Carnegie Mellon University

November 8, 2019

Update: View the Task Force's closing report on this topic. 

Dear Members of the Carnegie Mellon University Community: 

I am writing to share the detailed findings of the Task Force on Campus Climate and to provide plans for translating these insights into urgent action so we can build a stronger and more cohesive community. I recognize this email is long, but this is an important conversation our community needs to have.

Diversity, inclusion, empathy and respect for the dignity of others have been the bedrock of this institution since our founding, but we are facing some hard truths about the ways these values are experienced at CMU in our community, especially by women and underrepresented minorities who feel marginalized and undervalued. There is genuine desire across the institution to embrace a more inclusive and respectful climate. But desire without action will fall short. To realize our long-term aspirations, we need urgent, uncompromising and sustained action across the university and resources from the very top to back it up. In this challenging sociopolitical climate, academic institutions have a moral obligation to lead this charge and I believe we can work together to make the CMU community an example that others can follow.

Today, I am writing to express my personal commitment and to lay out a plan of action, including near-term steps and long-term investments, that we will execute together, across all academic and administrative units. Provost Jim Garrett, our deans and senior university leadership, are all united in their commitment to support this plan.   

Recent Findings

In August 2018, we announced the creation of the Task Force on Campus Climate to advise on steps we can take to support a more inclusive, equitable, respectful and understanding environment across all campuses and locations at CMU. The task force has been led by three co-chairs: David Danks, L.L. Thurstone Professor of Philosophy and Psychology and Department Head in Philosophy; Jodi Forlizzi, Professor and Geschke Director of the Human-Computer Interaction Institute; and Michelle Piekutowski, associate vice president and chief human resources officer. The task force submitted two reports that I wish to share: a summary report as well as the full report. As you will read, the task force has been deliberate and thoughtful in their assessment, following nearly 75 listening tours, meetings and town halls involving more than 400 community members and subcommittee participants.

The task force’s work uncovered serious concerns that require our attention. There have been accounts of divisive, hostile, and generally non-inclusive behavior by individuals in positions of structural power,” most notably affecting staff and graduate students. Furthermore, they found that women and underrepresented minorities also were unduly affected by these incidents and by climate issues across the board. These reports have emerged from the listening tour of the task force and have been affirmed by conversations I have engaged in personally with members of our community. At times, my conversations have been inspiring, and other times deeply discouraging. It is upsetting to hear from people whose confidence and morale have been eroded over time due to their experiences here. It appears these issues may be embedded in our culture, abetted by some processes that lack definition, transparency and accountability. To begin to combat these challenges, the task force has made five broad recommendations and identified eight areas of focus, outlined in their reports. They lay out an aspirational vision for a community in which “all groups have equal access to resources along with the opportunity to work collaboratively in problem-solving and advancing CMU’s mission.” Their recommendations have informed the actions we commit to take today.

Our action plan also was informed by a study commissioned by Interim Provost Laurie Weingart and conducted by professors Linda Babcock in the Dietrich College and Rosalind Chow in the Tepper School of Business, who have spent their careers examining gender and racial equity. We are extremely fortunate to have these experts in our faculty and we are grateful for their robust analysis. Their report examined and provided recommendations to improve diversity, inclusion and equity for faculty at CMU and several of our action items dovetail with their recommendations. Our plan also will build on other recent reports related to climate, including the AAU Campus Climate Survey on Sexual Assault and Misconduct and the recent CMU VOICES Study of Inclusion and Climate Experiences that were administered to Pittsburgh students last winter.

University Commitments

In evaluating the recommendations of the Task Force, conversations with stakeholders across campus, and considering work already underway and planned, we commit to the following initial plan of action 

  1. Form an implementation steering committee to prioritize and oversee execution of the action items
    To thoroughly prioritize and implement the action items in the report, we have adopted the task forces recommendation to create a campus climate implementation steering committee, which consists of the three task force co-chairs, as well as the provost, the vice president for student affairs, and the vice president for marketing and communications. At my request, Professor Linda Babcock has agreed to share her expertise as a member of this committee. In consultation with Faculty Senate, Staff Council, the Graduate Student Assembly, Student Senate and other stakeholders across campus, this committee will meet regularly to review current systems and policies, and prioritize and help implement action items, including advising units across campus on the needed resources. I have asked the steering committee to develop measurements and metrics to help us track our progress.
  2. Create an office under the provost dedicated to diversity, equity and inclusion
    To affect change at the pace and scale required, we must invest in human capital. Accordingly, Provost Garrett will create a new office that will focus on diversity, equity and inclusion and coordinate our efforts for faculty, staff and students. The implementation steering committee will work with internal stakeholders and outside experts to stand up this office as soon as is feasible. The office will assist me and the provost in providing university-level resources and programs, and in ensuring the implementation of strategic equity, diversity and inclusion plans across the university (described in more detail below.) This office will build on the work of the Committee on Faculty Diversity, Inclusion and Development (FCDID) and will work in close concert with the vice provost for faculty, Human Resources, the Center for Student Diversity and Inclusion, Staff Council, Faculty Senate, student government, and the schools and colleges. More information on the process to define this office will be shared by the Provost’s Office in the coming weeks. 
  3. Create a Target of Opportunity Fund to support recruitment and retention
    Recruiting and retaining diverse talent is a focus of our Strategic Plan 2025 as well as a priority of our Make Possible campaign. Over the past several years, we have worked with stakeholders across campus to develop specific actions to improve policies, processes, practices and structures related to admissions, recruitment, retention, reward and promotion for faculty, staff and students who add diversity to our campus. While we have made some progress, in order to move the needle on creating a more diverse faculty, we commit to collaborate with the academic leadership on the creation of a Target of Opportunity Fund that will support recruitment and retention of outstanding scholars in all fields who will contribute to diversity and equity at CMU and enhance our reputation as a leading university. This fund will build on our existing partnerships with national programs, such as the GEM Fellowship Program and the Presidential Postdoctoral Fellows Program (PPFP). Detailed information on this program, which will be administered by the Provost’s Office, will be made available to deans and department heads in the coming months.
  4. Develop five-year strategic equity, diversity and inclusion plans for academic and administrative units
    In April, Provost Garrett charged all academic units to develop strategic equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI) plans to be implemented next academic year, and that work is well underway. We commit that all administrative units also will develop plans to be implemented in the 2020-21 academic year. These plans will articulate a clear value statement on diversity and inclusion, will include measurable goals and strategies to achieve those goals, and will be designed to capture opportunities to increase diversity for faculty, students and staff at every level, including administrative appointments. Furthermore, I have asked the Provost’s Office to engage an independent firm by the end of this academic year to conduct an equity study of faculty salaries, which will complement a similar analysis done three years ago and inform the strategy for EDI programs. In addition, Human Resources is undertaking a review of staff position descriptions and job classifications to ensure consistency and promote transparency. Once this process is complete, we will undertake a staff equity study. 
  5. Develop and improve policies and processes for faculty, staff and leadership searches, service, awards and recognitions
    To work toward more transparent searches committed to diversity and inclusion, the vice provost for faculty has developed university-wide best practices and resources. These include a faculty search checklist, access to unconscious bias training, and the identification of diversity liaisons within each school and college. In February, at the recommendation of the FCDID, Provost Garrett announced the To Serve and Shine guidelines to help ensure equitable service loads and recognitions, and the deans are accountable for their implementation in their annual reports to the provost this spring.  Human Resources has undertaken similar efforts for staff, including the release of search guidelines and training, a staff diversity advocate program and improved family support services. In addition, in April, the provost launched a committee focused on childcare and family services to assess and make recommendations on access, affordability and policies. Recommendations from this work are expected in the coming weeks. While these activities are promising, the task force was unambiguous in calling for more targeted action. The provost and I commit to work with academic and administrative leadership toward greater transparency and more streamlined and fair processes for appointing leadership positions at all levels, and nominating faculty and staff for awards, leadership opportunities and service contributions.  
  6. Improve awareness programming, training and communication
    Over the past several years, there has been an increase in programming and training to expand awareness of the behaviors expected at CMU. Examples include bystander intervention training through the Green Dot initiative, and SafeZone training to ensure a safe and affirming environment for those in the LGBTQ+ community.  In addition, faculty, staff and students are now able to indicate their preferred names in critical IT systems. More is needed, especially as it relates to understanding microaggressions, empowering allies, encouraging effective interpersonal communication and using inclusive language in communications. The task force was very clear in expressing the urgency for us to do better. We will expand awareness and training programs for campus leadership at all levels and for faculty, staff and students. I also am charging the vice president for marketing and communications to develop a more robust communications strategy for ensuring faculty, staff and students are more informed about these resources as well as ongoing work related to campus climate.
  7. Expand faculty and staff leadership development
    Effective recruitment and retention of faculty and staff must include a robust leadership development program and culture focused on nurturing individual professional strengths and goals. Currently, several internal and external professional development opportunities are made available for faculty and staff, including the Leadership and Negotiation Academy for Women, our partnership with The Advanced Leadership Initiative (TALI) focused on increasing the diversity of leadership, ELATE (Executive Leadership in Academic Technology and Engineering), faculty orientation and summer leadership workshops, and CMULead, a staff leadership development program. We must build on these efforts and make them available much more widely. Throughout my career, I have seen how effective mentorship can be in building a pipeline of leadership; we must commit to that approach here to develop the next generation of leaders, both for faculty and staff. I am charging the vice provost for faculty and the vice president for human resources and chief human resources officer to take this on. 
  1. Increase and sustain investment in student success and experience
    Launched in 2017, the Center for Student Diversity and Inclusion has proved to be a valuable resource. Through the center’s work, we have learned that students are seeking greater engagement with faculty and fellow students on these issues, and we are committed to making the strategic investments needed to expand the impact of the center’s work. The center will soon be launching a Peer Advocates program to build student leadership capacity for social change. Programming will be enhanced to further support graduate students through faculty mentoring and the development of new opportunities for mentorship relationships with undergraduates. This fall, we launched the Tartan Scholars program to meet the unique needs of first-year students who are academically high-achieving and come from low-income backgrounds. Tartan Scholars will be expanded to include culturally relevant academic support, an increased cohort size for fall 2020 and continuous engagement throughout the scholars’ time at CMU. In the coming days, Provost Garrett will announce the launch of the Provost Inclusive Teaching Fellows program this spring that will expand on the Eberly Center’s efforts to advance inclusive teaching practicesamong our faculty and instructors. Finally, the Core Competency Initiative will focus on diversity and inclusivity as central competencies for all students. 

I want to be clear: we have a lot of important work ahead of us. Meaningful cultural change will take sustained investment and effort over time, and resources have already been set aside for much of this work. We will seek additional funding for these efforts as part of the Make Possible campaign, and we will increase our efforts to communicate these priorities to our philanthropic supporters.

I wish to express my sincere gratitude to everyone who has passionately engaged in this vital undertaking, especially the members of the task force, its subcommittees and its co-chairs. In particular, I greatly appreciate the diligence and thoughtfulness that David, Jodi and Michelle have brought to this effort. I also am grateful to those community members who have spoken with me or the provost, or otherwise contributed to these dialogues.

We are not alone in facing these challenges. As a microcosm of society, we are dealing with the same issues that exist on the national stage and on a global scale. But as an academic community committed to excellence, we have the tools and the resources to hold ourselves to a higher standard. I believe we have a moral imperative to make this an urgent priority. By creating a more inclusive and respectful climate, we become a much stronger institution, in every possible way. We attract leading scholars and artists, and outstanding students and staff; we retain bright minds who feel motivated to contribute; and we fuel powerful ideas that emerge when diverse perspectives come together in an environment of mutual respect. 

This work matters. My entire senior leadership team and the deans are committed to this, but we cannot do it alone. Each one of the actions we commit to take today will require the support and participation of everyone on campus. We all bear responsibility to build and sustain a campus climate in which each one of us can experience a sense of belonging, feel empowered to contribute our best work and have that work recognized and valued. I look forward to undertaking this important work with all of you.

Warm regards,

Farnam Jahanian
Henry L. Hillman President’s Chair
Carnegie Mellon University