The Office of the President hired a group to perform a diversity audit as part of a University priority to enhance diversity and safety efforts on campus. The initiative brought an auditing team to campus in March to meet with over 100 members of diversity and safety groups to determine where improvements can be made.
The external auditing team, according to the president’s chief of staff Kelly Webster, was tasked to review where the University of Montana stands on matters of safety, diversity, inclusion and equity. The results of the external check will be able to provide the University with a report of where diversity work on campus is going well, but also where efforts and resources could be more focused.
“We were kind of well-positioned to step back, look at all of the efforts that have been happening on campus, and ask, ‘OK, where do we go next?’” Webster said of the decision to bring in an external team.
President Bodnar announced the diversity check during his mid-year update. The check is part of one of five priorities Bodnar outlined as part of the University’s “Priorities for Action.” The check falls under priority three: “Mission First, People Always.”
A team from the San Francisco-based higher education consulting company Grand River Solutions visited campus March 18-20, and sat down with over 100 students, faculty and staff involved with issues like campus safety, diversity and inclusion, according to Webster. Members of organizations like the Student Advocacy Resource Center (SARC), UMPD, the Title IX offices and the Diversity Advisory Council were invited to sit down and discuss where they stand and what they do on the UM campus. There was also an online survey portal for students, faculty and staff to provide input anonymously.
Adrianne Donald is a staff member on the Diversity Advisory Council. She said the council, made up of volunteers, is available to help advise President Bodnar about topics in diversity. Donald was one of the people interviewed in the external check process. She said the team came to campus for the three-day window and spoke with groups of people for 45 minutes at a time.
Donald said she felt 45 minutes didn’t seem like a long time, but she was glad to see the team “trying to get right down to it” to find similarities in the feedback they were receiving from different University groups. She said President Bodnar wanted to start with this audit to find out where the University stands right now with diversity efforts.
Webster is excited to receive the whole report and see where the University is doing well and where work is still needed. She said she believes there are a lot of organizations and outreach to be proud of, specifically citing SARC, the Diversity Advisory Council and the President’s Native American Advisory Council.
Although she has not seen the final report, Webster said she would be surprised if it did not include recommendations for improving professional development on campus. One example, she said, includes improving implicit bias training for campus faculty and staff. Implicit bias trainings help to raise awareness of unconscious, sometimes unintentional, learned stereotypes and how to counter those implicit biases.
“There is a ton that we could be doing and should be doing,” Webster said. “We have some amazing folks on campus who are working really hard to offer as much of that kind of training and professional development for campus as possible. But I think we could invest more in doing that kind of educational piece, that outreach.”
UM spokesperson Paula Short also noted bringing in a team to synthesize diversity information across the board allows for the University to make diversity, safety and inclusion efforts more cohesive.
“In a lot of areas, we have a lot of satellite efforts around the campus and some of them are actually duplicative, they’re actually working on the same things,” Short said. “But they’re doing it independently, so how do we bring them together?”
Webster said the full report is expected to be completed by the end of April. She added that once the University receives the report, it will become available to the public.