Ferris’ Diversity Office released the 2023-2027 Diversity, Inclusion, Equity and Belonging plan last week titled “Helping Others Rise.”
It is the first plan developed by the university with belonging as a “driving force.”
Derived from a quote by university founder Woodbridge N. Ferris, the Helping Others Rise plan now includes specific goals aimed at helping the community feel that they belong on campus. They are as follows:
Goal 1: Create a welcoming and inclusive environment where students and employees feel a sense of belonging.
Goal 2: Enroll, retain and graduate a diverse student body.
Goal 3: Hire, retain and promote a diverse faculty and staff.
Goal 4: Provide the infrastructure to support diversity, inclusion, equity, and belonging.
According to the plan, which can be located under the Diversity and Inclusion tab on Ferris’ website, it is a product nearly four years in the making. Members of Ferris’ Diversity Office worked with students, faculty, staff and EAB, an educational consulting firm to create the “living document.”
Dr. David Pilgrim is Ferris’ Vice President for Diversity, Inclusion and Strategic Initiatives. He presented the DEIB plan at the Ferris Forum. Around 40 people attended the event both in person and via Zoom. The attendees ranged from leaders of Ferris’ identity centers, such as the Hispanic/Latino Cultural Center and the LGBTQ+ Resource Center to administrators like university president Dr. Bill Pink.
The DEIB planning timeline stretches back to May 25, 2020, when Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin killed George Floyd. This, and the following demonstrations carried out in the Black Lives Matter movement, spurred conversations about diversity and inclusion across the nation.
“The North Star is to get to a point where we don’t need to have this conversation anymore,” Pink said.
Pilgrim used the night as an opportunity to ask how different departments at Ferris can enact changes to reach the plan’s goals.“I’m challenging you the way I’m challenging myself,” Pilgrim said to the room.
When discussing the third goal, to hire, retain and promote a diverse faculty and staff, Pilgrim stated that Ferris “historically has struggled in this area.”
Pilgrim cited data from the National Center for Education Statistics which shows that Ferris consistently ranks in the bottom two for diversity in faculty and staff out of Michigan’s 15 public universities. The Ferris Fact Books reports that 90% of Ferris’ faculty and staff in the year 2020 were white.
Associate Vice President of Human Resources Fredericka Hayes expressed over Zoom that all search committees need diverse representation as Ferris recruits new employees.
Sonia Trevino directs Ferris’ Hispanic/Latino Cultural Center. She shared that her commute to work involves passing three Confederate flags every day and that it can be difficult to attract members of a diverse workforce to such an area.
The HLCC is one of Ferris’ identity centers. The others include the LGBTQ+ Resource Center, the Office of Multicultural Student Services and the Veteran’s Resource Center. Trevino stated to the Torch that Pink and the university as a whole “remain committed” to these centers.
“As soon as you walk into our center, you can feel the sense of community immediately,” Trevino said. “This creates belonging. In addition, our [identity] centers are also a huge resource for students who want to learn more about communities that are different from their own. Not only do we act as a home away from home for our students, we can act as an educational resource for students who want to learn more about our culture.”
There were no students in attendance at last week’s Ferris Forum. Still, students have their own ideas for what fosters a sense of belonging on campus.
Digital animation and game design senior Jaylen Woods works in the Office of Multicultural Student Services. Throughout his work in OMSS and position on the Student Advisory Council, he understands what it takes for students to feel included.
“I think for students it’s just having a good sense of communication amongst the school,” Woods said. “I know a lot of students that just want a reasoning behind some of the decisions that the Ferris has made and done recently. Most people don’t want to be left in the dark. I feel like to get a true sense of belonging they would have to be willing to open up more to the student population on topics that affect us as a whole.”
Pilgrim explained that the Diversity Office included students in the planning of this document through surveys, forums and town hall meetings.
“We want to continue to hear from students. We will meet with all students who want to discuss the plan. As a university, we are better when we listen to our students and when students are engaged,” Pilgrim said.
Near the end of last week’s forum, Pilgrim stated that the comments submitted by campus leaders about how their departments may work towards these DEIB goals will be shared publicly on the Diversity Office’s Ferris360 page.
“Get all the knowledge you can, but use your knowledge in the right way, and it will be of untold benefit to you. Don’t use it in oppressing others… And when you see a man or woman trying to rise and doing the right thing, don’t be selfish but try to help that person rise.”
– Woodbridge Nathan Ferris, 1910