President Rebecca Stoltzfus addressed the college at this Wednesday’s convocation with updates from the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) Task Force.
In January 2018, President Stoltzfus issued a mandate for the creation of the Task Force. Two months later, students, staff and faculty were called to nominate themselves to become a part of the group.
The nominees were affirmed by the campus community and then selected by the Task Force’s co-chairs, Beth Martin Birky and Dominique Burgunder-Johnson, in collaboration with President Stoltzfus and a selection process overseer.
The last update of the Task Force came in May 2018 when the group was officially launched. The Task Force began work in earnest at the start of the new school year in August 2018.
During convocation, President Stoltzfus explained how the Task Force had been created to focus on three major issues over a two-year period.
According to the DEI’s official statement these are: “to communicate and make visible Goshen College’s ongoing work in the areas of diversity, equity and inclusion; identify what GC is currently doing to promote an inclusive and equitable campus experience for all members of our community and how well we are doing so; propose new ways to improve our effectiveness in being a more inclusive and equitable campus, including identification of what new resources and changes should be considered.”
President Stoltzfus shared the working definitions of DEI, which had been agreed upon by the Task Force at a four-hour spring semester retreat that took place at the beginning of January 2019.
“Diversity is the sum of the ways that people are both similar and different,” said President Stoltzfus. “Equity means an intentional focus to reduce disparities in opportunities, experiences and outcomes for all members of the campus community. Inclusion means belonging to a campus environment in which people are respected, accepted and connected to one another.”
Accompanying President Stoltzfus at the podium was a 40-pound foundation stone. This stone was used in the analogy of a house that represents GC.
“I cannot build this house alone,” said President Stoltzfus.
She asked for help in moving the stone from the stairs to a table placed at the front of her podium. Jose Chiquito Galván, a junior, responded and along with President Stoltzfus, they carried the stone, which represented the foundation, to the table.
President Stoltzfus went on to explain the need of cornerstones to help build the house. She then pulled out the first stone and explained how it represented truth-seeking before placing it on the foundation stone. The next stone represented social mobility and economic thriving. The third, sheer joy of human connection. Finally, the fourth represented justice.
“Let’s build this house together,” President Stoltzfus said.
Burgunder-Johnson then shared information about an ongoing list the Task Force has been compiling since the fall of 2018. The list consisted of self-reported initiatives that are currently taking place across campus to advance diversity, equity and inclusion at Goshen College. Information was gathered in a survey, and Burgunder-Johnson said that there are currently more than 130 responses.
Birky then spoke of the Task Force’s plans moving forward. A Higher Education Data Sharing Consortium: Diversity and Equity Campus Climate Survey will be sent out next Monday, Jan. 21. The Task Force will also be implementing recommendations from communication assessments as well as beginning research and assessment of current effectiveness.
As students left convocation, they were invited to contribute to the DEI timeline hanging on a poster on the wall outside of the chapel. They were also invited to respond to the questions, “What questions should the DEI Task Force be asking about GC’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion?” and “What would true Diversity, Equity and Inclusion look like for you at Goshen College?”
During convocation, President Stoltzfus also announced that the Task Force is approaching the final stages of a revised mission statement. After several rounds of input from employees and Student Senate, the statement currently reads: “Goshen College transforms local and global communities through courageous, creative and compassionate leaders. We integrate academic excellence with real-world experience and active love for God and neighbor shaped by the Anabaptist-Mennonite tradition.”
“In an inclusive community, diversity is a source of surprise, wonder and discovery,” said President Stoltzfus.