Taffye Benson-Clayton, Auburn University Associate Provost for Inclusion and Diversity Full Statement:
“Auburn University strives to foster a campus community built on shared principles of civil discourse, respect, and intellectual discovery. Inclusion and diversity remain at the forefront of our institution, and we continue to engage in meaningful programs that inspire constructive dialogue and foster civility surrounding these important ideals.
Central to our efforts has been the implementation of last year’s Campus Climate Study, AUTogether, which has introduced new inclusion and diversity initiatives into several aspects of the university. Cultivating this kind of values-responsibility strategy immediately resulted in a revised university mission statement that reaffirmed Auburn’s commitment to these values, a restructured Office of Inclusion and Diversity, and the creation of new programs designed to both celebrate and engage the differences that encompass the Auburn Family. These programs continue to create opportunities for meaningful dialogue, which in turn prepare our students to challenge the kind of dissonance generated by external groups such as the White Student Union.
Our most visible effort continues to be Critical Conversations, a signature speaker series designed to explore intellectual diversity and the free exchange of ideas. This past spring, Auburn University became a prominent part of the national conversation about free speech on campus. This experience, along with crucial input from our shared governance groups, informed our institution’s decision to create a series that would to expand campus education and engagement. By promoting an ongoing dialogue regarding the values of free speech, diversity and inclusion, intellectual and viewpoint diversity, the series highlights the importance of diverse discourse both in higher education and on Auburn’s campus. In its inaugural year, the series will have welcomed scholars and thought leaders such as Dr. Cornel West, Dr. Robert George, Howard Ross, Dr. Derald Wing Sue, Donna Brazile, Robert Shibley, Reshma Saujani, Peter Wood and Frank Bruni. Together, these individuals offer our campus a diverse cadre and caliber of perspectives that help broaden our collective narrative.
Other notable programming includes small and large group discussion sessions with students, faculty and staff that have explored topics such as unconscious bias, gender differences in society, microagressions, and intellectual humanity. Student organizations such as the Black Student Union, the Latino Student Association, the Graduate Student Council, the Black Graduate and Professional Student Association, the Auburn Chapter of the Southern Poverty Law Center and the Student Government Association have initiated their own programs and town halls in an effort to foster grassroots dialogue around these issues. My office has given away dozens of coffee cards for students, faculty and staff to engage in their own critical conversations and share their experience on social media using #AUConvos.
Progress on key institutional priorities requires a shared vision and a solid blueprint for change. Since fall 2016, Auburn’s 13 colleges and schools, along with countless administrative and support units, have worked diligently to craft inclusion and diversity plans aligned with AUTogether. This initial year of planning and implementation has resulted in increased faculty and staff engagement with inclusion and diversity programs, seminars, consulting services, educational experiences and trainings. To further promote this work, my office launched a new Inclusive Excellence Initiative this fall to provide mini-grants for creative proposals that advance the principles of diversity and inclusivity at Auburn University. I’m pleased to share that seven proposals across five academic units were selected for funding.
This spring, my office will premiere the Auburn Inclusion and Diversity Awards to recognize members of our campus and the community for their exemplary work in inspiring excellence, enriching our institutional culture, and advancing inclusion, diversity and inclusive excellence throughout Auburn. The awards will acknowledge individuals, initiatives, innovations and other efforts that have positively impacted our campus climate.
Together, these efforts challenge our institution to continue fulfilling its mission of inclusion and diversity and fostering a climate that, above all else, upholds the Auburn Creed.”