An Open Letter to the Community on the Diversity Strategic Planning Process

January 30, 2013

Dear Members of the Muhlenberg Community,

I have been greatly encouraged by the energy, thoughtfulness, and seriousness with which students, faculty, staff, and trustees have responded to my recent call for comments on the College's revised diversity statement, and to the various events of Muhlenberg’s Martin Luther King observances.  One message has been especially clear: while we have made substantial progress in recent years this is no time for complacency.  I strongly agree.  And I hope we, as a community, can channel this interest and energy into a renewed commitment to strengthening diversity at Muhlenberg.

This e-mail addresses questions that some have raised, and suggests a path forward.  I would appreciate your feedback.

I've been asked how the original diversity statement was produced in 2006, the origins and membership of the President's Diversity Advisory Committee, and its relationship to the Multicultural Center Advisory Council.  Let me begin by responding to those questions.

  • The original diversity statement was produced in 2005-2006 by an informal group of faculty and staff who shared multiple drafts with the campus community and published what was then acknowledged as an ongoing work-in-progress on the College's website. Those involved in this work included Charles Anderson, Janine Chi, Steve Coutinho, Margaret Dodson, Ethel Drayton-Craig, Mohsin Hashim, Margie Hass, Tomoe Kanaya, Cathy Kim, Trevor Knox, Susan Schwartz, Jeremy Teissere, and Margaret Tso.
  • The President's Diversity Advisory Committee was formed last year in response to a recommendation from the Multicultural Center Advisory Board as part of a governance redesign of the Multicultural Center.  The current Multicultural Center Advisory Board (Cindy Amaya- Santiago, Beth Halpern, Brian Mello, Cathy Ouellette, Jim Peck, Kate Richmond, Robin Riley-Casey, and Stefanie Sinno) was created at the same time by the same process.  The current members of the President's Diversity Advisory Committee are Kim Gallon, Karen Green, John Ramsay, and Anne Speck.  Our agenda to date has included a review and revision of the College diversity statement (discussion draft shared with the community earlier this month) and the development of a diversity plan for the College (we have shared diversity plans from other institutions and will be discussing a planning process appropriate for Muhlenberg during the present semester).

I strongly believe that a successful diversity plan will focus on action as well as dialogue, that it will represent a shared commitment and a shared responsibility by all segments of the College community, and that it will identify strategies, activities, and goals to which all of us – faculty, students, staff, and trustees – can address our energies and talents.

Such a plan cannot be developed by a small group operating in isolation – it must result from multiple conversations both within and among the constituencies that make up our community.

Within the coming weeks I will outline a proposed planning process for community comment.  I also hope to convene several conversations during this semester – and beyond.  I encourage you to participate in the dialogue, to think creatively, to communicate honestly and respectfully, and to hope boldly as we continue down this path together.

For now, I hope you will let me know if you think this is a helpful direction for us to follow, and if you would like to be involved in the conversation.

Randy Helm