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Academic Leaders Dig Into Campus Survey Data and Get Ready to Move Forward

Now that the results of the university-wide survey on diversity, equity and inclusion are available, more than 175 academic leaders from across campus came together to explore the data and get started on action plans to move their units forward.

A day-long retreat organized by Duke Faculty Advancement brought together school leadership teams, department chairs and academic leaders. Discussions focused on several data trends from the survey that revealed inequities related to policy, infrastructure and people’s lived experiences as well as a need for accountability and transparency with actions and progress.

President Vincent Price said that the unit-specific results of the survey are an important level-set. “The responses you review today can provide valuable insights into the perspectives of the faculty members and staff in your departments,” he told the participants, and added that there will be “a similar gathering in February for HR leaders and administrators.”

Provost Sally Kornbluth noted that the survey results quantified “the sometimes uncomfortable truths about where we are as an institution.” Efforts at the institutional level should support and inspire change at the local level, Kornbluth said, emphasizing that “every individual and every unit has a crucial role to play” in Duke’s efforts to combat racism and foster equity.

Sherilynn Black, associate vice provost for faculty advancement, highlighted clear evidence of “two different Dukes” in the survey findings, especially when looking at the data by faculty respondents’ race. Acknowledging that Duke has a long way to go and many people are feeling stuck, Black helped the participants identify reasons why making and sustaining progress has been a struggle and how they can move beyond these barriers.

Merlise Clyde, professor of statistical science, agreed that the data show “more than one Duke” and that it has been challenging to tackle this problem. She encouraged participants to use the data to inform their units’ priorities and resource allocation, consider how their actions may differentially impact constituent groups, and share the data in a way that is clear and easily understood.

Black emphasized that Faculty Advancement, Institutional EquityInstitutional Research and other offices are equipped to help academic leaders as they explore the data and construct plans for their units. “Having a collective commitment to this will hopefully strengthen our outcomes,” she noted, “and we are here to support you.”

Robert Bryant, Phillip Griffiths Professor of Mathematics, shared his experience as department chair on ways to invest more fully in diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives since the summer of 2020. He advised participants to develop a relational approach to their unit’s data. He also recommended that, whether through discussions, focus groups or other means, we should use what works for our school or unit, and include everyone equitably; people often do not feel valued, especially staff, and they should be included in the process.

The problem is structural, said Mark Anthony Neal, James B. Duke Distinguished Professor of African and African American Studies. The survey reflects “the structural realities of [faculty and staff members’] lives as employees at Duke, living in Durham. That’s the hard thing to get at.”

“All of us have a lot to learn, even those of us who study race, about how we dismantle racism,” said Charmaine Royal, Robert O. Keohane Professor of African and African American Studies. “We have to be intentional about how we engage and build relationships with people,” she said. “As long as we’re being reactive rather than proactive, we cannot achieve and sustain transformation.”

Rob Odom, chief marketing and communications officer and vice president for the Duke Health System, shared guidance for leaders on engaging with their units. “When we talk about diversity, equity and inclusion, we start with our Duke values of Respect, Trust, Inclusion, Discovery and Excellence,” he said. “Telling a story or sharing a reflection on any one of those values can help us explain why we are so committed to this work.”

Black advised leaders to work on their action plans with an eye toward what is feasible right now, within current confines, and expand afterward. Duke Faculty Advancement will host four follow-up workshops to continue to help the participants move forward.

Additional presenters included Abbas Benmamoun, vice provost for faculty advancement; Kimberly Hewitt, vice president for institutional equity; David Jamieson-Drake, assistant vice provost and director of institutional research; Leigh-Anne Royster, assistant vice president for diversity, equity and inclusion; and Erika Weinthal, chair of the Academic Council and professor of environmental sciences and policy.

Main image: First row: Abbas Benmamoun, Sherilynn Black, Robert Bryant, Merlise Clyde, Kimberly Hewitt, David Jamieson-Drake; second row: Sally Kornbluth, Mark Anthony Neal, Rob Odom, Vincent Price, Charmaine Royal, Leigh-Anne Royster, Erika Weinthal