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  • Writer's pictureLucas Nava

UTSA: "At [our school], inclusiveness and excellence are two of the core values"

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The University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA) reported that it had increased the budget for its Office of Inclusive Excellence in a statement to the Austin Journal. According to UTSA, the budget had increased from $588,698 in Fiscal Year 2020-2021 to $666,028 in FY 2021-2022.

UTSA introduced the Office of Inclusive Excellence to implement "Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion" (DEI) initiative, plans and programs into the university. According to the official website, "Inclusive Excellence" promotes the idea of moving beyond diversity in terms of statistics and institutionalizing systemic practices and philosophies with the goal of having numerical representation be a mere side effect of "inclusive excellence".

"At UTSA, inclusiveness and excellence are two of the core values," the website says. "The Office of Inclusive Excellence serves as an agent and resource to provide leadership on issues related to diversity. Our goal is to support and promote diversity and inclusion in all aspects of campus life by developing initiatives that encourage diversity and 'Inclusive Excellence.'"

The Office of Inclusive Excellence seeks to retain a more diverse faculty and staff so that students can better identify with professors that share their life experiences, learn more about diverse subjects and gain more trust in the UTSA community. "The Office of Inclusive Excellence engages in a number of strategies designed to attract excellent faculty and staff to UTSA," the University states. "These strategies focus on: equity in the search process, developing inclusive position announcements, diversifying the applicant pool, and implementing nationally recognized recruitment best practices."

UTSA also conducted a "diversity inventory" of its campus, which was collected and used in programs and plans for a "Strategic DEI Foundation". The school defines DEI campus efforts as “any activity or program that promotes the active appreciation of all campus members in terms of their backgrounds, identities and unique experiences—as constituted by gender, socioeconomic class, political perspective, age, race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, disability or language, among others—as well as any activity, initiative or program that brings together any of these aspects cross-sectionally.” The collected information was compiled into both a report and an executive summary.

The aforementioned executive summary from April 2021 lists five objectives for the Strategic Diversity Leadership Framework: “(1) Achieve access and equity (recruitment, retention) for historically underrepresented groups. (2) Create a multicultural and inclusive campus climate for the entire institutional community. (3) Enhance domestic and international research and scholarship around issues of diversity. (4) Prepare all students for a national and global society that is diverse and interconnected. (5) Create effective strategic diversity leadership infrastructure in the forms of DEI strategic plans, committees, officers, analysis/tracking scorecards, and other forms of accountability that can transform the first four elements into more than the sum of their parts.” The summary also discusses the number of institutions, including Texas universities, that are implementing DEI initiatives into leadership.

UTSA also prides itself on its "16% Hispanic/Latinx tenure-track faculty" who are eligible for DEI training alongside students, and the DEI Resource Allocation states that the school “is clearly investing millions of dollars in scholarships, offices, programs, research and multicultural/international areas of study, across a range of diversity dimensions that include race, ethnicity, economic background, disability, gender, nationality and faith for students, faculty and staff”. However, these results aren't enough to meet the goals of UTSA's diversity plan. Recommendations from the summary include a DEI training and certificate program for all students, faculty and staff based on "DEI learning experiences", as well as a partnership fund with a budget for "DEI entrepreneurial energy on campus" led by the Vice President of Inclusive Excellence.

UTSA defines equity as “those efforts that focus on achieving equity of outcomes in terms of driving graduation rates, producing equivalent pathways to tenure and promotion for all groups, and other efforts designed to help all students, faculty, and staff to achieve strong outcomes at UTSA,” according to the Diversity Benchmarking Report. Inclusion is defined as “those efforts that help members of the UTSA community to feel as if they belong on campus, and not that they are the “other,” on the outside looking into the UTSA experience because of their race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, or any other aspect of identity.” The "access and equity" section of the report lists various methods of faculty recruitment, including “DEI-focused scholarship programs, DEI-enriched job descriptions and recruitment efforts, Faculty of color retreats and receptions, Disability learning and professional accommodations, Efforts to expand women’s participation in STEM.”

USTA, as an official Hispanic Serving Institution (HSI), is working to increase DEI in all areas of the university, especially regarding the hiring process and retention of current and future faculty according to DEI standards. The 66-page report lists UTSA's specific plans for its Office of Inclusive Excellence and leadership to begin practicing the aforementioned DEI initiatives. Under Recruitment, Retention, and Outreach (RRO), UTSA states that its hiring process “may include hiring guidelines and goals, fellowships and scholarships for promising researchers”, according to the report. RRO programs were the most popular, with 73% listed as "DEI intensive". DEI-based hiring programs include: “Sociology Focused DEI Faculty Hiring Initiative for Women, Social Work DEI Faculty Recruitment Effort, College of Science, with its focus on having search-and-screen committees be comprised of at least 40% women, comprehensive search committee trainings on implicit bias by the Office of the VP for Inclusive Excellence, participation in the Southern Regional Education Board (SREB) DEI Science Recruitment Conference and database effort by the Office of the VP for Inclusive Excellence, development of an objective Inclusive Excellence interview question for faculty hiring and the process of developing one for staff hiring, by the Office of the VP for Inclusive Excellence is both powerful and scalable”. The report was given to Office of Inclusive Excellence Vice President Dr. Myron Anderson.

According to a study conducted by the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), those who support implementing DEI in university faculty and staff hiring processes are excited for the inclusiveness and open opportunities they'll provide for minority communities. Those in opposition to DEI requirements in hiring processes believe that it's an overly politically correct tactic. Critics argue that modern hiring processes focus too little on employee quality and education and too much on employee experience with DEI. Said critics also suggest that DEI is seen as more important than basic qualifications at most universities. This is believed to lead to ideological conformity, where candidates aren't considered for employment solely for not having sufficient DEI statements or experience. In a data collection study done by AEI, the strategic diversity plans used by universities were called into question, and with no evidence for the betterment of campus climate or research productivity found, the researchers concluded that requiring DEI in the hiring process is unnecessary and purely political.

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