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Oxford’s 2021 Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Report reflects on progress, charts path forward
2021 Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Report

The year-end Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Report provides an overview of Oxford's recent efforts and plans for the future.

At the core of Oxford is an educational community where students, faculty, and staff can get to know each other and come together on a pedestrian-friendly campus. It's a place that attracts a mix of people, beliefs, values, and identities, and we continue to seek ways to make our community an even more welcoming environment for all.

"This sense of community is palpable and fostered by our fundamental commitment to value and support diversity and to strive for equity and inclusion in all that we do," said Doug Hicks, Dean of Oxford College.

Oxford's 2021 year-end Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion report highlights commitments and progress, identifies areas for improvement, and charts a path forward. The report details the many programs dedicated to upholding inclusive values for students, faculty, and staff, as well as goals for the continued development of processes and opportunities that create a fair and welcoming campus climate.

"A key part of our commitment to equity and inclusion is naming those parts of our story that do not yet live up to our values," Hicks said. "Along with active efforts to examine our history and create curricular and co-curricular programs, the DEI report is a broad-ranging picture of many initiatives where Oxford has had success and where we can create more opportunity for everyone. We accomplished a number of our goals in the past year and are supporting several new initiatives. We will not rest in Oxford's collective work of creating a community of belonging for all students, faculty, and staff."

Susan Newborn, Director of Human Resources, added: "We have several programs that are dedicated to making campus life fair and inclusive. We also have a number of ways to build on those programs for the future. We are excited to continue that work, which only enlivens our already vibrant community."

Oxford students, faculty, and staff have each made efforts to involve and support all members of the community. For student opportunities, there is an array of cultural and identity-based organizations on campus, including the Black Student Alliance, Ox-First (comprised of first-generation college students), OLA (Organización de Latinx Americanos), ReVision (a feminist and gender-issue club), and the Oxford Chinese Student Association. While these groups provide camaraderie for their student members, they also collaborate with Campus Life to advocate for needed change.

"OLA is an essential part of Oxford as it provides a space for the Latinx community and more possibilities for representation," said America Ruiz, president of the OLA, regarding her organization's role on campus. "We try to balance having events that allow the Latinx community talk about their own identity experience with other events that simply teach students outside of the community about the Latinx experience."

Several other organizations are sponsored by The Office of Spiritual and Religious Life, which provides resources and counsel for groups on campus.

"We are privileged to support students from diverse religious, spiritual and philosophical traditions," said Oxford Chaplain Lyn Pace. "We work with our eleven groups to create a variety of worship, prayer, and practice opportunities throughout the year."

Pace has been active in several other community initiatives, leading "Take a Break Tuesday"—a weekly gathering that offers a wide variety of programming and resources for students. Throughout 2020 and 2021, this included sessions dedicated to voter registration and international education week—and planning events such as the annual Martin Luther King Jr. celebration.

"It is important to reach our community where they are and then create meaningful spaces for dialogue and education," Pace said. "In 2022, we hope to establish an Inter-Religious Council at Oxford that would help us meet these goals and strengthen community."

The Counseling and Career Services Center prioritizes conveying an understanding of mental health within a social justice framework. In addition to crucial counseling services offered to students as they deal with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and other issues, the Center has offered programs that address the intersection of social justice concerns and student distress.

"Perhaps more amplified in the past couple of years, we realize how important it is to offer a more nuanced narrative of students' struggles, located in the context of the challenges in the world," said Gary Glass, Director of Counseling and Career Services. "Increasingly, we aim to expand an understanding of 'mental health issues' to enhance awareness that much of what actually causes the ever-increasing mental distress in our students are the impacts of misogyny, racism, homophobia, wealth and education disparities, religious intolerance, and other oppressive forces that make our attention to DEI work so necessary."

Oxford has worked to make dorm life an inclusive and welcoming experience as well, as the Residential Education and Services office was awarded the 2021 Assessment and Impact Award in Housing and Residence Life by Skyfactor Benchworks for high performance on survey scores "related to diverse interactions and satisfaction with student staff."

Faculty have also endorsed a race and ethnicity general education requirement in partnership with Emory College of Arts and Sciences, and faculty in Oxford and in Atlanta are offering courses for this component. In collaboration with the Atlanta Campus, a diversity, equity, and inclusion module has been a part of new student orientation for the last two years.

Oxford also has joined forces with the entire university to examine Emory's history, which began in Oxford in 1836. The Twin Memorials Working Groupchaired by Oxford Dean Doug Hicks and The Rev. Dr. Gregory C. Ellison II, Associate Professor at Emory's Candler School of Theology—is committed to honoring and memorializing the untold experiences, stories, and contributions of enslaved individuals and their descendants who lived and worked on the university's original campus in Oxford, Ga.

The Working Group, in association with the Baskervill design firm, has met with the City of Oxford and Covington community, particularly local descendants of enslaved persons, to help conceptualize twin memorials on the Oxford and Atlanta campuses. There are also ongoing listening sessions for Oxford students, faculty, and staff.

"As we continue to work for a more just and inclusive community, we must acknowledge our history and the role that the institution of slavery played in the creation of our campus and university—on land that was originally inhabited and stewarded by the Muskogee people," Hicks said. "These monuments will honor enslaved persons and their descendants who have been unacknowledged members of the Emory community and will also be incorporated into our educational programming, providing our students an important pedagogy of place."

To lead Oxford's student-focused work on DEI, Oxford recently welcomed Wade Manora Jr. as the new director of the Office of Student Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. Before coming to Oxford, Manora served as the Director of the Office of Multicultural Student Affairs and the Director of the African American Male Initiative at the University of North Georgia.

Manora, Newborn, and Molly McGehee, Associate Dean for Faculty Development and Associate Professor of English, will form a small working group in the 2022 spring semester to draft a unifying strategic mission with clear vision and goals for diversity, equity, and inclusion. The group will bring this proposal to the Dean's Council for refinement later this year, as well as to faculty, staff, and students.

"Our goal is to create a campus community where all feel a sense of belonging," Hicks said. "Last year I believe we made significant progress, and I also see ways we can coordinate and focus our efforts to ensure we are measuring progress. I look forward to ongoing and new collaborations with the remarkable students, faculty, and staff who are members of this diverse community."

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