Campus Diversity & Inclusion

Diversity, equality and inclusion efforts

At Union, we recognize that meeting our goals in diversity and inclusion is a continual process that often requires an examination of our own perspectives and a willingness to appreciate the perspectives of others. It also requires an honest and open acknowledgement of our personal and institutional history. The following is a list of some of the ongoing initiatives aimed at fostering a community that embraces and achieves our diversity and inclusion goals.

2020-2021 DEI Accomplishment

  • Union is part of the membership of the Liberal Arts Colleges Racial Equity Leadership Alliance (LACRELA) under the USC Race & Equity Center. Sixty-eight other liberal arts college presidents in LACRELA including President Harris have quarterly meetings to discuss strategies and share advice on navigating racial crises on their campuses or addressing national racial incidents or controversies. Additionally, all Union employees have access to the recording of the monthly DEI workshops that LACRELA offers. You may find the recording under Nexus’ Diversity, Equity and Inclusion folder.

  • The Presidential Committee on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion was formed in fall 2020. Their charge was to develop an institutionalized DEI and Land Acknowledgement Statement as well as conduct a DEI audit to identify our strengths and gaps in our DEI effort. The audit provided the chief diversity officers with a deeper understanding of the DEI landscape at the College and they will be working with college constituencies to implement different initiatives that will enhance our community and make Union a more inclusive and equitable learning environment and workplace. To learn more about the current DEI landscape at the college, please visit Diversity at a Glance, Reports and Data.

  • History & Symbols Committee - The purpose of the committee is to examine our campus spaces, symbols, and monuments influence and advance an inclusive learning environment and further foster a community of belonging. This committee partners with academic departments, the library, and communications for ongoing exhibits and information dissemination. After serious review from the History and Symbols committee, Senior Staff and the Board of Trustees, the Idol will be restored and relocated. The eight-foot tall Idol is an ancient Chinese statue of a lion and cub. It was donated to the College by an alumnus, the Rev. John M.W. Farnham, in 1874. Almost from the moment it arrived, painting the Idol had been a ritual for students. Moved several times during its stay at Union, the Idol previously had been in the courtyard where the F.W. Olin Center was built in 1998. In consultation with student leaders, another object will be selected over the summer and installed to allow the painting tradition to continue. There will be additional programming in the fall addressing the Idol and its history at Union College.

  • Formation of BIPOC Employee Alliance - The BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and People of Color) Employee Alliance was formed in fall 2020 by BIPOC employees. This group is for BIPOC employees at Union to foster a community and create a visible social network for those employees who identify as BIPOC. BIPOC Employee Alliance recognizes our intersectionalities as communities spanning borders, genders, races, and other identities. We recognize the unique cultures and experiences of our communities and join in solidarity for the advancement and retention of employees who identify as BIPOC. For more information, please contact Dr. Deidre Hill-Butler at butlerd@union.edu.

  • Partnering with Jenny Fredricks, Dean of Academic Departments and Programs, the CDOs played an active role facilitating UCID (Union Coalition for Inclusiveness and Diversity) meetings for faculty and staff in the 2020-2021 academic year. We offered multiple sessions of workshops that focused on DEI, topics included inclusive pedagogy examples facilitated by faculty teaching Minerva courses, gender-inclusive pedagogy, engaging in civil discourse in the workplace and dealing with death and grief during COVID.

  • EverFi Employees and Students Training - Starting this fall, we will be implementing the EverFi platform to offer DEI training and title IX related modules for our students and employees. All of our first-year students (Class of 2024) completed the DEI, sexual assault and alcohol awareness program module last summer.

  • Additional DEI professional development opportunities for college employees and students via LinkedIn Learning - To support our ongoing DEI effort, students and college employees are encouraged to engage in a variety of virtual workshops through LinkedIn Learning. CDOs will provide campus members with a curated curriculum in fall 2021.

  • In May 2021, we conducted the National Assessment of Collegiate Campus Climates survey with our students. The data that were collected in this survey will help us and the DEI committee make informed decisions in enhancing our college environment. A campus climate survey for staff and faculty will follow in 2022 and 2023 respectively.

  • Conducted multiple constructive engagement programs around civil discourse. These included “I’m Right, You’re Wrong: A Civil Discourse Series at Union College, and Fireside Chat with the CDOs.

  • Research and Teaching Excellence - continued partnership with academic affairs regarding classroom curriculum, classroom climate and instructional design. Collaborations included yearly Faculty Development Incubator, winter term sponsored writing and research collaborative sessions and ongoing access to instructional design tools for curriculum development.

Selected additional DEI activities across Union College:

  • Athletics: Formation of Committee on Athletics Inclusion - In providing internal consultation for Union College Athletics, the Committee on Athletics Inclusion was created in winter 2021. The committee consists of student-athletes, coaches, administrators, faculty and a member of the CDO team. The goals of the committee are to continually advance efforts and progress within Athletics by examining its current practices, and provide development opportunities for student-athletes, staff and coaches to increase engagement in and around DEI topics. Representation and belonging are examined in relation to athletics participation, and collaboration with campus partners is sought out to create an inclusive environment for student-athletes to thrive.

  • Office of Intercultural Affairs: BIPOC Scholar Network (BIPOC-SN) will be launched this fall under the Office of Intercultural Affairs. This group is open to all students who identify as BIPOC. Partnering with different offices, the goal of this student network group is to offer a safe space for BIPOC students to connect, especially students who are not part of academic scholarship programs. Through BIPOC-SN, participants will have the opportunity to explore their own racial identities, develop professional skills and network with other BIPOC students, faculty/staff and alumni. For more information, please contact Christa Grant, grantc@union.edu.

  • Office of Accommodative Services has partnered with Mary Simeoli, ADA Compliance Officer and provided a presentation on (dis)abilities and best practices that can positively impact students and employees with disabilities on Union campus.

  • The Office of Fraternity and Sorority Life has implemented a new member education series that focuses on DEI. Multiple Greek organizations have partnered with the Office of Intercultural Affairs and the Office of Title IX to develop strategies to promote DEI.

  • Eppler-Wolff Counseling Center: Offered specific group counseling sessions for students who identified as BIPOC and LGBTQIA+ to support their needs during the pandemic.

  • LGBTQIA+ Affairs Committee, Intercultural Affairs and Student Activities offered direct support to Union Pride to ensure the success of Pride Week 2021. Highlights include 1st Annual Pride Fest and Drag Bingo with Jada Essence Hall.

  • Pride Union, LGBTQIA+ Affairs Committee, Intercultural Affairs and Title IX Office offered its first student and administrator-led ally training that focused on campus climate and issues facing LGBTQIA+ at Union College in May 2021 in addition to the annual ally training that is being offered each October during LGBT History Month.

  • Office of College Relations has collaborated with Intercultural Affairs on Black History Month and Asian Pacific Islander Heritage Month events by hosting two DEI programs that featured alumni of color who discussed their experiences - Jennifer Smith-Turner ‘74 and Dr. Estelle Cooke-Sampson '74. Additionally, the DEI Alumni Council was formed in fall 2020. Membership consists of Union alums, administrators and one CDO.

  • Working with different religious/spiritual directors at Union, the Office of Religious and Spiritual Life began the Interfaith Dialogue program in winter 2021 to engage faculty, students and staff in more conversations on difficult topics through the interfaith lens and perspectives. Topics included dealing with grief and loss and healing from generational trauma.

  • DEI Efforts Prior to 2020

    At Union, we recognize that meeting our goals in diversity and inclusion is a continual process that often requires an examination of our own perspectives and a willingness to appreciate the perspectives of others. It also requires an honest and open acknowledgement of our personal and institutional history. The following is a list of some of the ongoing initiatives aimed at fostering a community that embraces and achieves our diversity and inclusion goals.

    • A four-member diversity leadership team supports a campus-wide culture that values diversity and inclusion.
    • In the wake of national events in spring 2020, the College held a forum on racial injustice that included students, alumni, faculty, staff, administrators and community leaders.
    • Union established a Presidential Initiative on Race, Power and Privilege, with initial discussions around five key areas: cultural competency, curricular change, faculty and staff diversity, campus safety and increased support for BIPOC students.
    • The College established a series – the Forum on Constructive Engagement – to explore issues from a range of differing perspectives in an open and respectful environment.
    • President David Harris created the Union College Challenge, asking each member of the Union community to commit to something that takes them out of their comfort zone, and to share the experience with their peers.
    • The College is committed to AOP, which supports first-generation students, and Posse, which brings to campus a small and diverse group of talented students that reflect the demographic mix of the nation.
    • Union created the Empowerment Social Justice Retreat to help students become active allies through the exploration of self-identities and others' perspectives.
    • A coordinator of multicultural recruiting is a senior member of the admissions team.
    • Updated faculty search guidelines provide departments with greater autonomy, but also more accountability for diversifying the faculty. Enhanced training for faculty searches has also been implemented.
    • Union established the Making U Possible program to meet the full financial need of all admitted students through family grants and to provide a persistence fund to cover incidental student expenses.
    • Union's Coalition for Inclusiveness and Diversity is comprised of faculty and staff who are committed to creating a diverse and welcoming campus. UCID meetings are held regularly and include discussions on attracting, recruiting, hiring and retaining diverse faculty and staff. It is also a safe space where faculty and staff can discuss challenges they are facing around diversity, and strategies for creating more inclusive classrooms and office environments.
    • Grants from National Science Foundation, Hearst Foundation and NYS HEOP support promising students from economically disadvantaged households and students from underrepresented groups in STEM.
    • In Dining, we host cultural food talks and celebrations, and work closely with campus spiritual leaders to meet the needs of students who are observing religious holidays.
    • Student Activities supports organizations that bring cultural diversity to campus. It also hosts Identity Dialogues, a partnership between Student Forum and other organizations (like the Black Student Union and Womens U) that examines common misperceptions about cultures.
    • Intercultural Affairs hosts events on social justice and events around Lunar New Year, Black History Month and Pride Month.
    • The College celebrated the impact of Union women on their communities and the world with the Making Our Mark commemorative site.
    • A Lavender Graduation Ceremony honors LGBTQIA+ and ally students, and acknowledges their achievements and contributions to the College.
    • An ALANA Celebration of Success honors the accomplishments of graduating ALANA seniors (African-American/Black, Latina/o, Hispanic, Asian/Pacific Islander, Indigenous/Native American and other students of color).
    • The Bridges Program pairs first-generation, first-year students with staff and faculty who were the first in their families to graduate from college.
    • Minerva Houses provide intentional diversity and inclusion programs and promotion of intercultural affairs.
    • New fraternity and sorority members are required to participate in a cultural competency workshop. The College also continues to focus on the growth and sustainability of its Multicultural Greek Council to ensure students have the opportunity to participate in a culturally-based Greek organization.
    • Students have many opportunities to volunteer in the local community and engage with people from a range of backgrounds in meaningful ways. Union's Kenney Community Center is a hub of volunteerism.
    • The Eye to Eye Program enables students with disabilities to visit local elementary schools to mentor youth with disabilities and help them learn to advocate for themselves.
    • A multicultural specialist clinician provides services in the Eppler-Wolff Counseling Center.
    • New courses and experiential offerings focusing on DEI have been developed as part of the College's expanded options for students studying remotely.
    • Union partners with other private liberal arts colleges in New York on faculty diversity programming and mentoring.
    • Coaches engage in ongoing individual and team conversations about social issues to establish inclusive team environments.
    • Updated systems permit transitioning students, international students and others to be known by chosen or preferred first names.
    • Union has partnered with alumni to support AOP and HEOP through endowed and annual fund contributions.