Q: How does this align with the UT Strategic Plan?
A: The UT Strategic Plan, called Change Starts Here, is the umbrella plan. Within Change Starts Here, diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) initiatives are among the university’s top priorities – so much so that as part of our strategic plan development, UT accelerated this initiative area so we could launch You Belong Here: Our Plan for an Equitable and Inclusive Campus in tandem with the UT Strategic Plan. You Belong Here will highlight action items for supporting our exceptional and diverse learners, both undergraduate and graduate students, and it addresses ways to improve staff and faculty diversity.
Q: How is the Faculty Diversity Strategic Plan related to this Plan for an Equitable and Inclusive Campus?
A: The Faculty Diversity Strategic Plan was developed by Vice Provost for Diversity Dr. Edmund Gordon and associates within the Office of the Executive Vice President and Provost, and it was approved by Interim Provost Dan Jaffe and UT President Jay Hartzell in spring 2021. You Belong Here incorporates much of the Faculty Diversity Strategic Plan.
Q: What are the core aspirations or values of the plan?
A: Representation, equity, inclusion, belonging and transparency are the core pillars of the plan.
Q: Why isn’t diversity listed in the core aspirations?
A: Diversity of perspectives, beliefs, experiences and identities is the result of inclusive and equitable processes and practices, which is outlined throughout the document.
Q: What is in the Strategic Direction vs Operational Plan?
A: The Strategic Direction is the campus community’s recommendations on a new aspiration and pillars for DEI, linked to the broader strategic aspiration for the university. This direction was guided and developed via a steering committee and a working committee under the leadership of Dr. LaToya Smith, vice president for diversity and community engagement. The Operational Plan will spell out how the goals will be met throughout the academic year. Importantly, the Operational Plan assigns responsibility to specific colleges, schools and units for implementation.
Q: Who is going to implement this work?
A: Dr. Smith and the DDCE will work with committees to identify specific actions and goals across our campus. Different offices and units will be tasked with implementing the strategic goals assigned to them.
Q: How is this plan different from the 2017 University Diversity and Inclusion Action Plan?
A: The 2017 University Diversity and Inclusion Action Plan was a standalone document of best practices and recommendations. The 2022-25 You Belong Here: Our Plan for an Equitable and Inclusive Campus is part of UT’s Change Starts Here plan and will include both the Strategic Direction and Operational Plan, which will assign responsibility to specific offices and units for implementation.
Q: On whose authority is this plan being implemented?
A: The President’s Office and the Office for Vice President for Diversity and Community Engagement both oversee this plan. Dr. Smith was tasked with convening and working with both the steering committee and the working committee, alongside engagement by Bain Consulting, to create the plan’s various components including the Strategic Direction and Operational Plan.
Q: How do we show accountability for implementation?
A: An annual impact report will be launched each fall beginning in 2023.
Q: Why is there a need for a university-wide plan for an equitable and inclusive campus?
A: Fostering a more inclusive university requires deliberate and transparent processes. A strategic plan for DEI helps to increase representation and excellence as well as accountability for our efforts to include people and ideas that have historically been excluded, marginalized and thereby underrepresented and undervalued.
Additionally, almost all colleges, schools and units (CSUs) at UT Austin have some type of diversity or inclusion effort. This plan is a blueprint to guide CSUs in a unified and consistent direction and ensure that all efforts are coordinated and effective.
Q: Why is UT releasing this now?
A: UT Austin has placed a high priority on DEI initiatives while creating a strategic plan. Over the past year, we have heard from students, faculty and staff across campus about issues related to diversity, inclusion and a respectful campus climate. Many of the items in this plan address faculty, staff and student recommendations within the past two years.
Q: How does this new plan affect/impact me?
As a student: This plan addresses many student concerns regarding equity, representation and inclusion. It strengthens learning opportunities of inclusive classroom trainings for faculty and instructors, and it recommends the inclusion of diversity training for all students during orientation sessions. In addition, this plan calls for amplifying mentorship and professional development networks for students, as well as increasing the knowledge around and connections to campus resources.
As a faculty member: The plan provides for additional professional development opportunities that center around diversity and implicit bias. It also examines ways to recruit and retain more diverse faculty, including strengthening the pipeline of diverse candidates through postdoc programs.
As a staff member: This plan increases professional development opportunities that center around diversity and implicit bias for staff members. Action items also include diversity and inclusion trainings, the creation and promotion of mentorship programs and centralizing access to campus resources available to staff.
Q: What is the timeframe for implementing the You Belong Here plan?
A: This plan is designed as a three-year plan. However, there is no strict timeframe for implementing the various components. Many of the items included are already in place at the university, and the plan calls for continuing and strengthening these existing efforts. There are still other efforts that will likely take more than three years. There will be annual impact reports created to document progress.
Q: Where is the funding coming from to carry out the You Belong Here plan?
A: There are many different university sources of funding for this plan, many of which are included in the current university budget. There has been no firm dollar amount placed on the implementation of the plan. Conversations with campus communities and stakeholders involved in the process of implementation will happen over the spring and summer; goals and metrics will be announced in the Operational Plan to be released in fall 2022.
Q: Will this plan actually impact campus climate and culture?
A: We hope so. The overall goals are to reduce inequities in the student academic and social experience and to foster a more welcoming campus climate and culture in which all views and backgrounds are better understood and respected. In addition to the student experience, this aspirational plan will address campus climate and culture for all in the campus community, including staff, faculty, alumni and constituents beyond the campus. The annual impact reports will provide updates on which goals have been completed and, once completed, the reports will track benchmarks and then change over time.
Q: How can I learn more about DEI work across campus?
A: All members of the UT Austin community can enroll in a number of diversity trainings offered in UT Learn through the DDCE’s Dynamics of Diversity including the LGBTQIA+ Ally Training and the DisABILITY Advocate training. All of these units offer special training on a request basis as well. University Housing and Dining offers periodic trainings to its residents and all freshmen attending freshman orientation receive diversity and inclusion training. While we believe that thoughtful consideration of DEI work should be a part of our campus culture, You Belong Here: Our Plan for an Equitable and Inclusive Campus does not mandate trainings for any students, staff or faculty.