Carnegie Mellon University

Action Items for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Efforts in the College of Fine Arts

Earlier this year, we laid out a plan to create a set of college-wide shared values, challenges, principles, strategies and action steps to aid the schools in their diversity, equity and inclusion planning. In light of all that has happened since then, the time for thinking and talking at the college level is over; college resources need to be directed to the schools’ efforts toward meaningful change and constructive action steps that will improve the lived experiences of our BIPOC and LGBTQIA+ students, faculty and staff.

This document contains a series of action steps for the College of Fine Arts — the schools, BXA, Miller ICA, the Frank-Ratchye STUDIO, and the Office of the Dean. These include ideas that have been percolating for some time now, plus a fair number of activities identified by several CFA schools and the central administration, which I believe will be particularly impactful when implemented across our college. These action steps need to be the foundational elements of formal DEI plans within each unit. This is not, however, intended to be a complete list; the units’ plans should include additional elements appropriate to their cultures, conventions, traditions and unique challenges and opportunities.

The existing, ad-hoc CFA DEI Planning Committee is being converted into a standing committee of faculty, staff and students charged with providing support to the CFA DEI Assistant Dean and assisting the CFA units in coordinating, communicating and evaluating their DEI initiatives. The committee will be expanded to include the schools’ DEI co-chairs and student leaders — plus a limited number of additional staff and faculty who are willing and able to contribute to the processes. Nominations will be discussed with the heads before beginning the Spring 2021 semester.

Dan J. Martin
Stanley and Marcia Gumberg Dean
College of Fine Arts
Carnegie Mellon University



  • The development of a new (and continuing) CFA general studies course focused on the core competence of identifying, confronting and overcoming social injustice in the practice of the disciplines through the interrogation of harm reduction, harm prevention and relationship repair. (The School of Drama developed a course over the summer that was implemented this semester. The Drama course may be an excellent pilot effort for the larger college; at the very least, it will serve as an example of how the other schools might approach this initiative.)
  • Commit to the inclusion and support of the work of BIPOC and LGBTQIA+ artists, designers and scholars in course materials, projects, assignments, publications, social media materials and externally focused programming.
  • Decolonize our syllabi. Examine the syllabi across our curricula, ensuring that the principles and practices articulated within them provide for safe and equitable classroom experiences, course content and policies.
  • Include the university’s DE&I statement in all syllabi, including information on how to report bias.

Recruitment, Admissions and Financial Aid

  • Review student recruitment, admission and financial aid strategies and practices to dismantle all structures and obstacles that have hindered access for BIPOC and LGBTQIA+ candidates to apply and advance through the process.
  • Invest more heavily in developing and engaging with a network of local and national high schools as targets for intensive recruitment of underrepresented minority students.
  • Ensure that all who participate on admissions committees have undergone unconscious bias and anti-racism training.
  • Support the emerging CMU Humanities and Arts development program, a collaborative effort of Dietrich College and the College of Fine Arts, that will identify Pittsburgh high school students from underserved constituencies who are interested in the humanities, arts or social sciences. The initiative will provide year-round programming aimed at preparing them for college; scholarships for those who ultimately attend CMU; and mentorship throughout their secondary and higher education experiences. (Information on this initiative is forthcoming.)

Hiring, Promotion and Recognition

  • Prioritize diversity in the hiring of staff, faculty and guest artists — with special attention to staff hiring and development.
  • Ensure that all who participate on search committees have undergone unconscious bias and social justice training.
  • Consider open-level ranking for appointments to attract wider and more diverse pools of applicants.

Near-Term (Spring 2021)


  • Increase the transparency and marketing of community-driven education, research and creative practice efforts to highlight CFA’s community-facing efforts, engage students, staff and faculty interested in participating in this work, and strengthen our engagement with members of the Pittsburgh community around our efforts.

Hiring, Promotion and Recognition

  • Promote and familiarize the school community with the university’s established bias reporting process to better investigate and respond to incidents of concern.
  • Create guidelines for guest faculty, fellows and artists that include explicit expectations about DE&I principles and shared values.
  • Further diversify the speakers and artists we bring to campus to challenge, engage and educate the community on topics related to racism, equity and social justice.
  • Expand and support the recruitment, retention and development of outstanding artists, designers and scholars who will contribute to diversity and equity in CFA.
  • Explore, evaluate and implement new processes for conducting leadership searches to improve their equity across multiple dimensions.
  • Implement transparency in the awarding of professorships, including data on those considered for professorships, who was selected, and the rationale for the decisions.


  • Prioritize fund-raising in support of diversity and anti-racism events, activism, guest speakers and resources.
  • Institutionalize and integrate open-forum sessions into the ongoing operations across the college.
  • Establish affinity groups and safe spaces for ongoing open communication, discussion, brainstorming, sharing and uplifting all voices in our community.
  • Develop and communicate a robust, consistent strategy for responding to reported incidents with special attention to protecting individuals from retaliation.
  • Communicate annually on our diversity, equity and inclusion achievements and our progress.

Long-Term (Academic Year 2021–2022 and Beyond)


  • Expand the resources available to fund the development of new courses and degree programs that will further enhance our academic offerings in BIPOC/LGBTQIA+ art, design and culture, and issues related to race and social justice.
  • Expand research and creative practice in matters relevant to race, racism and gender to encourage students in different disciplines to dedicate themselves to the sustained study of such topics.
  • Be an active participant in the university-wide committee of faculty and other stakeholders to study and recommend the creation of a cross-college research center or institute that is focused on issues germane to racism, gender bias and social justice.

Hiring, Promotion and Recognition

  • Develop impactful staff development opportunities.
  • Expand unconscious bias training for search committees and interview teams, and new tools for recruiting more diverse pools of candidates.
  • Actively participate in the university’s effort to review policies, structures and systemic issues to promote greater equity in our recruitment, retention, development and promotion efforts of faculty and staff.
  • Expand the exit interview process to understand why employees leave, including a plan for using the data collected. Implement “stay” interviews to proactively retain talent.