Structural Equity Team (SET) Report 2022
Associate Professor of Management
Assistant Director of Public Safety
Assistant Vice President for Access, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion
Executive Director—Student Life, BRT Chair
Director, Teaching and Learning, Western Libraries
Associate Director—Residence Life
Vice President for Enrollment and Student Services
FSOCC Vice President
Instructor, MBA Program and Arts Enterprise & Cultural Innovation
Assistant Professor, Sociology
Dong Vo, Assistant Director
Diversity Recruiter and Retention Specialist, College of the Environment
Office of Institutional Effectiveness
Classified Staff nominee:
Faculty Senate nominee:
Introduction from the Office of Equity
One of the important early action items in following through on the commitments WWU has made to inclusive success and equity was to establish a Structural Equity Team (SET), charged by the President with formally surveying and assessing Western’s current educational and development efforts with respect to ADEI. While this will continue as an annual effort, the first SET Report was completed in the 2021-2022 academic year.
The SET report includes information gathered from across institutional stakeholders, including an inventory of existing programs and initiatives promoting ADEI at Western, and findings from a sample survey of WWU students, faculty and staff on diversity, experience with discrimination, feelings of belonging and a host of other crucial ADEI metrics. The purpose of the SET Report is as a benchmark against which Western will begin to measure progress and success in our ADEI commitment.
A concurrent action WWU took in the 2020-2021 academic year was to create the Office of Equity. Its role is to influence and inform WWU's ADEI initiatives, and to lead the three complementary areas of Civil Rights & Title IX Compliance (CRTC), community building, and education and awareness. Integral to the Office of Equity’s role is addressing the findings of the Structural Equity Team with respect to WWU’s ADEI development.
Following is the full report of the Structural Equity Team. The report provides a starting point for the Office of Equity to begin prioritizing areas for action or further review, and to begin developing programs alongside institutional stakeholders to address ADEI gaps.
– Dr. Jacqueline Hughes, Executive Director and Chief Diversity Officer, WWU Office of Equity
In support of its institutional commitment to advance inclusive success and pursue justice and equity in programming, policies, and practices, Western created a two-fold structure in the fall of 2020, building on the Recommendation to Create a Structural Equity and Bias Response Team (SEBRT) advanced by the President’s Council on Equity, Inclusion, and Social Justice in 2019 – 2020. In SEBRT, the Structural Equity Team (SET) creates an annual public report as a result of independent work undertaken by the SET, which informs the future work of the SEBRT and Western as a whole.
In 2021, Western created the Office of Equity, which brings together a compliance function and a much broader and robust education and community development function leading to proactive equity and diversity work. This new office will be led in 2022 by the newly created Chief Diversity Officer (CDO) and Executive Director of the Office of Equity, a cabinet-level position designed to serve at the helm of the Office of Equity and to influence and inform the Accessibility, Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (ADEI) initiatives of the institution.
In supporting the CDO in the development of the ADEI education and community development function of the Office, the Structural Equity Team (SET) was charged during the 2021-2022 academic year to gather information and create an inventory of current educational and development efforts at Western with respect to ADEI (See Appendix for the Structural Equity Team Composition). This would include the scope, goals, and impact of departments, committees, and educational programs.
Specific tasks included the following:
- The SET would familiarize itself with the ADEI goals and vision of the university, reports generated by the 2020-21 Structural Equity and Bias Response Team and previous reports of the Council on Equity, Inclusion, and Social Justice, the Commission on Gender Equity, and the Social Justice and Equity Committee.
- Gather all relevant reports of ADEI programs across campus, and organize them so that their goals and objectives, and achievements relative to those goals can be examined.
- Analyze and develop a 2021-2022 report that includes an inventory of existing departments’ and committees’ educational programs
The work of the SET this year was aimed to form the basis for identifying gaps, including recommendations for priority areas that would most impactfully enable Western to advance its work of building a university community that values diversity and equity and integrates them in its policies and practices.
In completion of Task One, the SET members reviewed and explored the ADEI goals and vision of the university as published in the university’s strategic plan, Western's ADEI resource and information website, the President’s Advancing Diversity and Inclusion at Western website and the published reports of the councils, commissions, and committees listed in the charge. Additionally, SET members shared their experience of service on the aforementioned Council on Equity, Inclusion, and Social Justice, the Commission on Gender Equity, and the Social Justice and Equity Committee, providing perspective and context to the current SET report initiative.
Tasks Two and Three were accomplished via the creation and distribution of a campus-wide survey in which each division and unit at Western was asked to contribute to an inventory of existing departments’ and committees’ ADEI-oriented programs. The methodology and limitations of this effort are outlined below. The result is a first-pass inventory of past and ongoing equity and inclusion work at Western Washington University.
It is critical to distinguish the inventory in this report from an audit. The inventory is a catalog of activity that was self-reported through a voluntary process. The inventory does not assess the value of effort nor measure the impact of any initiative. Furthermore, the inventory included in the report cannot be regarded as comprehensive. It serves as a starting point rather than a map. There are several reasons for the omission of certain initiatives, some of which are revealed in the limitations section of this report. For other omissions it is important to understand the context and nature by which some ADEI work happens at WWU.
For many individuals and communities within the institution, ADEI work serves as shelter and salvation from the institution itself. Some ADEI initiatives are counterhegemonic and by design confront the institution to change; for such initiatives, voluntary inclusion in a roster of university activity is counter-current to the nature of the work and its orientation within the institution itself. Additionally, there is a prevailing factor of concern of institutional appropriation and co-opting of efforts that are not resourced or overtly supported by the university but nevertheless occur within the vessel of the institution.
In such efforts, the uncompensated work itself is an undue burden, and a further request to supply an account of that work to be seen by the institution registers as untenable. As such, there are efforts that are not present in the inventory. The SET did not task itself to author an account of activity on behalf of any group or individual. It will be critical for the incoming CDO to begin their acquaintance with this inventory in search of those efforts that are omitted. The inventory should evolve beyond this report as a living document, continuing to account for the numerous efforts conducted to ensure the safety and success of our learning community and to credit those who contribute to such efforts.
To gather information about current ADEI educational and development efforts at Western, the SET first began discussions as a team to identify crucial known ADEI initiatives across campus. We then created an outreach list that organized ADEI initiatives into categories, for example, University Wide, College or Department, Student Groups, Individuals, and Other. Next, we collectively developed a survey using Qualtrics, a web-based survey software tool. (see Appendix for the full instrument), to collect detailed information about ADEI initiatives being led across Western.
The purpose of the survey was to create an inventory of current ADEI programs, initiatives, and efforts at Western that would be shared with President Sabah Randhawa and the incoming CDO to continue work on Western’s strategic plan. The survey consisted of ten open-ended questions with an option for participants to attach previously written ADEI reports, or any other documents that may offer insight into the work.
The survey was sent to university-wide mailing lists that included faculty, staff, and AS Student Clubs and announcements were made at the Council of Dean’s to share the survey within their units. After the first set of survey responses were received, the SET compared the sources against the outreach list of known ADEI initiatives and followed up with a reminder to any groups that had not participated in the survey. If certain groups decided not to complete the survey, no further nudges were given. We received 81 responses from ADEI leaders across campus with representation from all the colleges and many divisions, departments, and student groups. We then tabulated the responses, and carefully reviewed the themes and gaps. The rest of the report includes our analysis and a summary of the responses themselves via the inventory that we hope will be useful for the President and incoming CDO.
Limitations of the Method
Narrow in scope.
The focus of this report was to gather information and create an inventory of current ADEI programs, initiatives, and efforts at Western. The survey instrument was not designed to enable the SET to assess the impact of ADEI initiatives on campus. Therefore, any further study in response to this report should include an evaluation of the impact and effectiveness of ADEI initiatives.
Varying degrees of survey participation across campus.
This report is a single-point-in-time snapshot of ADEI initiatives across campus and is not wholly comprehensive. The SET Team acknowledges that not everyone’s work was included in the report due to the following reasons: In some cases, (1) Campus members did not see their work fitting into the structure in which the survey and inventory was laid out, (2) They did not trust the process or did not want to participate for various reasons, (3) Overall survey fatigue from taking too many surveys.
Short timeframe and limited number of members on the SET.
Limits on the timeframe and committee membership influenced the design and data collection methods used. In addition to a survey, we would have liked to conduct focus groups and utilize diverse methods of data collection. Future large-scale assessments should include larger research teams to utilize multi-method and longitudinal designs for gathering data.
Analysis of the survey responses revealed three main themes. First, the majority of the educational and development ADEI initiatives were constructed as structural and curricular work undertaken by units across campus. Second, funding and support determined the scope, goals, and sustainability of the ADEI initiatives. Third, survey respondents discussed their various conceptions of the impact and effectiveness of their work.
Structural and Curricular Work
At Western, Enrollment & Student Services (ESS) and Academic Affairs (AA) are primarily responsible for structural, curricular, curricular-embedded, co-curricular, and extra-curricular initiatives and offerings related to ADEI. Therefore, we focus on the survey responses from relevant departments and colleges within ESS and AA. However, impactful ADEI structural and programmatic efforts are also occurring across other divisions at Western. For example, Business and Financial Affairs (BFA)’s ADEI Initiative Committee and their Facilities Management DEI Committee are both charged with providing direction and support related to fostering a diverse and inclusive work experience. Additionally, University Relations and Marketing’s Office of Community Relations was responsible for the 2021-2022 cultural and heritage events; this was specifically led by their division’s Community ADEI Cultural and Heritage Recognition Events committee. Thus, there is a wealth of initiatives and efforts occurring throughout the institution.
Throughout the years, AA and ESS have charged committees and ADEI leaders within their organization to examine the working, teaching, and learning climate in order to increase recruitment and retention of faculty, staff, and students from historically resilient communities. This includes but is not limited to examining policies, structures, and practices that uphold inaccessible, exclusionary, and unjust norms and values. Structurally, ESS has worked to significantly integrate ADEI throughout their overarching mission, day-to-day practices, and positions. For example, University Residences has worked to center ADEI within their student staff recruitment, retention, and training efforts, implementation of affordable and inclusive housing, and programming for residents. This includes the opening of Alma Clark Glass hall, re-envisioning the Pride Housing program, and partnering with Western’s Basic Needs initiative to launch an emergency housing program. Overall, ESS centers Western’s diverse body of students in order to foster an inclusive, healthy, and thriving experience by offering an array of expertise such as the Disability Access Center, LGBTQ+, Multicultural Center, and the Ethnic Student Center, to name a few.
Similar to ESS, many of the colleges in AA have established positions and committees dedicated to identifying and implementing curricular, co-curricular, and curricular-embedded offerings driven by ADEI pedagogies and practices. For example, several colleges have committees and task forces focused on examining the culture, policies, and practices that result in inequities and injustices within their college. For example, the College of Business and Economics’ (CBE) Equity, Inclusion, and Diversity Committee, Woodring College’s ELEM Equity Committee, the College of the Environment (CENV) Diversity and Community Affair Committee, and the College of Fine and Performing Arts’ (CFPA) ADEI Taskforce. Additionally, ADEI is a driving factor for many of the programs under each college such as the College of Humanities and Social Sciences’ Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies and the CFPA’s Arts Enterprise and Cultural Innovation minor. Western Libraries provides services and collections focused on providing resources, workshops, consultations, and faculty professional development offerings related to language oppression, study skills, and assignment design expertise with a goal of fostering an inclusive and equitable teaching and learning environment throughout the institution.
Regarding the university-level ADEI curricular efforts, as the Committee for Undergraduate Education (CUE) stated within their May 2021 report, “the language of justice and equity is about changing the structure of the discourse itself so that it is more representative of everyone.” Thus, the committee’s report recommended that the university commit to hiring a significant number of BIPOC faculty, as well as improve the General University Requirements’ (GURs) Comparative, Gender, and Multicultural courses in order to move away from performative Western/non-Western geographical divisions. During 2020-2021, CUE and the Academic Coordinating Commission (ACC) worked to refine Western’s curricular approach to ADEI. Specifically, these two groups, in consultation with the Faculty Senate President, explored replacing the GUR Comparative, Gender, and Multicultural requirement with a new Power Equity and Justice (PEJ) general requirement. Additionally, during recent years, ACC established several policies and initiatives related to ADEI such as refining the religious accommodation policy and adding a hybrid modality option as well as updating the permanent modality policy. In addition to the curricular oversight provided by CUE and ACC, Faculty Senate also worked to integrate ADEI throughout various curricular and governance decisions in order to foster an inclusive and just experience for all at Western.
Funding and Support
Faculty and staff time were identified as the most significant university resources that programs utilized to implement ADEI work at Western. Faculty most often secured a course release and/or received service credit to enable them to contribute time to projects, committees, and taskforces. Staff indicated that their time was the most significant resource utilized to implement ADEI work on campus. Of note, in addition to time contributed as part of faculty and staff roles, significant amounts of their own time were dedicated to ADEI work, outside of the intended scope of faculty and staff positions.
Financial resources consisted of recurring funding from individual colleges or departments for ongoing work conducted over many years. Departments contributed financial resources for ongoing committees tasked with specific responsibilities related to ADEI initiatives on campus. Funding was provided through tuition and student fees. One-time funding or donations have also been contributed for institutes, committees assigned to specific projects or tasks, and one-time events. Overall, while funding for ADEI work on campus has come through donations, and one-time, for the majority of the programs (90%), recurring funding was identified as a significant way programs receive the financial means to support their work.
Impact and Effectiveness
The measurement of impact and effectiveness of their work is inconsistent across programs. Several programs reported detailed criteria for measuring impact; some reported only anecdotal evidence or participation rate measurements, while others left blank responses or acknowledged that they did not have a system for measuring impact and effectiveness. The reported measures of impact and effectiveness ranged from measuring quantitative data such as participation rate, retention rate, graduation rate, and various financial and academic measures, to more qualitative data such as participant feedback and observations from external evaluators or program organizers.
Gaps and Recommended Priorities
Based on the findings from the survey, three main themes emerged as gaps in the ADEI work being conducted across Western. To address these gaps, we offer specific recommendations to support, facilitate, and build capacity of units to initiate and conduct meaningful, sustained, and effective ADEI work.
Structure and Process for Developing New ADEI Initiatives
Analyses indicate that there is a lack of consistent structure and process for developing new ADEI committees, taskforces, affinity groups, and other initiatives. As a result, individuals and groups tasked with developing new initiatives receive little to no guidance or support on best practices for beginning their work. The presence of a clear structure and process for developing new ADEI programs has specific implications for structural and curricular work, funding and support, and impact and effectiveness.
Structural and curricular work. Currently, numerous units across Western are engaging in structural and curricular initiatives at various stages of development. However, concerns include redundancies within the same unit, initiatives being created and shut down for lack of adequate support or key personnel moving into new positions. There seems to be much wasted potential for learning across units on what works and what does not, and how to best utilize available resources. Centralized guidance by the CDO on the development of initiatives can reduce uncertainty and confusion experienced by new groups, and better set them up for success.
Funding and support. The lack of consistent structure, process, and access to staffing and monetary resources dedicated to work on ADEI initiatives has implications for the quantity and quality of work that can be implemented. Currently, each unit and college uses their discretion to allocate resources that they determine are needed in each area of their work. However, the number of faculty and staff in addition to monetary resources available in each unit or college varies significantly, resulting in inequities across the institution. Centralized structure and guidance may support program officers and leaders to determine if they can apply for university-level funding and support to complement unit-level funding.
Impact and effectiveness. There is inconsistency across ADEI initiatives regarding their clarity on specific ADEI needs and issues they will undertake, strategies they will use to address them, evidence they will use to determine whether efforts have been successful, and therefore, plans for the work that still needs to be done. As part of creating a consistent structure and process, a set of guidelines or evaluation toolkit provided by the CDO to program organizers can equip them to integrate considerations of measurable objectives and indicators of impact and effectiveness from the very inception of ADEI initiatives. This will allow programs to continuously track progress, allocate resources to aspects of programs that need the most attention, and in the rapidly shifting external ADEI landscape, course-correct when needed.
Climate and Culture
Several survey respondents noted that a part of their work was aimed at improving the climate and culture of their unit. This has also been an important area of focus of several university-level surveys and related initiatives. Coordinated efforts around ADEI climate and culture between units and across multiple levels (e.g., university level, college level, unit level) may reduce redundancies, create consistency, and boost impact.
Structural and curricular work. Analyses revealed that for several units, structural work seemed to be targeted at ultimately improving the ADEI climate and culture within the units. Of note, the use of language such as “improve” rather than “sustain” or “maintain” suggests that at least in some units, constituents were dissatisfied with the existing ADEI climate and culture. However, culture change might be challenging without adequate support. Guidance from the CDO in situating these unit-level initiatives within the broader work being conducted across Western may allow culture change to be cohesive, consistent, and sustainable.
Funding and support. A useful area of opportunity for guiding climate and culture change is building funding and support internally and externally through partnerships and collaborations. Survey responses indicated that colleges and units are partnering both internally within the college or unit as well as across colleges and units in AA and ESS. Many of these partnerships are created through ad hoc committees or collaborations with student organizations on campus. In addition, some colleges and units are partnering with off-campus constituents such as the Swinomish Tribal Community and the La Conner and Mount Vernon School Districts. The majority of respondents of the survey shared at least one partnership created to brainstorm and implement new and current ADEI initiatives on campus. Many indicated the creation of multiple partnerships to advance ADEI efforts on campus. Although current collaborations and partnerships are strong, there is considerable opportunity for increasing partnerships across AA and ESS. In addition, partnerships could be expanded for those who are working on similar initiatives that may allow programs to better utilize available funding and resources.
Impact and effectiveness. Multiple university-level surveys have been used over the years to ‘take the temperature’ of the ADEI climate and culture at Western. On the other hand, several unit-level programs undertake a variety of initiatives that are aimed at improving the climate and culture within their units. A gap is that these two sets of efforts remain disconnected. While university-level surveys provide a snapshot of climate and culture overall, they do not capture the extent to which specific unit-level ADEI efforts are impactful or effective in contributing to shifts in the broader climate and culture. Closer coordination and collaboration between units and university-level initiatives can help paint a clearer picture of ADEI climate and culture work across Western.
Communication and Transparency
Some of the concerns discussed above are driven, at least in part, by inadequate communication and transparency on ADEI efforts. There is a need for better communication on how various constituents can be of support and can be supported. Clearer communication and transparency of existing ADEI initiatives can also counteract silos and isolation experienced by those leading such initiatives across Western. Lack of communication, coordination, and unfamiliarity with similar initiatives in other units on campus results in missed opportunities for learning from others’ experiences.
Structural and curricular work. A centralized source of communication and transparency is critical to reducing redundancies from duplication of efforts. An important input for shaping structural work is the knowledge of lived experiences of constituents, particularly of those from historically resilient communities. Open communication and sharing of these experiences, as well as transparency of the initiatives being undertaken to make progress around key issues would help better map the progress that has been made thus far and the work that remains to be done.
Funding and support. As mentioned earlier, some programs are able to support ADEI initiatives through student fees and tuition, but other areas need to seek out one-time funding resources or donations to start or continue working on ADEI strategies, projects, and initiatives. There is a discrepancy in staffing and budgetary resources across the institution dedicated to ADEI practices. A transparent data driven approach to staffing and budget allocation will be valuable as the institution moves forward in the continuation of and enhancement of ADEI work on campus. In addition, transparency and effective communication are needed regarding the availability of resources designated for ADEI-related projects so each unit or college has access to means to start, continue, or enhance work in this area.
Impact and effectiveness. Currently, communication around ADEI initiatives tends to be dominated by conversation of some of the needs (e.g., see students’ demands) as well as strategic ADEI initiatives undertaken at the university-level and by various units across Western. The assumption is that these ADEI initiatives will serve to meet the needs of students, faculty, staff and other constituents that have been articulated over the years. However, a critical gap remains in communication that links the extent to which the work on the ADEI initiatives in fact meet the needs of the constituents. Understandably, many of the needs around ADEI issues are structural, systematic, and long-range and as such, it may be challenging to make much progress on these in the short term. Regardless, assessment of impact and effectiveness of specific efforts undertaken, and transparent communication around milestones achieved can shape future efforts.
Capturing Journey through Longitudinal Data
A source of redundancies is the relative paucity of comparable data collected over time. For instance, many surveys gather snapshot data at a particular point in time that reveal key issues and offer suggestions for next steps. However, there is a need for follow up longitudinal data to capture the extent to which initiatives that are undertaken in response to these identified needs are successful. Gathering data in a way that captures the ADEI journey of units, colleges, and the university allows for tracking progress over time, and makes way for celebrating successes as well as identifying chronic issues that need dedicated resources to address.
Structural and curricular work. Structural and curricular work inherently involves sustained effort over the long-term, with progress (or lack thereof) becoming visible when measured over time. Capturing the journey of initiatives allows better understanding of approaches that have worked and those that have not. Importantly, this allows for institutional memory and wisdom to be passed on when there are personnel changes or shifts in priorities over time.
Funding and support. As previously noted, faculty and staff time were identified as the most significant resource utilized for implementation and enhancement of ADEI initiatives. About 65% of the survey responses indicated that ADEI work was accomplished through ad hoc committees, formal committees within a college or division, or through a function of job responsibilities. A significant component of ADEI work is also due to the efforts of student organizations and student run offices on campus. However, with limited data on the impact and effectiveness of ADEI initiatives within each area, it is difficult for individuals, units, and colleges within the institution to identify specific needs related to faculty and staff positions focused on this work. Longitudinal data identifying impact and effectiveness of programs and initiatives will provide the opportunity for individual units and colleges to make data driven decisions regarding budgetary and positional needs.
Impact and effectiveness. As much of the ADEI work is being done by units in isolation from others, there is currently little opportunity for data sharing and comparisons, both between units and across time. Furthermore, individual units may lack the capacity to measure and evaluate their programs’ impact and effectiveness over time. A centralized system that serves as a comprehensive resource can provide guidance to build capacity of units to collect comparable and longitudinal data. Furthermore, such a resource may offer units support in analysis and reporting of their impact and effectiveness.
To maintain confidentiality, the inventory submitted to the President and the CDO has not been included in this publicly accessible document. For additional information regarding the inventory, please contact the Office of Equity.