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Rutgers releases findings from University Equity Audit

University President Jonathan Holloway said the University Equity Audit can help officials assess whether they are actively working to provide learning and teaching opportunities for underrepresented groups.  – Photo by Instagram

University President Jonathan Holloway sent a University-wide email yesterday announcing the release of the University Equity Audit report.

Holloway said Rutgers should work to help address issues posed by ongoing racial and social justice movements.

“As I said in my remarks on Day One, racial, social and economic inequities have destabilized this country, and in order to live up to the aspirations in America’s founding documents we must make concrete commitments to address systemic inequities,” he said, according to the email. “And that starts with us.”

He said although Rutgers already has a diverse community, this may be in part due to its location in a diverse region, according to the email. Holloway said it is important to assess whether the University is actively taking steps to give learning and teaching opportunities to underrepresented groups.

To begin addressing these issues, Holloway said, he created the role of Senior Vice President for Equity and appointed Enobong (Anna) Branch, who then led the initiative of creating the University Equity Audit, according to the email. The Daily Targum previously reported Branch was formerly the Rutgers—New Brunswick vice chancellor for Diversity, Inclusion and Community Engagement.

Holloway said the audit had three components, including a self-study by executive and senior vice presidents, a leadership perception survey and an equity scorecard created by the Office of Institutional Research and Academic Planning, which assessed access, retention, success and leadership for underrepresented groups and women within the University, according to the email.

“The goal of our University Equity Audit was to honestly assess Rutgers’ on-the-ground commitment to these core values, starting with the central administration,” he said, according to the email.

Approximately 84 percent of University leadership responded to the perception survey, according to the executive summary of the audit. Holloway said the results show that most leaders think Rutgers can be doing more to include underrepresented groups.

“A telling result from the perception survey is that while virtually all respondents believe diversity, equity and inclusion are critically important for the University, fewer than a third believe Rutgers is 'to a great extent' making ongoing efforts to increase diversity, ensure equity and remove obstacles to inclusion,” he said, according to the email.

The first key finding listed based on the perception survey is that diversity and inclusion does not shape organizational life at Rutgers, according to the survey. Only 13 percent of respondents felt these principles are built into all policies to a great extent, and only seven percent felt they had the cross-cultural skills needed to communicate effectively with others to a great extent.

The survey also found half of University leaders felt their peers were committed to diversity and inclusion, but few felt this commitment was shared by the institution as a whole, according to the summary.

In regard to the University’s strategic plan, only nine percent of respondents believe diversity, equity and inclusion goals were specified to a great extent, and only 8 percent said they believe adequate strategic investments were made to advance these goals to a great extent, according to the summary. Increasing diversity strategic planning was one of the recommendations made by central administrators in the self-survey.

This self-survey also highlighted the importance of increasing their capacity to lead and support institutional change, a goal shared by University leaders in the perception survey, according to the summary.

When asked about the central administration’s capacity for leading diversity, equity and inclusion efforts within the University as a whole, 41 percent of perception survey respondents felt administrators had a high or very high capability of doing so.

Alternatively, only 13 percent of respondents felt central administrative activities, such as policy-making, funding and endorsements, reflect a commitment to these values most of the time, according to the summary.

Overall, 76 percent of University leaders who responded to the perception survey felt there was not adequate funding for diversity, equity and inclusion efforts prior to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, according to the summary. The hiring process was also listed as another area of improvement in both the perception survey and the central administration self-survey.

Holloway said the equity scorecard also showed a variety of findings based on recent years, including improved graduation rates for underrepresented groups but lower retention rates for first-year students in the same groups, according to the email.

The University Equity Audit will be used to create a University-wide diversity strategic planning process, which will be released this academic year, as well as shape improvements for the individual chancellor-led units, according to the summary. Holloway said he will also be speaking more about the audit on Sept. 25 during his address to the University Senate, according to the email.

“We have so much work to do in helping repair the inequities that have for too long denied Black and Brown people, and those of other marginalized groups, the chance to thrive — but a critical step is for Rutgers to meet its commitments in our own policies and practices,” he said, according to the email.

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