Report of the Structural Equity Team Regarding Access, Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Justice in the University’s Budget Processes
Western Washington University
June 15, 2021
In Fall 2020, President Randhawa charged the inaugural Structural Equity Team with developing recommendations regarding diversity, equity, and justice in Western Washington University’s budget process. This Report responds to the questions in the charge and offers recommendations as requested.
During the 2019-20 academic year, President Randhawa charged the Council on Equity, Inclusion, and Social Justice (the Council) with generating recommendations regarding creation of a bias education and response team for Western.The Council submitted its recommendations on March 16, 2020, proposing creation of a Structural Equity and Bias Response Team (SEBRT).
President Randhawa in turn created SEBRT, with formation of the Structural Equity Team concluding in November 2020.The Structural Equity Team is responsible for creating a public report regarding bias incidents reported to the Bias Response Team (BRT) and recommendations to foster an equitable and just environment based on information learned by the BRT.For the 2020-21 academic year, the Structural Equity Team was also charged with examining the university’s budget process through a diversity, equity, and justice lens (charge and Structural Equity Team composition are here). This examination, and recommendations flowing from it, are the focus of this report.
The Structural Equity Team’s charge regarding budget process specifically poses these questions:
- To what extent does Western use a diversity, equity, and justice lens in developing its budget and arriving at budget priorities? How could this be improved at various stages of the process?
- What are the core principles and values that need to be applied in using a diversity, equity, and justice lens to develop and make budget decisions at various levels of the institution?
- How do we structurally and practically increase opportunities for diverse members of the Western community to provide input into the budget processes?
In this report, we first set out the core principles and values to be applied when using an access, diversity, equity, and justice lens to develop and make budget decisions.
We next describe the extent to which Western currently uses a diversity, equity, and justice lens in developing its budget and arriving at budget priorities. In this section, we describe the method by which we sought to ascertain how diversity, equity, and justice commitments are currently manifested within divisional, college, and institution-level budget processes.
Finally, we offer recommendations for how Western’s budget processes could be improved to better use an access, diversity, equity, inclusion, and justice lens when developing budgets and setting budget priorities. Among other recommendations, we offer suggestions about how Western could structurally and practically increase opportunities for diverse members of the university community to provide input into our budget processes.
Core Principles and Values
The following principles and values are rooted in the commitments of Western’s 2018-2025 Strategic Plan. They are intended to be broadly applicable across the university’s diverse divisions, colleges, and departments.
In developing the principles, values, and recommendations offered in this Report, the SET found it beneficial to create working definitions of the terms “diversity,” “equity,” “justice,” “inclusion,” and “access” that can be used when engaging these concepts in budget processes. These definitions are provided in Appendix A to this Report. The definitions are offered not to be prescriptive, but to offer some common sense of understanding and meaning amongst the many people in our university community who interact with and are decision-makers in Western’s budget processes.
Principle 1:Budgets reflect departmental, divisional, and institutional values. Budgets, and the processes underlying their development, should reflect Western’s values articulated in our 2018-2025 Strategic Plan and advance the Strategic Plan’s goals.
Principle 2:Recognizing Goal 4 of the Strategic Plan, financial commitments to access, equity, diversity, and justice should be diffused throughout budgets on an ongoing basis. Additionally, budgets should include specific resourcing to advance access, equity, diversity, and justice.
Resource allocations must advance the university’s mission of inclusive achievement and the moral imperative of equitable degree attainment.
What work divisions do to advance access, diversity, equity, and justice and how they do it may vary depending on the role of the division.
Principle 3:Departmental, college, divisional, and institutional actions furthering commitments to access, diversity, equity, and justice are fundamental responsibilities of Western and are necessary to the health of the university and the people who compose our Western community now and in the future. These actions must be appropriately financially resourced; they cannot be un-resourced add-ons.
For example, actions to ensure participation by diverse people in processes and to recruit, retain, and support the thriving of diverse students, staff, and faculty require thoughtful allocation of financial resources.
Principle 4:Members of the organization with diverse identities and perspectives should be included at all stages of institutional, divisional, college-level, and departmental budget creation and prioritization.
Inclusion requires allocation of time and resources for a diversity of people and positions to meaningfully participate in the process. It requires more than a seat at the table.
Principle 5:All stages and levels of the budget process, and information about actual spending, should be accessible, transparent, and understandable to students, faculty, and staff.
Principle 6:The budget process should foster collaboration across departments, colleges, and divisions in making progress towards access, diversity, equity, and justice goals.
Increased collaboration reduces silos, allowing greater impacts and reducing redundancies.
Increased collaboration requires resource commitments at the divisional and departmental levels and cannot be an un-resourced “add on” to existing service or extracurricular commitments.
Principle 7:Continued allocation of funding should be tied to demonstrated progress in advancing strategic goals and objectives related to diversity, equity, and justice.
Metrics for measuring progress should be constructed through deliberative and inclusive processes.
Collecting and assessing metrics should not be an administrative burden and should be acknowledged as valuable work and incorporated accordingly.
Diversity, Equity, and Justice Considerations in Western’s Current Budget Processes
In evaluating Western’s existing budget processes, we aimed to first identify common themes and opportunities, and next to root the principles above practically and tactically into the existing landscape of budgeting across Western. The recommendations that follow arise from the principles and are intended to provide actionable ways to improve the application of an access, diversity, equity, and justice lens and increase opportunities for diverse members of Western’s community to engage with the budget process, recognizing current opportunities and challenges.
To assess to what extent Western currently uses a diversity, equity, and justice lens in budget processes, we began with an orientation to the institutional processes and structures from Budget and Financial Planning, followed by a more in-depth presentation and question and answer session with Structural Equity Team members. We then collectively developed a questionnaire (Appendix B) to collect more detailed information about local budget processes across the university, focused on understanding our current state and context. Budget authorities (such as vice presidents, budget officers, and deans) at the divisional and college levels completed the questionnaire. We then tabulated the responses, highlighting additional information and context that helped to more fully describe existing processes, and reviewed the collection for common themes, needs, and opportunities.
Our findings include opportunities and common challenges. Beginning with opportunities, respondents described existing committees at the division and college level who have been actively working on development of ADEIJ definitions, processes, and policies, but as of yet are typically not engaged in budget processes or development. Where definitions and criteria/considerations formally exist, they have been developed collaboratively and are grounded in the specific context of the unit. The range of responses on each question also highlighted the opportunity to learn from each other and adapt approaches – within the common challenges discussed below, there was often an answer that described a solution or evolving process.
Common challenges identified in reviewing questionnaire responses include:ability to track and report on decisions and expenditures, identifying resources to support broader engagement (both in ADEIJ work more broadly, and in committee work related to decision making), few roles explicitly charged with highlighting ADEIJ implications of budget decisions, and a common compartmentalization of resources specific to ADEIJ efforts or siloed approach. Of particular note was a frequent association of lens with targeted funding, which we seek to address via recommendations below.
Recommendations: Towards An Access, Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, And Justice Lens Throughout Western’S Budget Processes
- Common definitions are critical in both improving our application of an access, diversity, equity, inclusion, and justice lens to our budget development and in increasing engagement in budget processes. Definitions have been developed at a local level through college and divisional ADEI committees (see College of Business and Economics and Woodring College of Education) or are in development (Enrollment and Student Services, Business and Financial Affairs). Local development of definitions is important to tie concepts to the specific nature of an area’s work, and this recommendation is not meant to discourage or make redundant those efforts. We recommend that a common set of generally applicable definitions be adopted at the university level (see Appendix A), with divisions and departments building upon these definitions in ways that are relevant to their particular work.
- The budget process at all levels must begin with setting priorities that align with Western’s mission and strategic goals. Where possible, budget requests should make explicit the connection between requested resources and these priorities, and recommendations and decisions should tie back directly to the strategic plan (e.g. for each new line item, note which strategic goal(s) it supports).
- Every department should be engaged in ADEIJ work in ways that are relevant for that department and that are resourced.All divisions and departments must allocate meaningful, reliable, permanent, flexible resources specifically to advance strategic goals and objectives related to access, diversity, equity, inclusion, and justice. Resources may include specific funds and/or clearly allocated employee time and effort, and should be clearly defined.
- Rubrics or other tools should be used to help budget developers and decisionmakers (including the University Planning and Resources Council, Vice Presidents, and Deans, and local/divisional decisionmakers) apply an access, diversity, equity, inclusion, and justice lens throughout budget processes. For the institutional budget processes (decision package proposals, internal budget requests, and emergent budget requests) we recommend including these tools in the templates. These tools can and should be applied to all budget proposals, not only those explicitly categorized as ADEIJ initiatives. The Budget Strategy Analysis Group provides one example of applying an ADEI lens to varied budget ideas. These tools could include questions informed by Goals 3 and 4 of Western’s Strategic Plan such as:
How does this allocation or withdrawal of funding advance or hinder access to Western, academic excellence, and inclusive achievement?
Beyond specific projects, how does this budget holistically and actively redress inequities based on race, ethnicity, creed, disability, gender, socioeconomic class, and sexual orientation?
For proposals that include personnel resources, how does the proposal improve recruitment, retention, and satisfaction of diverse faculty, staff, and administrators?
For proposals that include capital development or IT infrastructure, how are physical accessibility and cultural inclusion (beyond statutory requirements) resourced as foundational elements of project development?
How was this proposal or request developed? Who was involved, and in what role/capacity? Which groups were engaged and at what stages?
- Engagement with the budget process requires accessible information regardless of a person’s role in the institution or access to informal knowledge sharing networks. Information about the budget process should be easy to find. This includes information about opportunities for participation in the budget process. Descriptions of process should follow plain language standards. Onboarding and/or other trainings should include information on how to effectively pursue funding, how to be involved in the budget, and how to find information about budget initiatives.
- The budget process should include tracking and reporting on access, diversity, equity, inclusion, and justice related budget initiatives at both the institutional and local levels, with a consistent approach that is replicable. This would include:
Establishing criteria for what constitutes an ADEIJ activity for budget reporting purposes (perhaps led by the Office of Equity or Chief Diversity Officer).
Identifying and implementing a system for tracking budget decisions and actual spending associated with ADEIJ activities across the university that is easily reportable (led by Budget and Financial Planning).
Including updates on ADEIJ budget initiatives and processes in divisional and college reports. ESS already aims to do this and the template ESS uses may be replicable.
- Western’s current approach of having each member of a budget decision-making body charged with considering impacts to access, diversity, equity, and inclusion in their deliberations is important. This work should not be siloed, but it can and should be strengthened by including positions that are specifically and primarily responsible for applying an ADEIJ lens. In the substantive processes of developing their budgets and making budget allocation decisions, all divisions and colleges should include at least one position from within the unit that is specifically responsible for applying an ADEIJ lens. In units where these positions do not already exist, new positions should be created or current positions should be revised so that formal job descriptions and shared understanding of position responsibilities includes applying an informed ADEIJ lens to the unit’s budget work.
At the institutional level, this role could be filled by the incoming Chief Diversity Officer supported by a system of deputies who are representative, both in terms of positionality and identity, and who can provide feedback to the CDO on community priorities.
For divisions, colleges, and other units with similar budgetary discretion and responsibility, this role should be filled by someone who is both actively engaged in and accountable to ADEIJ initiatives within the unit and empowered to participate as a co-equal member of the body. This should be a formal appointment included in workload or job duty determinations.
- To support broader community engagement in the budget process, leverage/apply local shared governance structures to budget development, similar to curriculum development. Use this to create formal structures of participation that do not require additional vulnerability (e.g. undervalued service work by faculty, additional job responsibilities with no offset of previous responsibilities for staff) for participants. Units must develop and internally share formal mechanisms for inclusion in their budget processes, including providing defined opportunities for stakeholders within the unit to participate (e.g. open calls for applications to serve on budget committees). These members should be granted the same resources, responsibility, and input of those already present in the budgeting process.
- To foster collaboration in support of advancing ADEIJ goals, include structured opportunities and resources such as applications for support (course buyouts, labor distribution codes (funding for staff to charge time towards), student stipends, etc.) to develop full-fledged collaborative proposals for funding. Opportunities could also include funded workshops or events where participants could initiate collaborations.Fostering collaboration should include fostering inter-college and inter-divisional collaborations.
- Continued allocation of funding should be tied to demonstrated progress advancing strategic goals and objectives related to access, diversity, equity, inclusion, and justice.Metrics for measuring progress should be constructed through deliberative and inclusive processes.Collecting and assessing metrics should not be an administrative burden and should be acknowledged as valuable work and incorporated accordingly.When considering allocation of funds based on progress in advancing ADEIJ objectives, in addition to progress made by departments fitting clearly within the university organization chart, attention should be paid to progress made by less formal entities engaged in access, diversity, equity, inclusion, and justice, such as employee resource groups.
- Continued review of the budget process for opportunities to improve alignment with Western’s strategic plan and particularly advancing access, diversity, equity, inclusion, and justice is essential to carry this work forward. We recommend this topic be revisited following implementation of recommendations to assess new or remaining gaps and opportunities, and that an existing body (such as the University Planning and Resources Council) be named as the home for this ongoing review to ensure its success.
The terms diversity, equity, inclusion, access, and justice are often defined differently depending on the audience and one’s perspective. These terms have also evolved through time. The following definitions were developed by the Structural Equity Team (SET) to provide a common understanding as SET discussed potential recommendations. These definitions may be further improved for adoption at the institutional level and are not intended to limit divisional, college, or departmental additions to institutional definitions.Indeed, collaboration within divisions and departments to build in context-specific ways upon institutional definitions is encouraged.
Diversity refers to socially relevant differences among people resulting from history, culture, and circumstances. Our differences can be along dimensions including race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, socio-economic status, nationality and citizenship, language, age, physical abilities, neurodiversity, religious beliefs, and other aspects of our identities and experiences. Valuing diversity includes being receptive to and respectful of the many attributes and experiences everyone brings to the institution. Valuing diversity means identifying and acknowledging the many dimensions of an individual’s identity, being considerate and respectful of the fact that everyone is unique, and aiming to create fairness across differences in every aspect of our work.
Diversity is understanding each other beyond simple tolerance and emphasizing acceptance and inclusion of difference. It is the practice of knowing how to respect, relate to, and consider the many things that make us different and unique from one another, while embracing and celebrating our differences. Remember, the ways in which we are a diverse are not necessarily visible or readily evident.
- Increase BIPOC hires across the institution; this includes providing equitable salaries.
- Develop one’s knowledge and awareness related to particular cultural behaviors and norms.
Equity demands remedies to redress historic injustices that have prevented or diminished access. To maximize opportunities for access experienced by certain groups, an equitable institution commits resources to level the playing field. Equality, by contrast, sets up the expectation that every individual deserves the same opportunity to influence the course of democracy; it treats each person the same when distributing resources and opportunities. Equality fails to recognize and celebrate our unique differences and needs.Individuals should be informed and represented within all aspects of the institution, empowered to be independent, and celebrated for their uniqueness.
- Create scholarship opportunities within each college for underrepresented students.
- Provide accommodation for students with disabilities to create equitable opportunities for success.
- Provide the same exposure and support to BIPOC related events that is provided to non-BIPOC specific alumnx engagements and fundraising opportunities.
Inclusion means all individuals are fully engaged and empowered to participate in the life and work of the university. Inclusion requires understanding our history, removing barriers, and revising processes and ways of operating to include people and perspectives that have historically been excluded or undervalued. Inclusion creates an empowering space where individuals can engage authentically and safely.
- Provide participants involved in budget conversations with equal and safe access to historical and relevant information.
- Update university stakeholders regularly on budget related matters; this includes providing contextual information, Q&A opportunities, and relevant documentation.
- Include and compensate students to participate on faculty committees and task forces; this includes providing them with similar voting authority as faculty participants.
- Increase opportunities for current BIPOC staff/faculty to be involved in highly visible decisions related to budget and hiring.
Access moves beyond compliance and accommodation, taking a proactive approach that ensures university constituents’ wide range of needs (e.g., ability, socioeconomic status, gender) are met. It ensures meaningful equal opportunity to instruction, physical and virtual spaces, professional resources, and other services.
Accessible means that a person with a disability is afforded the opportunity to acquire the same information, engage in the same interactions, and enjoy the same services as a person without a disability in an equally effective and equally integrated manner, with substantially equivalent ease of use. A person with a disability must be able to obtain information provided as fully, equally, and independently as a person without a disability.
- Ensure students basic needs are met (e.g., housing, food, technology).
- Ensure equitable access to not only curricular and co-curricular opportunities, but also extracurricular offerings (e.g. sports clubs, speaking events, outdoor programs).