Senior News Writer
On Sunday, April 25, members of the campus community met to discuss the annual Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Update Report. The meeting was led by President Bolton and Chief Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Officer Ivonne M. García. The report shined a light on diversity, retention rates and challenges faced by BIPOC and underrepresented students, staff and faculty at The College of Wooster.
García told the Voice that “the College has improved both in the recruitment and retention of students, especially BIPOC and underrepresented students over the past several years. Since 2017, we have grown our BIPOC student population by 20 percent. Four-year graduation rates now stand at about the same for nearly all demographic groups, something that was not happening only a few years ago when Black and Latinx students, especially, experienced much lower rates of retention.”
However, Bolton and García noted that the campus is not the equitable campus that it needs to be as of now. “Our retention rate is not the one we aspire to have, and we know we have a lot of work to do to continue to make this College one in which all students feel they can stay and thrive, and that work will continue unabated,” García told the Voice.
While diversity and retention rates have increased on campus, Bolton and García noted that the pandemic has slightly affected these rates as it has “made it difficult for new international students to come to Wooster and, as the pandemic progressed through the year, we also saw a slight drop off from years prior of total new international students to Wooster.”
In the past two years, the College’s faculty continues to increase in diversity as 83 percent of last year’s incoming tenure track faculty identified as BIPOC or are from underrepresented communities.
However, García noted that the College is much less effective in retaining BIPOC faculty than white faculty. The College’s 2018 faculty retention study “showed that BIPOC faculty, especially Black faculty, do not tend to stay at the College.”
Results from the College’s Higher Education Data Sharing Consortium (HEDS) Assessment in May, 2020 revealed that gender identity and racial/ethnic identities were the main reasons that students, faculty and staff did not have inclusive experiences at the College. With only 19 percent of students responding to the assessment, Bolton and García hope the 2022 assessment will yield greater student participation.
In response to this study, the College launched the Faculty Mentoring Cohort Program, now in its third year, modeled after successful BIPOC student-focused mentoring programs in the Fall of 2019. The program established cohorts of mentors and mentees rather than relying only on individualized or department-based mentorship. García told the Voice that the first year of the program was successful.
The College also hopes to improve the relationship with the broader Wooster community, particularly on Beall Avenue. When the Voice reported on the March for Asian Lives on March 26, Mochi Meadows ’24, Gender and Sexuality Diversity Representative for Scot Council, told the Voice that someone yelled “Go back to China” at the March, and a truck with a confederate flag drove by with a sticker that said “I don’t brake for protestors.” When asked how the College is taking their next steps with the local community at the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) meeting, Bolton said that signage and security resources have been added to Beall, but that there is room for improvement.
Starting June 1, Dr. García will undertake a position at Harvard University’s Graduate School of Education to lead their work in inclusive and anti-racist pedagogy. As the College’s first Chief Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Officer, the Center for Diversity and Inclusion has greatly expanded under her leadership as she told the Voice that “before the academic year ends, the CDEIO will have trained nearly everyone in the Academic Affairs division, including faculty in departments and programs, administrative coordinators and Athletic staff in antiracist/anti-bias practices.” Additionally, the center has trained 50 student organizations and recommended that they establish antiracist/anti-bias action plan for future school years.