Michigan State University has launched an inclusion campaign to address issues of race, gender and discrimination on campus.
“Inclusion is defined as creating a living, learning and work environment where differences are valued, respected and welcomed,” said Paulette Granberry-Russell, senior adviser to the president for diversity and inclusion.
“We’ve committed resources to the reducing the graduation gap between white students and black and Hispanic students, and we recognize there is more that we need to do to reduce the gap,” she said.
In fall 2015, MSU launched the Office of Institutional Equity to oversee the university’s efforts to address discrimination and harassment based on factors such as race, gender and sex. The office allows students and faculty to file reports of discrimination on its website.
As the director for the Office of Inclusion, Granberry-Russell leads the office efforts in education and development, community outreach and research and assessment. Granberry-Russell has seen improvement in MSU’s inclusion.
“Our recruitment and retention efforts for students have become more sophisticated, including the work that is being done in what are now referred to as neighborhood son campus,” she said. “We not only engage in efforts to increase diversity among our faculty, staff, and students, but we also understand the importance of creating a campus environment that is not only free of discrimination and harassment, but allows all to thrive as members of the MSU community.
The office also has launched online training about diversity issues and sexual misconduct for students, faculty and staff.
MSU student Charniece Lang, a member of Black Student Alliance is pleased with the effort MSU is making.
After protesting the university for failing to adequately address racist and non-inclusive behavior, the alliance has began to strategize how to get the president’s office attention.
“The African-American community has been vocal about feeling like we are forgotten or left out, so we have demanded change on campus and for awhile,” Lang said. “Now, it seems President (Lou Anna) Simon is finally taking the things we’ve been saying into consideration.”
Granberry-Russell said students’ concerns haven’t been ignored.
“MSU has conducted several surveys that are intended to assess campus climate, including a student campus climate assessment in spring 2106,” she said. “The data is still being analyzed.”
Aside from protesting, Lang said BSA is doing its part to ensure inclusion remains a top priority to the university.
“We know social media is impactful, so we use those platforms to interact with people from the black community that may not be a part of BSA but share the desire to better MSU for minorities,” Lang said. “Twitter is super interactive, so it’s a way for people voices to be heard and seen. By a simple retweet, basically with a Twitter account can see how we feel on a day-to-day basis here.”
MSU’s Office of Cultural and Academic Transitions is also among the groups on campus working on these issues. The office runs a variety of programs
“We want to help minorities feel more welcomed at a public white institution where the white population is much larger,” said Meaghan Kozar, an adviser with the office.
“Like many of my minority friends, none of us feel MSU is a non-inclusive university, but there is a lot of room for improvement.”