University of Northern Colorado approach to equity, inclusion comes into focus | MyWindsorNow.com

University of Northern Colorado approach to equity, inclusion comes into focus

Tyler Silvy
tsilvy@greeleytribune.com

The University of Northern Colorado may soon begin faculty training aimed at making professors more sensitive to issues of equity and inclusion.

In an update for the Professional and Administrative Staff Council on Wednesday, Katrina Rodriguez, vice president for campus community and climate, discussed next steps in what she said could be institution-wide professional development.

UNC came under fire this past spring and summer when The Tribune revealed the university's Bias Response Team had called professors into meetings and suggested the professors avoid discussing sensitive topics in class.

In one case, a professor was conducting a debate-style exercise designed to welcome students to the university and to the type of critical thinking he would ask them to engage in. A student complained to administrators after the topic of transgender people was brought up in the class.

“How do we become a learning organization, come to the table and dissect and digest difficult things

— things that may be hurtful to people?

— Katrina Rodriguez, vice president for campus community and climate

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The Bias Response Team, at least in name, is gone. But the university continues to handle complaints regarding those types of incidents, and because university officials are working to reshape the process, information on changes has been hard to obtain.

But Rodriguez's role, overseeing a campus climate team, seems to center on approaching the topic differently.

Rodriguez has previously refused sit-down interview requests to discuss her role, which she was promoted to this summer. She has also avoided answering questions when approached at a public event, and she answered only a few questions after Wednesday's meeting.

Still, Rodriguez's approach and role were hinted at during the Professional and Administrative Staff Council meeting. She said UNC has not done a good job in terms of having an approach to professional development that serves the whole institution and the university was seeing the effects.

"How do we want to approach this?" Rodriguez said, one of many questions she asked council representatives Wednesday morning.

"How do we become a learning organization, come to the table and dissect and digest difficult things — things that may be hurtful to people?" Rodriguez said.

Staff members said, and Rodriguez agreed that professional development likely cannot be mandatory. The challenge, Rodriguez said, will be to get people on board.

"I understand we're going to speak to the choir," Rodriguez said. "How do we get people who aren't in the choir? We're going to run into many walls. How do we figure out ways around them?"

Rodriguez's other goal in her Wednesday appearance was to give an update on the campus climate survey, which is part of a two-year, Campus Climate Initiative led by a consulting agency the university is paying $70,000.

The survey, which is live now, is set to close Oct. 21, but the university is having trouble gathering student participation in the 20-30 minute survey.

As of Wednesday, just 3.7 percent of UNC graduate students had responded and 5.6 percent of undergraduate students had responded, meaning the overall survey responses would not be representative of the campus.

Rodriguez said she would hope to be able to keep the survey up beyond Oct. 21 if they don't get the requisite number or percentage of student responses. She wasn't able to say what percentage the university needed.

The goal, for UNC officials, is to get the report in April, and use that as a "blueprint" for moving forward with an equity, diversity and inclusion plan.

Tyler Silvy covers education for The Greeley Tribune. Reach him at tsilvy@greeleytribune.com. Connect with him at Facebook.com/TylerSilvy or @TylerSilvy on Twitter.

Up next

The University of Northern Colorado should receive survey results in April, and will use those results to determine next steps in the university’s goals toward equity and inclusion.