Update: Access and Opportunity, Diversity and Inclusion

A Message to the USC Community

April 19, 2016

Last November I wrote about efforts the university would undertake to increase access and opportunity, strengthen our commitment to diversity and equity, and ensure a campus climate that is inclusive of all.  I noted that a commitment to diversity, inclusion, and equity has long been a part of USC’s history – from our first students in the late-19th century to current initiatives to increase access to higher education for disadvantaged, underrepresented, and first-generation students.  I also noted that our commitment to diversity and inclusion reflects our desire to enrich learning by embracing a broad range of ideas and perspectives, our support for the cause of social justice, and our realization that, in today’s increasingly global context, the more diverse the community, the greater its potential for economic and cultural prosperity.

President Nikias and I are heartened by the passionate commitment of our students, faculty, staff, and alumni in pursuit of these broad goals.  I offer sincere thanks to those who joined in critical dialogue to identify areas of improvement, debate possible courses of action, and propose solutions.  I want to single out the USC Academic Senate, the Graduate Student Government (GSG), and the Undergraduate Student Government (USG) for their tireless work and contributions.

As this academic year draws to a close, I want to report on the progress we have made to date.  I think it is likely that no university in the country has achieved so much in such a short period of time.  I apologize in advance for the length of this memo, but I want our community to realize how much we have collectively accomplished.

A .Structural Changes

  1. Provost Diversity Task Force.  As described in the fall 2015 memo, the Provost Diversity Task Force was formed.  The Task Force also set up an advisory board to assist with its work.  The Task Force was convened to provide specific data-driven proposals and suggestions directly to me.  It met regularly during the spring term and made a number of recommendations, many of which were adopted and are described below.  Members of the Task Force – co-chaired by Vice President Ainsley Carry and Dean Varun Soni and joined by faculty and staff representatives Jody Armour, Ginger Clark, Domenika Lynch, and Debra Langford, and graduate and undergraduate student representatives Christina Gutierrez, Nikita Hamilton, Rini Sampath, and Moira Turner – have worked thoughtfully and diligently on our behalf.  I offer my personal thanks; they deserve the thanks of the entire USC community.
  1. Creation of a Diversity Council.  I have accepted the Diversity Task Force recommendation to create a Diversity Council that reports directly to the Provost to continue the positive momentum of this year’s Task Force.  In essence, this means the Task Force will be institutionalized and remain an ongoing part of the university.  The challenges of diversity, equity, and inclusion endure and, though we have arguably accomplished more this year in diversity affairs than any other year in USC’s history, there is more we can do.  The Council will include representatives from the Academic Senate, USG, GSG and the Staff Assembly, and occasional ad hoc members as well, and will remain in dialogue with the work taking place in the schools, especially as that work relates to our new diversity liaisons.
  1. School Diversity Liaisons.  Each academic unit has appointed one or more diversity liaison(s).  The new liaisons met during the spring, with me and with their leadership within each school, to determine how they can best function in their respective school contexts.  Liaisons are responsible for working with their deans to develop, lead, and manage an equity and inclusion plan for their respective schools in consultation with diversity liaisons from other schools and departments, and in consideration of best practices in diversity, equity, and inclusion at peer and aspirational universities.  Diversity liaisons will lead efforts in their school to develop five-year plans to enhance diversity, equity, and inclusion and will work closely with the Office of the Provost and other diversity liaisons to strengthen existing policies and programs and to develop new evidence-based policies and strategies that reflect data trends.  The work done in the individual schools will be described in their diversity plans, including recommendations for implementation.  These plans will be made publicly available.
  1. Changes at the Office of Equity and Diversity.  As you know, the university’s commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion extends to freedom from sexual violence and harassment.  The university recently hired Gretchen Dahlinger Means as Title IX Coordinator and Executive Director of the Office of Equity and Diversity.  Gretchen comes to USC with extensive experience with sexual assault and complex litigation casework, including rape, domestic violence, and physical assault cases.  She has a distinguished professional record, most recently with the U.S. Marine Corps (Western Region) and the San Diego County Office of the District Attorney.  This is a significant hire for the university and for USC students, staff, faculty and visitors.
  1. Creation of DPS Community Advisory Board (CAB).  Jointly with the Senior Vice President for Administration, I accepted the Diversity Task Force recommendation for the creation of an independent Community Advisory Board (CAB).  This new direction reflects a broad campus consensus that emerged during the current academic year.  USC’s Academic Senate Campus Climate Committee called for the formation of a campus police commission of faculty, students, and staff to assess campus safety and profiling issues, as the USC Department of Public Safety (DPS) announced its plan to use a new California law in this area (the Racial and Identity Profiling Act of 2015) as a guide to its practices in community policing and elected voluntarily to comply with measures that address race and identity.  I thank Chief John Thomas for being open to the creation of an independent advisory board, with a scope larger than the one created by the new California law, in order to strengthen its relations with the community and the university.  The Community Advisory Board will advise and assist DPS in addressing issues such as community quality of life, university community involvement, and culturally competent officer training.
  1. Data Transparency.  I accepted recommendations made by the Academic Senate, USG, GSG and the Diversity Task Force that the university make a commitment to collecting and making available current demographic data on students, faculty, and staff.  All these recommendations call for increased transparency and accessibility to demographic data – race, ethnicity, gender, nationality, etc.  Like USC’s peer and aspirant institutions, we value data and evidence as guideposts for moving the university toward desired outcomes, including the many diversity initiatives described here.  Data are now available on the USC Institutional Research website, http://oir.usc.edu/faculty-and-student-diversity/.


B. Diversity Instruction and Planning

  1. Changes to General Education.  Following over two years of faculty deliberations, the university adopted a new General Education program.  Campus discussions continued as the new program was being implemented, including significant campus debate and deliberation juxtaposing the previous GE diversity requirement, which focused on domestic sociopolitical issues of justice and equality, with the new diversity requirement, which addresses these and broader themes.  As debate continued, it became evident that the new category’s commitment to tackling issues of diversity was insufficiently clear.In light of these concerns, the GE Committee recommended a revision of the language describing the Global Perspectives requirement.  This revision included an expanded clarification of the intention behind the two Global Perspectives course categories: “The two requirements in Global Perspectives prepare students to act as socially responsible members of the global community, respectful of the values and traditions of diverse cultures, aware of the structures of power that affect people differently by race, class, gender and other socially-constructed categories, sensitive to the interplay between worldwide problems and specific, local challenges.”  The committee also proposed a title change for course category in question: from “Citizenship in a Global Era” to “Citizenship in a Diverse World.”  I have accepted the revisions proposed by the General Education committee and have asked the committee to review criteria to ensure that courses approved for the revised category match the intention expressed in the expanded clarification.
  1. Diversity and Strategic Planning.  I have charged the Strategic Planning Committee to make diversity a central focus of the university’s new strategic plan.  The committee deliberated on diversity and access, and has drafted a university-wide diversity survey, which is set for distribution in the coming days.  The next strategic plan will establish institutional goals and identify metrics to ensure progress and accountability.


C. Changes to Communications and Outreach

  1. Diversity Website.  A new diversity website has been launched – https://diversity.usc.edu/.  The diversity website provides a convenient portal to information on diversity, inclusion, equity, access, and opportunity at USC and to the Diversity Task Force’s deliberations.  It provides a chronology of important milestones, events and resolutions and copies of university memos (including this update).  It lists members of the Diversity Task Force, provides meeting summaries, directs students and others to campus resources, and provides a listing of campus programs, school-based initiatives, events, training and special opportunities.  It invites anyone interested to participate online and have their voices heard.
  1. Open Campus Meetings.  Several open meetings have been held across the university on topics including: “Where we have been; Where we are going” (January 20), “Profiling, Safety and the Department of Public Service” (February 17), “Funding, Space and Student Centers” (March 9), “Faculty Diversity, Hiring and Retention” (March 30), and “Student Financial Aid and Admission” (April 20).  A full schedule is available on the diversity website.  I thank Professor Tara McPherson, Cinematic Arts, and Professor George Sanchez, Dornsife College, for organizing and leading these meeting.


D. New Programs to Continue Building and Supporting a Diverse Faculty now and into the Future

  1. National Center for Faculty Development and Diversity (NCFDD).  To further demonstrate our commitment to ensuring that all faculty receive the mentorship and development they deserve, USC has become an institutional member of the National Center for Faculty Development and Diversity (NCFDD).  NCFDD is a nationally-recognized leader dedicated to helping faculty, particularly diverse faculty, devise career success skills and strategies to overcome problems related to equity and inclusion that can arise in university settings. The NCFDD program provides faculty, postdoctoral scholars, and graduate students with appropriate support and mentoring in a confidential context, as well as the opportunity to acquire additional professional development skills to help each scholar achieve her or his goals.
  1. Dual-Career Initiative.  We have launched the Dual Career Initiative that offers faculty support for spouses or partners with both academic and non-academic careers.  To support this initiative, Vice Provost Elizabeth Graddy has appointed a Dual Career Consultant in the Office of Academic and Faculty Affairs to provide direct and customized assistance to prospective faculty and their spouses or partners.  A competitive pool of funds was also established to support select dual career hires. An important objective of this initiative is to strengthen efforts to diversify the USC faculty.
  1. CONACYT Postdoctoral Scholars.  In collaboration with Mexico’sNational Council of Science and Technology (CONACYT – the Mexican equivalent to the National Science Foundation), USC provides postdoctoral scholars from Mexico with 1-2 year residencies in fields related to science, technology, and innovation.  Postdoctoral Fellows receive salaries up to $60,000 USD per year in addition to $8,000 toward a competitive benefits package.  This year’s inaugural class includes 11 postdocs who began in August of 2016.  For the coming year, the program has been increased to include 30 potential scholars.
  1. Graduate Initiative in Diversity, Inclusion, and Access (DIA).  The Diversity, Inclusion and Access initiative at the Graduate School is designed to help our schools and programs increase diversity, create a more inclusive and supportive graduate culture, build new pathways to recruit highly qualified underrepresented students to USC, and support graduate students as they progress toward their professional goals.  The initiative provides funding jointly with schools to recruit strong and diverse Ph.D. cohorts, creates a broader applicant pool for programs’ recruiting efforts, and works with schools and campus organizations to enhance inclusion and academic professional development.  The DIA initiative recognizes our duty to ensure a diverse pipeline of students at USC who will serve as future faculty at other institutions.  I am grateful to the many individual graduate students, members of the Graduate School Advisory Council, Advisory Council Diversity Task Force, Graduate Student Government, Academic Senate, and many staff and faculty who contributed greatly to shaping this initiative.

E. Increasing Access and Opportunities for Students

  1. Increased Funding and Staffing Support for Cultural Centers.  I have accepted the Task Force recommendations concerning cultural centers and have authorized the Division of Student Affairs to address inequities and needs related to student wages, staffing, and spaces allocated to the four existing cultural centers.  I have also authorized creation of a long-term strategic plan to address requests for future cultural and resource centers.  Our commitment to enrolling the most diverse and highly qualified classes to USC includes a duty to support those students once they are here.  Outstanding cultural centers are crucial to those efforts.
  1. Yellow Ribbon Program to Support Veterans Enrolled at USC.  The university has a long history of supporting veterans of the armed services, many of whom come to USC via the community college system and many of whom are first-generation scholars.  Our participation in the Post-9/11 GI Bill Yellow Ribbon Program means that scholarships set aside for student veterans at USC are matched by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.  In addition to doubling the graduate student veteran scholarships last year, this year we increased our Yellow Ribbon scholarships, enabling all admitted undergraduate student veterans to receive the maximum scholarship allocation from the VA.  This will dramatically reduce barriers to access for students who have served our nation faithfully.
  1. Syria Students and Scholars.  In response to a GSG resolution passed January 2016, the Office of Academic and Faculty Affairs, in conjunction with Global Initiatives, has gathered the support of various units (e.g., Viterbi, Price, Annenberg, Dornsife, and the Office of Undergraduate Admissions) to commit to providing scholarships each academic year for six Syrian students who meet the standards for admission to the university.  As a member in the Institute of International Education (IIE) and part of the IIE Scholar Rescue Fund, USC is proud to join the IIE Syria Consortium.  This deepens the university’s commitment to serving the global public good.
  1. First Generation Student College Summit – Path to Success.  The university sponsored the “First-Generation Student College Summit: Path to Success” which brought together over 350 first-generation students to discuss challenges, identify resources, and discuss research findings related to this unique group.  First-generation students make up about 15% of USC’s incoming freshman class.  The Summit provided an opportunity for those students to meet with key faculty, staff and alumni, and to meet each other.  The February 6th event also provided an opportunity for students to share personal experiences and successes and to connect as a community.  It underscored the university’s commitment to this growing population of USC students.
  1. First Generation Presentation to the Board of Trustees.  At the university’s annual Trustee’s Retreat this month, a panel on “Access and Opportunity: USC’s Commitment to First-Generation Students” was planned by the Office of the President, which I convened.  The panel highlighted the achievements of these students, including one panelist who came to USC via the university’s Neighborhood Academic Initiative (NAI).
  2. Programming on Diversity, Inclusion and Equity.  With funding provided by the Office of the Provost and funding from USC schools, numerous events were sponsored this year focusing on diversity and inclusion and/or demonstrating the importance of diversity to USC’s academic mission.  Events sponsored by many of our schools (Dornsife, Social Work, Price, Dramatic Arts, Gould, etc.), included a joint conference with UC Irvine entitled, “Freedom of Expression in a Changing World: What Cannot Be Said” led by USC Gould law professor Jody Armour, and “Turning the Page on Hate: Building Community for a More Civil Society” led by Dornsife professor Manuel Pastor, Visions and Voices performances, and a lecture co-sponsored by El Centro Chicano and the Office of the Provost by Dr. Pedro Valdez-Sosa, Director of the Cuban Neuroscience Center in Havana.

F. Gifts and Grants

As I mentioned in the fall 2015 memo, the university annually commits more than $80 million of its resources to supporting diversity efforts at USC and in the community.  However, I would also like to highlight recent additional successes.

  1. Fundraising. Gifts secured this year to support diversity, inclusion, equity and access include a $10 million gift from George Lucas and Mellody Hobson for the USC School of Cinematic Arts which will provide scholarships for African-American and Latino students.  A $5 million gift from the Annenberg Foundation will increase access to journalism education and professional development for students from diverse ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds.  Another gift I want to highlight came to the university earlier last year (February 2015) from USC Trustee Joan Payden who pledged $5 million to support young people from the local community enrolled in the USC Neighborhood Academic Initiative.  The entire USC community is immensely grateful for these amazing gifts in support of university efforts to promote diversity, access and opportunity.
  1. Research and Community Support Grants.  USC has secured a $24 million grant from the federal government to support USC Head Start programs over the next 5 years (about $4.8 million each year).  An additional $6.7 million grant was secured by researchers at the USC Rossier School of Education to study first-generation student transitions to college – one of the largest grants of its kind in the Rossier School’s history.  These are new allocations this year and do not include pre-existing support for research and community service.

The challenges of diversity, inclusion and equity traverse our national history and every sector of society, including higher education.  They strike at heart of our sense of justice and equal opportunity, and our sense of who we are – our national and global identity.  Every generation grapples with these challenges in their own social and historical contexts.  The struggle for change and social justice is ongoing.  It predates and will continue beyond our lifetimes.  Recognizing this is not pessimism, it is optimism writ large – a recognition that the future is in our hands.

USC will not shy from this calling.  We stand ready to grapple.  We face a powerful river of challenges related to diversity, human differences, inclusion and equity.  We do not aspire to stop those currents – the promise of greatness is nourished in those waters.  When we act together, progress is made, and we have made significant progress by acting together this year.   As we move forward together, let us affirm and renew our shared responsibility in creating a campus climate that reflects and embodies the values, ideals, and aspirations of our global Trojan Family.


As always, I welcome your thoughts at .


Michael W. Quick
Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs