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Letter from the President - Update on Diversity and Inclusion actions

Letter from the President - Update on Diversity and Inclusion actions

March 05, 2019

office of the president letterhead

Dear University Community,

In January, OU experienced threats to our community in the form of racism. I made a commitment to examine our actions, policies and practices as an institution to ensure OU was working every day in a systemic and comprehensive manner toward inclusivity for all.

In February, the OU Diversity and Inclusivity Council made up of faculty, staff and administrators completed its work on a draft proposal outlining institutional goals, outcomes and strategies for diversity and inclusion planning across the University. The work had begun much earlier. The comprehensive proposal also identified action steps and outcomes for each of the goals.

Additionally, the Norman Faculty Senate developed and submitted a resolution reinforcing a commitment and proposal of action plans for diversity, inclusion and equity for the University. I reviewed both proposals with our executive team in order to define and develop a first set of key action items (Phase I) for the University’s multi-year plan to support a more diverse, welcoming and inclusive University culture for all faculty, staff and student populations. It is essential to set expectations for employees and students around inclusivity when they start their employment or student life as well as consistently throughout their time at OU.

In addition to the key action items that we are launching now, we want to reinforce and re-communicate our commitment and mission to diversity and inclusion as seen below.

  • The University of Oklahoma is committed to advancing equity, diversity, inclusion, and fairness in all forms through embracing and utilizing the unique and various backgrounds of our community. OU Norman, OU Tulsa and the Health Sciences Center recognize that fostering an inclusive environment enhances the OU experience for all students, faculty, and staff. We are committed to eliminating discrimination and exclusion based on race, color, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, genetic information, gender identity, gender expression, age, religion, disability, political beliefs or status as a veteran.
  • Our mission is to enhance OU’s commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion, recognize and respect the essential worth of each individual and value differences amongst groups. We commit to building a welcoming and supportive campus environment where each individual feels welcomed, valued and supported for success.

Just as important to our commitment, we have established initial goals that will be measured as found below.

Goals for Diversity and Inclusion:

  • Cultivate an inclusive university climate.
  • Improve recruitment, hiring and retention of faculty and staff from historically underrepresented groups in support of the Affirmative Action Plan.
  • Improve recruitment and retention of graduate and undergraduate students from historically underrepresented groups.
  • Create an enhanced learning environment based on diversity and inclusion.
  • Strengthen institutional shared infrastructure to achieve diversity goals.

Our Phase I plan includes seven actions essential to build the foundation for an inclusive University culture.

The Phase I plan primarily focuses on best practices for inclusivity programs and includes:

1) Hire a Vice President, Chief Diversity Officer via a national search who will report directly to the University President. Include three students representing the Norman and Health Science Center campuses on the Search Committee.                               

2) Establish a shared governance model for leveraging key resources to implement and measure diversity actions.

3) Enhance and implement additional diversity and inclusion learning opportunities for staff, faculty and students across the University including training for all search committees’ representatives and hiring managers.

4) Improve the sourcing, recruiting, hiring and retention strategies for staff and faculty utilizing our Affirmative Action Plans.                                   

5) Continue to build on our current momentum in attracting and retaining historically underrepresented undergraduate and graduate students within federal and state laws.

6) Incorporate measurements and rewards for evaluating diversity and inclusion action and outcomes within the faculty and staff performance review process.

7) Provide robust leadership and guidance to all student groups by offering additional diversity and inclusion training, opportunities to discuss and voice concerns, providing safe and inclusive locations to meet and to build programs that brings everyone together.

The Phase I actions are a first step in developing and building an inclusive and diverse culture. It will be measured and reported on regularly. Communication across the University will include regular updates through Inside OU, scheduled meetings for me to meet with key groups across the University, and open forums hosted by the VP, Chief Diversity Officer.

We know that we have a lot of work ahead of us to change our culture to one that is fully open, diverse and inclusive. I strongly believe that we must set our expectations clearly and measure our success regularly on these goals in order to deliver results and give our University community confidence in our progress. I am grateful to the University wide teams that will help address Phase I of our plan. I look forward to sharing with you future steps.


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