Racial Equity Task Force Pauses the Diversity Audit Survey

On Feb. 19, BW’s Racial Equity Task Force announced it would pause data collection from a recent diversity audit survey because of issues with the survey. Members of the task force are consulting with Baldwin Wallace’s faculty to ensure the data is reliable.

The announcement came just days after the survey was released. The initial action requested students and faculty to participate in a 68-question survey to assess the cultural climate on campus and issues about equity and inclusion.

Last semester, the task force worked with Compass Consulting Services, LLC, to facilitate focus groups and individual interviews to assess the cultural climate at BW. From the assessment, the task force developed questions to probe themes dealing with racial injustice and inclusion. C.J. Harkness, chief diversity officer for the Center for Inclusion, said, “The survey will gather hard data around the social climate and experiences for the people at Baldwin Wallace.”

The Center for Inclusion initiated the task force due to systemic issues dealing with equity and student representation. Multiple students filed reports off-campus with discrimination. Austin Watkins, a junior and the chair for Men in Action, said, “We have participated in other organization campus activities, but it is not reciprocated. We need more support and more inclusiveness. We need people to listen to us.”

Harkness said there were “accusations of discrimination, accusations of microaggressions in a variety of contexts, from class-room experiences to experiences with different segments of our community. From fraternity life, athletics, and on and off-campus.”

The diversity audit survey is intended to gauge a myriad of issues on campus, including looking deeper into the educational gaps at the school. The task force plans to review the gaps particularly in retention and graduation rates of Black and Latino students.

“We have empirical data in terms of representation and success indicators which we found gaps that we need to address,” Harkness said.

Dr. Christy Walkuski, the director of community engagement and service-learning, said, “Equity challenges us to think deeper; not only do we need a diverse community, but every student has the infrastructure to fulfill their true potential here. If we see un-equitable outcomes based on race, then what are the barriers?”

Harkness said, “We need to impact individuals in terms of their learning and acceptance and celebration of others with differences. We have a strong representation in our undergrad student body, but that does not mean we have a strong representation in every department.” Currently, several departments do not have full-time black faculty or black students.

In 2019, Forbes Magazine reported that the black population at Baldwin Wallace made up 9.6 percent of the student body. The university does not publish the ethnicity records on the webpage.

The task force looks to implement a system with guidelines mirroring the Association of American Colleges and Universities. The final recommendations are on track for early May and will include addressing the areas in need.

The proposals will consist of cost projections, timelines, targeted outcomes, responsible parties, and the metrics’ evaluation. The task force reported they do not anticipate the timeline of the diversity audit survey results to change, and the survey should resume shortly.