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2015 Archives

Commitment and initiatives on diversity at SMU

December 15, 2015

University programs supporting respect for diversity begin at student orientation, when student leaders present vignettes on social issues. For the past decade, the Office of Multicultural Student Affairs has led a presentation and group sessions regarding the campus community pledge that “Every Mustang Will Be Valued.”

Incoming students commit to the SMU Values Statement, which was developed by student leaders in 2013: “I, as a citizen of the SMU community, commit myself to upholding the values of intellectual integrity, academic honesty, personal responsibility, and sincere regard and respect for all SMU students, faculty, and staff.”

Diversity is an important part of SMU’s Strategic Plans, including the 2006-2015 and 2016-2025 Strategic Plans.

  • The first goal for 2016-2025 includes strengthening the University’s ability to recruit, appoint, promote and retain a distinguished, gifted and diverse faculty, and enhancing the University’s ability to recruit, retain, and graduate academically and creatively gifted undergraduate and graduate students from diverse backgrounds.
  • Over the course of the 2006-2015 Centennial Strategic Plan, SMU increased and diversified its student applicant pool and increased minority enrollment. The University also significantly increased scholarships to compete for students.

The President’s Commission on the Status of Racial Minorities, established in 1995, monitors the University’s efforts and results on diversity. Other commissions include the President’s Commission on the Status of Women and the President’s Commission on the Needs of Persons with Disabilities.

SMU’s Office of Institutional Access and Equity promotes access and diversity through equal opportunity and affirmative action, and maintains policies and procedures that prohibit discrimination on a protected basis, including the University’s Nondiscrimination, Affirmative Action and Equal Opportunity Policy

SMU's commitment to diversity includes not discriminating in any employment practice, education program, education activity, or admissions on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, age, disability, genetic information, or veteran status.  SMU’s commitment to equal opportunity also includes nondiscrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity and expression.

SMU founded a Greek Life Diversity Task Force in April 2015 in response to national incidents, including at the University of Oklahoma. Task force members include students, faculty, staff, advisors to fraternities and sororities, and members of the SMU Board of Trustees. The Task Force has gathered input from the campus community and met regularly this fall to examine what changes are needed to support diversity and encourage connections among student organizations.

Student Senate created an Ad Hoc Committee on Inclusion and Diversity in November 2015. Student Senate also has a Diversity Committee and seats dedicated to diversity – an African American Senator, Hispanic American Senator, Asian American Senator and International Senator.

In April 2016, the Simmons School of Education & Human Development is co-sponsoring The White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African Americans, with the Youth Action Research Center in Dallas. Panel topics will include closing the achievement gap and transforming the higher education experience. SMU Upward Bound/College Access Programs will host a youth summit for high school students.

Curriculum

SMU’s curriculum requires every student, regardless of major, to take a three-hour course focused on human diversity. 

SMU’s Ethnic Studies Program offers a major and minors in African/African-American or Mexican-American Studies; courses include African-American Literature, Blacks and the Civil Rights Movement, African Slavery in the U.S. and the African-American Urban Experience.

SMU’s Human Rights Program offers a major and minor as part of an interdisciplinary program focused on civil, political, economic, social and cultural human rights; course offerings include the Politics and Legacy of the Civil Rights Movement and Race/Ethnicity in the U.S.

SMU’s Women’s and Gender Studies Program offers a minor and a major in individualized studies in the liberal arts, with a focus on women’s and gender studies. The program explores a variety of disciplines and experiences through gender; course offerings include Gender and Sex Roles, and Gender Violence.

SMU has sponsored a Civil Rights Pilgrimage since 2004, in conjunction with a political science course. Approximately 50 students and others from SMU and the community visit civil rights landmarks and meet with civil rights leaders.

Education programs and student organizations

SMU’s Office of Multicultural Student Affairs offers students leadership development and social justice and cultural education. Programs include:

The Women & LGBT Center empowers students to increase awareness and understanding of gender equity issues. Its goal is to eliminate barriers, diminish prejudices and create a supportive climate and space for all. Programs include:

  • Women’s Symposium, an annual forum that has examined topics of national interest since 1966. The 2016 speaker is Carol Moseley Braun, who served as a U.S. Senator and the Ambassador to New Zealand.
  • Allies, training for faculty and staff who act as advocates for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning students;
  • LGBT Dialogue, a discussion and support group;
  • Violence Prevention Program, education on relationships and sexual assault prevention. 

There are more than 20 student organizations focused on diversity in race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation and religion, with others representing specific denominations.

In the Residential Commons, staff members who serve as Diversity Equity and Access Leaders provide diversity programs for students, and diversity training for staff members and student staff. In addition, in a program overseen by the Office of Multicultural Student Affairs, students serve as Peer Dialogue Leaders in the Residential Commons. They facilitate discussions and workshops that encourage respect among students.