DAC Conducts Faculty Focus Groups to Discuss Diversity

The Diversity Action Committee's (DAC) Assessment Subcommittee conducted focus groups with faculty regarding the diversity and equity on campus yesterday. The focus group was held in conjunction with Faculty Development Day.

Traditionally, on Faculty Development Day, the Faculty Resource Center organizes a series of sessions including discussion groups and teaching circles in the morning and afternoon. These sessions act as a resource for the professional development of the college's faculty and their curriculums. This is the first time a diversity-oriented program has been integrated into Faculty Development Day.

"We are trying to get faculty perspectives regarding campus climate," Erick Castellanos explained.

Castellanos, professor of international studies, anthropology and Latin American studies, was recently appointed as the Faculty Fellow for Diversity and Equity. He has been serving on the Assessment Subcommittee for the past three years and served as co-chair the previous two years. As an immigrant, he has had a lifelong passion for diversity.

DAC strives to promote the college's mission regarding campus climate of "maintaining strength and opportunity through diversity of age, race, gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity and economic background amongst faculty, staff and students."

In spring 2012, DAC conducted a campus climate survey. Educational Benchmarking, Inc. administered the survey, open to input from students, professional staff and faculty.

Last spring, the committee held town-hall style meetings to discuss the outcomes in an open setting with the Ramapo community. A public, detailed document of the survey results -including a comparison results and a conclusion between surveys conducted last year and in 2005 – can be found on the College's website.

Last June, the subcommittee held approximately five diversity-oriented focus groups. However, the data from those groups is still being compiled for further analysis and follow-up.

The focus groups serve as an open-ended forum to discuss issues regarding integrating diversity into classroom coursework, retention and recruitment of faculty in underrepresented groups and maternity leaves.

The prepared topics for open-ended discussion are only intended to ignite discussion and inspire ideas. However, the group discussion is free to shift gears to different topics and ideas. The main purpose is to gather detailed feedback on campus climate for the betterment of the college environment. The focus groups were limited to faculty members only for the sake of confidentially.

According to Associate Professor of Sociology Kristin Kenneavy the feedback from yesterday's group was successful, and the committee plans to organize student focus groups for next semester.

"We are pleased with the participation so far and will be offering additional times for faculty focus groups on issues related to equity and diversity during the rest of the fall semester. Student focus groups will be organized for Spring 2014."