Charge letter to the College Undergraduate Experience Equity, Inclusion, and Diversity (EID) Committee


To: Associate Dean Lynn Huntsinger and Assistant Dean Marques Redd, OISA
From: Dean David Ackerly, CNR
Date: November 13, 2018

Thank you for your leadership on behalf of our equity, inclusion, and diversity initiative for the CNR undergraduate experience. CNR is widely recognized as a campus leader in undergraduate advising and providing support for students pursuing undergraduate research and a wide range of future careers. Building on these strengths, my goals for this initiative are to: 1) survey the current climate, programs, and initiatives in CNR and on the broader campus as they impact the CNR undergraduate experience, 2) identify areas of greatest concern and opportunity for change in our community, and 3) make specific recommendations to departmental and Dean’s Office leadership for steps moving forward.

I look forward to working with you on a proposal for the composition of the CNR Undergraduate Experience EID Committee. I would ask that the Committee plan to deliver a preliminary set of recommendations in a presentation to the Dean’s Council by May 1, 2019, allowing for discussion and feedback, and a final written report by August 1, 2019. The report, my response, and initial actions based on the recommendations will subsequently be shared with the CNR community in the fall of 2019.

As you begin your deliberations, I ask that you step back and examine issues of equity and inclusion with a very broad view. Our departments have developed strategic plans addressing equity and inclusion in the last several years, especially focusing on faculty hiring, graduate admissions, and mentoring. Focusing on the undergraduate experience will provide this Committee the opportunity to focus on many types of concerns, including initiatives related to curriculum and pedagogy.

To frame your deliberations, please consider three broad areas:

Climate: Building an inclusive community begins with all of our individual commitments to respect and embrace the diversity of experience of all. Please review existing information on climate within CNR as it impacts the undergraduate experience, and determine whether new data collection is warranted, via surveys, focus groups, etc. The information gathered can help inform actions on the items below.

Admissions, Retention, and Diversity: While CNR has one of the most diverse undergraduate communities among the STEM units, we do not fully reflect the changing demographics of California or the University as a whole. Chancellor Christ has announced a goal for Berkeley to become an Hispanic Serving Institution (HSI) within 10 years, and CNR can contribute to achieving that goal. I would like the Committee to review our current recruitment and retention efforts that shape our applicant pool (high schools, community colleges, etc.) and admissions process and review how we support students from diverse backgrounds in pursuit of STEM majors and careers.

Undergraduate and graduate experience: Achieving ‘equity of experience’, in Chancellor Christ’s words, requires that we examine our pedagogy, mentoring, advising, and professional development activities. For example:

  • Research on academic performance has shown that grading methods can create systematic discrepancies in classroom performance among individuals with different social and academic backgrounds.
  • Unpaid research opportunities and internships create a barrier to participation for students from low-income backgrounds who must find paid work to make ends meet as they pursue their education. This is just one of a wide range of challenges that is exacerbated by the high cost of living in the Bay Area.
  • Mentors who came from families with a history of higher education may struggle to appreciate the experience of first-generation students or others who have faced significant obstacles in pursuit of education, and they may be less successful setting these students on a path to future success.

In your Committee work, please consider the actions we can take to address these kinds of challenges, such as: workshops for faculty and GSIs on inclusive pedagogy and mentoring, enhancing access to support resources for students, investments in undergraduate or graduate research support that lower barriers to access for low-income students, etc.

Committee action items:

Some concrete steps the Committee should take include:

  • Following best practices recommended by the campus Office of Equity and Inclusion.
  • Consulting with undergraduate affairs and advising staff in our peer departments that may play an important role in our students’ experiences, including L&S college-level and departments of Economics, Geography, Earth and Planetary Sciences, Integrative Biology, and Molecular and Cellular Biology.
  • Reviewing the equity and diversity plans already developed by individual departments, as well as results of climate surveys or other background information.
  • Providing as much of this information as possible in a shared repository available to the entire community.

In your final report, I invite specific proposals with, as appropriate, budgetary recommendations that would be necessary to move them forward. I look forward to working with the committee to set us on a path to collective engagement in the coming years.