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Task Force Issues Diversity Report

Professor Peter Coleman and Security Officer Dennis Chambers presented President Arthur Levine with the final report compiled by the Teachers College Task Force on Diversity and Community. The Task Force met through the summer to compile the report.

Coleman, who co-chaired the Task Force with Chambers, said, "The approach we took, which was an attempt to be inclusive and to allow for open discussion of the issues, was not necessarily efficient, but was a necessary process."

"I was impressed that we were able to stay on task and get so much accomplished in that time frame," Chambers added. "There was a lot of commitment from the members."

Chambers also praised the President for showing his commitment to the issues. "That gave the committee strength that we had the support of the President," he said.

The Task Force was charged by President Levine with fashioning a plan for enhancing the diversity and quality of community at the College. To this end, the President brought together a diverse group of individuals with different perspectives on the problems at TC.

At the time he said, "Many of the positive acts proposed require collective action by the members of the community." Coleman echoed this sentiment and added that a strong community is one that achieves unity by embracing constructive controversy and disagreement.

The Task Force met with this philosophy in mind and produced this report, which presents a series of immediate activities and recommends short-term responses (beginning in Fall 1999) and long- term responses (over the next ten years).

For those members of the community who were currently in need of resources and support, the Task Force compiled a list of the College's internal support resources and arranged to bring in a crisis interventionist, Psychologist Dr. Kendra Haven.

The Task Force also took an inventory of past and current initiatives on diversity and community at the College.

They opened the discussion to the community in various ways and reviewed the data in the summary documents. These documents included Professor Barbara Wallace's DOVE Report, the assessment by an outside consultant, President Levine's April 29, 1999, letter to the TC community, and The Management Network's report. Findings were divided into three general areas: Diversity/Discrimination; Civility/Community; and Academics.

Subcommittees looked at the three areas more closely and put together recommendations and ways to assess progress.

"Part of our recommendation is to have the College have a mechanism like a town hall meeting or dialogue sessions on an ongoing basis," Coleman said. "We can't expect to solve these issues solely with policy. You solve these issues with policy, good leadership and a space where people can talk about the issues." He added that several important initiatives should begin this fall, but substantial change around these issues requires a long-term commitment.

Substantial changes in the culture, structure, functioning and output of the College beginning this fall would begin to meet the objectives of establishing Teachers College "as a magnet institution that attracts, supports and retains diverse students, faculty and staff at all levels, through its demonstrated commitment to social justice, its respectful and vibrant community, and its encouragement and support of each individual in the achievement of their full potential."

The Task Force recommended adjusting the culture of the College to reflect a determination to enhance diversity and community in its mission statement and through leadership, management and accountability. Five-year strategic plans should be re-examined to reflect specific goals for addressing this mission.

Structural changes would include establishing a budget line to support resources necessary to meet these goals, and providing support for the activities of the Institute for Urban and Minority Education (IUME) and the cross-cultural roundtable. Critical decision-making processes should involve more members of underrepresented minorities. Joint initiatives with Columbia University centers and programs that deal with diversity and community should be established as well.

The development of various means of measuring and improving student-faculty-staff interactions, recruitment efforts, training, and accountability for behavior were recommended. It was also suggested that the dialogue continue and become more specific in looking at individual populations, rather than at general multicultural issues.

"This was another stage in a process," Coleman remarked. Similar concerns were addressed by the Policy and Planning committee in the 1960s and 1970s, and problems were voiced in 1994/1995 by the Faculty of Color. "What we hope to do is build on what other people did by taking the agenda forward and continuing this work."

Chambers added. "The report is a platform to start from, but everyone is here as part of the community, and everyone's input is needed to have the report come alive."

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