Addressing the Issues: Authentic Dialogue Toward Real Change

Elon University provides answers and information regarding its recent community dialogues

As part of its series, Authentic Dialogue Toward Real Change, Elon invited members of the community to submit questions and comments regarding the issues of racism and injustice on campus. To date, many responses have been received.

The questions were grouped into topics and Elon leaders were asked to provide responses to issues that have been raised. Below are a video conversation and written responses. We will update this page with further responses and videos as the Authentic Dialogue series continues.

How does the bias reporting system work, and in what ways can it be improved to increase confidence?

The bias response system was created in 2013 to provide an additional layer of accountability and catalyst for educational opportunities in response to identity-based bias and prejudice incidents that impact our community.

The bias response system operates similarly to other types of university processes that provide support and accountability for members of our community. Reports are received by several offices when submitted and the CEIE (Center for Equity and Inclusive Excellence) serves as the central office for routing and responding to reports. Reports are routed to other offices when warranted and are engaged by the CEIE when appropriate. Some reports are informational in nature. Those reports are used to create intervention when necessary and climate enhancements when possible.

Work is underway to enhance the bias reporting system. One key area for improvement is communication. The CEIE staff is working on adding information about bias reporting and subsequent decision-making to the website and on social media. In addition, the staff along with members of the identity centers across campus are forming a new group focused on enhancing the bias reporting system. This group will work to more directly center the experiences of minoritized communities in the bias response processes that result from reports.

Information provided by Leigh-Anne Royster, director of the Center for Equity and Inclusive Excellence

How does the university respond to comments or actions that violate the Student Code of Conduct prohibitions against bias-related conduct?

Alleged violations of the Student Code of Conduct are investigated by the staff in the Office of Student Conduct and hearings are conducted using the procedures outlined in the Student Handbook. In addition to the bias-related conduct policy, there are also policies that address bullying, discrimination, harassment and disorderly conduct. A hearing officer or honor board panel determines responsibility after reviewing all available information. If a student is found responsible, outcomes are assigned that consider the context and nature of the violation, as well as any past disciplinary history. A student is required to complete all assigned outcomes.

Outcomes are intended to uphold Elon’s expectations for accountability by facilitating growth and learning opportunities, repairing harms that may have resulted from a student’s behavior, and support the health and safety of all members of the community. Outcomes typically include some form of disciplinary status (for example, university probation) and educational, reflective and/or restorative interventions (for example, educational projects, meetings with university staff and/or participation in restorative dialogue activities). Additional outcomes could include restriction of privileges, removal or relocation from on-campus housing, restriction or removal from student organizations, and/or restrictions on student abroad/away experiences.

Information provided by Jon Dooley, vice president of student life

What anti-bias training has the Elon Campus Safety & Police department completed, or what other precautions have been taken to ensure fairness in policing?

As law enforcement professionals, members of Elon Campus Safety & Police are mandated to obtain ongoing training to provide effective policing that responds to the community’s needs. Officers are particularly conscious of the university environment, which draws people from around the world with diverse cultural backgrounds and experiences. It is important for the office to seek training opportunities that  raise officers’ awareness of cultural differences and biases that exist in everyone. Examples of some of the training members of the Campus Safety & Police staff have attended over the last couple of years include:

  • Crisis Intervention Training
  • Verbal De-Escalation
  • Verbal De-Escalation Train the Trainer
  • Diversity Awareness Webinar
  • Racial Diversity and Effective Communications
  • Strategies to Improve Law Enforcement Interactions & Relationships with Minority Youths
  • Communication Skills with Person in Crisis
  • Equality in Policing
  • Positively Impacting Today’s Youth
  • Antifa/White Nationalist Group Awareness
  • Communication Strategies When Encountering Persons Who Are Deaf or Hard of Hearing
  • Best Practices for Officers During Community Dissent
  • Individual Wellness: Coping with Stress and PTSD
  • The Signs Within: Suicide Prevention, Education and Awareness
  • Long-term Effects of Childhood Adversity
  • Critical Role of Family Support to Prevent Risk & Increase Well Being for LGBTQ Youth

Specifically, on the topic of anti-bias training, in late 2017, the staff completed a two-day class entitled “Understanding the Science of Bias.” The office plans to continue to provide this training for department members when the instructor is available to conduct it in a healthy and effective manner. The police staff members are also encouraged to read and discuss this year’s common reading, “Biased: Uncovering the Hidden Prejudice That Shapes What We See, Think, and Do” by  Jennifer Erberhardt, who situates much of her book in the context of law enforcement.

Information provided by Doug Dotson, interim director of Campus Safety & Police

What is the university’s process for vetting potential gifts and monitoring financial gifts to accomplish priorities like scholarships and programs?

As a private university, Elon relies on the philanthropic generosity of a donor community of alumni, parents and friends who are inspired to make a difference in the lives of students. In particular, donors support scholarship initiatives and building projects. Many donors, especially alumni donors, have long-standing relationships with faculty, staff and the campus. They return to campus often, share in the mission and values of Elon, and stay engaged with the life of the university. Parents are very similar in this regard, even though they tend to have a shorter relationship with the university. Parent support is usually motivated by the value they place on the university engagement experienced by their children. In the cases where a donor makes a major commitment to name an endowment or a campus space, the university’s board of trustees has the authority to approve that naming based on the recommendation of the university’s staff. The university makes such recommendations after vetting the background of major donors. All gifts to Elon are subject to an annual audit by an independent financial auditing firm.

Information provided by Jim Piatt, vice president for university advancement

How are faculty prepared to infuse issues of race in the curriculum and rewarded for anti-racist teaching?

Faculty in minors such as African and African-American Studies, Asian Studies, Latin American Studies and Poverty and Social Justice and in several other academic programs consistently infuse race into their teaching. Several centers support Elon employees’ intercultural development and work interdependently to maximize efforts. Elon’s Center for the Advancement of Teaching and Learning supports inclusive teaching and classrooms through consultations, workshops and reading groups for individuals, departments and the campus community, and through Diversity & Inclusion Grants, which support faculty teams as they adopt inclusive pedagogies, assignments and strategies to foster learning about human diversity. The Center for Equity and Inclusive Excellence is a hub for faculty/staff diversity, equity and inclusion efforts, supporting initiatives and collaborations across campus including anti-bias education for employees. The Center for Race, Ethnicity and Diversity Education (CREDE) offers a suite of resources like the Race-nicity series, a summer race discussion series and tailored consultations for faculty and staff.

In solidarity and support for anti-racist work, Belk Library provides a curated list of anti-racism resources that can help members of our community learn more about the history of systemic racism, its legacies that continue and tools to help all individuals learn to move beyond “not racist” to becoming actively and intentionally anti-racist.

The salience and pervasiveness of racism in our society, however, requires Elon to be more systematic in adopting anti-racist pedagogies and practices. Building upon existing efforts, Academic Council has launched a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Team to examine processes and practices across the university through a DEI lens. As part of that effort, Council will be working with the groups listed above to explore systematic ways to increase intercultural consciousness, hold all faculty responsible for infusing inclusive pedagogy into their teaching and assess and reward efforts so that further progress can be made.

Academic Council and Staff Advisory Council hosted a June virtual discussion about supporting Black students and professionals, facilitated by the director of CREDE. The webinar, “The Effects of Police Brutality and Racism on Black Students and Professionals in Education,” was the basis of the discussion as faculty and staff identified strategies to implement at Elon as early as the fall 2020 semester.

Information provided by Tyrone Jean, assistant dean of students and director of the Center for Race, Ethnicity, and Diversity Education; Deandra Little, assistant provost and director of the Center for the Advancement of Teaching and Learning; and Leigh-Anne Royster, director of the Center for Equity and Inclusive Excellence

How has the racial composition of the Elon community changed over the past 10 years?

Since the beginning of the Elon Commitment strategic plan, the student of color enrollment percentage increased from 12.4 percent in 2010 to 17.9 percent in the 2019-20 academic year. During this same time period, overall enrollment increased 24 percent. This percentage increase for students of color is the result of collective efforts across the university with the admissions team leading the work. Within this same period, the number of Black-identified students has increased. But the number of Black-identified students has not increased at the same rate as the total student enrollment, so the percentage of Black-identified students has actually decreased from 6.4 percent to 5.4 percent over this period. Some of the percentage decrease is explained by the triple enrollment increase of students who identify as multiracial rather than as Black.

Recent Black student enrollment strategies include Elon joining the Coalition for Affordability, Access and Success in 2017 (now known as the Coalition for College) and the Common App in 2019. Both application platforms enhance access for first-year and transfer students. Additional initiatives include focused review of richly diverse high schools, sustained outreach to prospective students through application completion, and partnerships with community organizations focused on K-12 to postsecondary pipelines for students of color. Admissions Diversity Ambassadors (DAs) are university tour guides who support diversity-themed programming including Game Day in the fall and Phoenix Fusion Weekend. DAs engage with students of color throughout each admissions cycle via phone and email. Given COVID-19, Phoenix Fusion was canceled on campus, but the director of diversity recruitment created virtual “Connecting As A Future Phoenix” opportunities, offering students from diverse backgrounds opportunities to learn about Elon, meet one another and ask questions of current students. Diversity-themed off campus information sessions are held annually. Additionally, ongoing fundraising efforts for scholarships are a significant area of the Elon LEADS comprehensive campaign.

Our faculty of color have increased as well during the Elon Commitment, going from 12.2 percent to 17 percent, with Black faculty historically representing the largest group of faculty of color at 7.2 percent.

Boldly Elon: Our Strategic Plan for 2030 calls for building a healthier and more diverse, equitable and inclusive community, where all students faculty and staff experience belonging and well-being. The plan calls on the university to increase representational diversity of students, faculty and staff from underrepresented groups; increase support for marginalized groups; and ensure all students, faculty, and staff advance their intercultural competency and learning. Achieving this plan will require expanded practices of recruiting, supporting and retaining students, faculty and staff who will thrive during their Elon experience.

Information provided by Jeff Stein, vice president for Strategic initiatives; Randy Williams, Associate vice president for inclusive Excellence; and Greg Zaiser, vice president for enrollment

How does the university plan to reconcile the omission of important figures and events of its past with the efforts to be a leader in higher education, in North Carolina and in Alamance County?

In August 2018, President Connie Ledoux Book charged the Commemoration Committee, now the Committee on Elon History and Memory, to explore questions related to historical memory and collective identity at Elon University. The committee aims to ensure that the university community finds and tells the untold stories of Elon, truly learns from a comprehensive history of the university and advances a more inclusive environment. Within this work, a subcommittee has focused efforts on the examination of race and anti-Black racism and coordinated Elon’s membership to Universities Studying Slavery. In summer 2020, the Committee is scheduled to present President Book with a set of recommendations based on its findings, including a process for naming and renaming buildings on campus and other action steps to engage the greater community.

President Book created another group, the President’s Advisory Council on Inclusive Excellence, which serves as an on-campus advisory body for the president and is comprised of action-oriented subcommittees of faculty, staff and senior administrators who serve as institutional champions for inclusive excellence. One of the three subcommittees is Infrastructure and Policies, and it focuses on building and stewarding institutional resources for inclusive excellence initiatives, as well as examining institutional policies and practices related to equity.

Inclusive Excellence is the shared responsibility of Elon University members to act deliberately toward equitable outcomes through:

  • collective strength derived from people of all identities, abilities and perspectives;
  • pluralistic orientation reflected in pedagogies, programs and policies; and
  • positive cross-cultural engagement at all times and in all places.

Central to Elon’s mission of transforming mind, body and spirit, Inclusive Excellence requires addressing systems in ways that achieve equity and help individuals thrive.

Information provided by Jeff Stein, vice president for Strategic initiatives, and Randy Williams, Associate vice president for inclusive Excellence