From the president: Strength through diversity

March 28, 2001

Scott Cowen

As you all know, an investment in people is the highest priority in our strategic plan. For the last few years, most of our emphasis has been focused on dealing with compensation issues and training-development opportunities for the staff.

Obviously, these initiatives will continue well into the future. This year, we have begun to focus on another "people" priority: the topic of diversity. Specifically, our strategic plan calls for Tulane to "continue to diversify the faculty and staff at all levels, focusing particularly on minorities and women in areas where they are underrepresented."

Included in this initiative is recognition of the importance of having an organizational climate that values and embraces diversity of all kinds:by gender, race, sexual orientation, religious background and geographical differences. A diverse university is a strong university. Our students benefit from knowing and learning about people from all different backgrounds and walks of life. Our faculty and staff benefit from the richness of campus culture that is afforded by working alongside those with beliefs, customs or backgrounds different than our own.

Clearly, diversity is a complex topic, and the questions and issues it embraces are not unique to our campus. National debate continues on affirmative action, and all related areas, including topics such as admission procedures, university policy and legal issues, and curriculum changes. On our campus, there are three phases to achieving our diversity goals.

The first stage is that of data collection, and this is ongoing. We are gathering data on diversity at Tulane in relation to peer institutions and Department of Labor benchmarks. This phase is allowing us to look at where we've come from in terms of diversity, at where we now stand, and at where we want to go:all in relation to similar information from our peer institutions in higher education. The DOL data allows us to look at our own numbers alongside those of more general statistics.

The second stage is the sharing of data:specifically, letting our senior academic officers and administrative staff know what we've learned in the data collection stage and familiarizing them with the issues we need to address. By studying our data, we will be able to move into the third stage. That stage will involve isolating areas where diversity at Tulane needs to be enhanced, and formulating action steps to help us achieve our goals.

Obviously, this will take the input of a great many dedicated people, and I look forward to working with the University Senate's Affirmative Action Committee to gather that input and form a plan for putting it into action. Addressing issues of diversity at Tulane is important, and it is ongoing. It is not something that will be done in a year and then forgotten, but will require persistent attention and care in order to achieve the goals we have set for our university and ourselves.

Tulane University, New Orleans, LA 70118 504-865-5000