The University of Mississippi will roll out its new diversity strategic plan “Pathways to Equity” today at the virtual 2021 Diversity Summit. Students involved with drafting the plan said it will address issues like UM’s racial history, the minority student experience at UM and the creation of a multicultural center on campus.
According to EJ Edney, the director of the Center for Inclusion and Cross Cultural Engagement (CICCE) and an organizer of the summit, “Pathways to Equity” has been in the works for the past year and will be the guideline for offices across campus to create individualized “equity and action plans.”
The university-wide plan will be made public after its introduction at the summit, and the office-specific plans will be made available after they are approved through a peer review process.
“The best way to sum up what I hope people gain from today is an appreciation for the commitments in the ‘Pathways to Equity’ plan,” Edney said. “My hope is that people can see themselves represented in those commitments and can readily identify the ways they can help to advance some of those projects by the end of the day.”
Edney said that students played a central part in the development of the plan and will also be the “most direct benefactors” of the initiatives it contains.
“The most important takeaway from this plan is the transparent commitment from the division of diversity and community engagement to address institutional inequities that have been plaguing the university for a while now,” Associated Student Body President Joshua Mannery said. “It’s rare that we see such a large commitment to something like this from the university, to be honest.”
Mannery was one of several student leaders who collaborated on the plan with university administrators like Chancellor Glenn Boyce, Vice Chancellor for Diversity and Community Engagement Shawnboda Mead and Edney.
“The CICCE and the Vice Chancellor of Diversity Shawnboda Mead really put a lot of time in to make sure everything was addressed because we, the Black Coalition presidents, were going to be very critical of this plan,” Black Student Union President Nicholas Crasta said.
Crasta and eight other Black student leaders demanded a meeting with Boyce last July amid controversy surrounding the university’s Confederate cemetery. Since then, they have had a standing monthly meeting with Boyce where the group has discussed campus problems, many of which are addressed in the diversity strategic plan.
“I think one big thing that a lot of Black student leaders have been talking to each other about is that we came to this school to get an education, not to start a movement, not to change everything,” Crasta said. “Some things just can’t go without being said. We have to step up when it’s needed, and in the past four years, for me, a lot of stuff has needed to be said.”
Crasta said he is glad to see the university recognizing its issues and history while attempting to reconcile both in a transparent way. The university plans to release “public reports” updating the community as the plan progresses, according to Crasta.
Apart from the introduction of the diversity plan, the summit will also include a keynote address from Gregory Vincent titled “Truth, Equity and Justice: The work continues.” Vincent formerly consulted for the university on matters of diversity, equity and inclusion, and he has also served as vice chancellor for diversity and community engagement at the University of Texas at Arlington.
The summit will conclude with a panel discussion and three breakout sessions to discuss the UM Pay Equity Report, the UM Climate Study Report or a “Teaching for Inclusion” workshop series.
Registration for the summit is available on the UM events webpage.