Whether or not current or recent students think SUNY Cortland embraces diversity in all its forms is a question that will begin to be answered soon — on Monday, April 12 and on Tuesday, April 20, to be exact.
That’s when members of the SUNY Cortland Campus Climate on Diversity Committee will hold two virtual forums to share significant parts of their survey findings — two years in the making — on the areas of race; gender, gender expression or sexual orientation; disability; and religion and spirituality.
The April 12 forum on racial inclusiveness will be opened with a presentation by Eddie Fergus, an associate professor of urban education and policy at Temple University and a consultant on assessing diversity in school settings. The April 20 forum on disability inclusiveness will feature three panelists organized by Jeremy Zhe-Heimerman, assistant director of disability resources, Disability Resources Office.
“At the end of the day, creating a healthy, inclusive campus climate where there’s a sense of belonging and experience of mattering or feeling cared about, accepted, respected, and valued by the campus community is as important for faculty and staff as it is for students,” said Lorraine Lopez-Janove, chief diversity and inclusion officer. “That’s our goal for everyone in Cortland family.”
Racial inclusiveness discussion set
Before the discussion forum begins, Fergus will present his report summarizing Cortland’s racial diversity on Monday, April 12. Fergus created the report, called “SUNY Cortland Inclusion Survey 2019: Perspectives on Racial Diversity in University Climate.” His event, titled “Racial Inclusiveness Student Forum,” will begin at 6 p.m. in Webex meeting room 132 103 847 with the password s4pTc8KT.
Fergus will spend approximately 15-20 minutes sharing his assessment about the university’s survey results with supporting visual graphs. His presentation will include recommendations for action. The committee will discuss action steps taken as areas of need came to light while the survey proceeded. Following the presentation, the facilitator will break the group into small question-and-answer and discussion groups, each facilitated by a committee member.
Facilitators for the racial diversity forum will include committee members Kaitlin Flannery, assistant professor of psychology; Lopez-Janove; Christopher Ortega, assistant professor of communication and media studies and Africana studies; Jose Ortiz, assistant professor of foundations and social advocacy; Amy Russell, professional tutor at The Learning Center; Mary Schlarb, director of International Programs; and Jeremy Zhe-Heimerman, assistant director of disability resources, Disability Resources Office.
Forum on disability climate planned
The Disability Climate Panel will share survey data research analysis via Webex at 7 p.m. on April 20 on how the campus treats individuals with a disability that was developed by a SUNY Cortland faculty team. The meeting begins in Webex meeting room 132 538 4024 with the password dvB4jTgGm33.
Panelists will include Disability Climate Committee member and SUNY Cortland senior Jennifer Riekert; Maria Timberlake, associate professor of foundations and social advocacy; and Zhe-Heimerman.
“We look forward to hearing your thoughts on the survey results and how welcoming SUNY Cortland is for students with disabilities,” Zhe-Heimerman said.
The survey analysis on disability inclusiveness was prepared by committee members and other volunteers including Sarah Beshers, associate professor of health; Flannery; Cathy MacDonald, associate professor of physical education; Carrie Rood, associate professor of foundations and social advocacy; Schlarb; Timberlake; and Zhe-Heimerman.
To ensure that all campus community members can fully participate in this program, contact Zhe-Heimerman for questions about accessibility and/or to request accommodations.
Survey's history recounted
How college students, faculty and staff feel they are being treated by the campus community is key to their success, whether in class, the workplace or in their personal lives.
Knowing that, the committee in early 2019 began asking members of the campus community to express their opinion on the quality of college life for them with respect to four major themes: race; gender, gender expression or sexual orientation; dis(ability); and religion and spirituality.
First convened by James Felton III, the committee was transitionally facilitated by AnnaMaria Cirrincione, director of Multicultural Life and Diversity, and is currently led by Lopez-Janove, Felton’s replacement.
The committee initially held focus groups that it used to develop the survey questionnaire, then conducted the survey in Fall 2019 through Spring 2020. President Erik J. Bitterbaum shared the committee’s initial results that focused primarily on racial diversity in late January to faculty and staff during his Opening Meeting for the spring semester. Fergus first presented his findings during that meeting.
Before this survey, the university administration last looked at how well the campus provides a setting for diversity and accommodation of underrepresented groups with a Campus Climate Survey in 2005.
“Many studies have concluded that learning and development outcomes are influenced by how students experience their campus environment,” Lopez-Janove said. “Research suggests that faculty and staff members who consider their campus climate healthy and inclusive are more likely to feel personally and professionally supported.”
Building on previously gathered data, historical documents and SUNY Cortland’s extensive efforts thus far, a comprehensive climate assessment will provide the university with research-based and comprehensive findings. These will guide the development of strategic initiatives and action planning to build on institutional successes and address institutional climate challenges.
Campus Climate on Diversity Committee members also include: Michael Baker, assistant director of residential life for technology and marketing; Stephen Cunningham, director of institutional research and assessment; Laura Davies, chief of staff, President’s Office; Jeffrey Jackson, lecturer in English; Yomee Lee, professor of kinesiology and Africana studies; Ronnie Silver ’67, SUNY Cortland Alumni Association liaison; Lima Stafford, assistant director, Multicultural Life and Diversity; Maggie Wetter, Title IX coordinator; Jennifer Wilson, associate director of communications; Melanie Woodward, associate director of human resources and affirmative action officer.