOC community at AUC. During October and November, the AUCSA Diversity Commission will host the anti-racism initiative, with many events.