Cultural competency policy long overdue

The Lane Board of Education will vote on a proposed cultural competency policy at its Feb. 5 meeting. The tabled policy has long been a hot topic around campus, but the council has yet to agree on what should be included within this policy.

We are contemporary, modern people. We understand the importance of a policy that allows all students and employees to feel safe in our learning environment. We value fair treatment of all people and backgrounds. The real cause of the confusion is, why hasn’t this policy been written?

Depending on who you ask, this battle has raged for several years or even decades. Lane substance abuse prevention coordinator Mark Harris said more than 20 years have gone by with little to no result in the construction of this policy. Looking through The Torch archives, we can see that staff and faculty have been talking about this for at least a dozen years.

In the Nov. 29, 2001, edition of The Torch, we discovered a front-page article, “Diversity Issues Dominate Meeting,” written by then-news editor Sarah Ross. The article discussed the importance, hardships and necessity of a diversity plan for Lane. This plan would make it mandatory for faculty to attend annual training to better suit our evolving student dynamic.

“While all 11 of the panel members praised the current draft of the diversity plan, they emphasized that the college still needs to create the procedures and specific policies that will implement it,” Ross wrote.

It goes on to explain that this move merely was the “skeleton” in creating this policy as a whole.

“Opening the meeting, Lane President Mary Spilde listed steps the college has taken to improve diversity on campus since 1995, including creation of diversity scholarships establishing the Rites of Passage program for middle-school and high-school minority students and offering training to create a more respectful work environment,” Ross reported.

“Jim Garcia, the college’s diversity coordinator, told the board his office would have the panel’s input incorporated in the diversity plan by January 2002,” Ross continued.

This was 13 years ago. What’s the deal?

On Dec. 9, 2013, Spilde sent an email to her colleagues about the progress of the latest draft of the cultural competency policy and diversity education.

“I have until the January board meeting to bring back either a college policy or a board policy. It is my hope that College Council can accomplish the work so that we can move forward,” Spilde wrote.

Spilde emphasized the importance of designing “a multi-layered, multi-faceted, multi-modality program of professional development.”

By its Jan. 10 meeting, board members had read the first draft of a cultural competency policy.

Getting to this elementary step, however, has taken 12 years. Why is this policy taking so long to be polished and implemented?

Faculty and staff have debated over the required amount of annual hours needed to complete the training, whether teachers will be evaluated based on attending the diversity training and if attendees will be paid for this mandatory training.

While we see the frustration that may arise from these points, the overall consensus of the College Council members is that this is something that must be put into place at Lane, an institution of higher education.

Should attendees be paid in order to attend mandatory training? Yes.

Should they be evaluated based on this type of cultural education? Yes.

Should teachers help shape the design of the training? Yes, to a degree, but if they could draft a solid policy with complete autonomy, they wouldn’t need this training.

So, what is the problem? Why isn’t this already a part of our everyday mission as a place where anyone can come and be educated?

The point of this is not to say that we employ bigoted, ignorant or anti-progressive staff, faculty or administration. It just seems that there is a greater focus on the small details of the policy while delaying its benefits.

The faculty’s own mission statement claims our instructors are an ever-growing and learning community dedicated to evolving as necessary to accommodate their changing students through professional development. Isn’t that what this policy is about? More education for educators?

This is the image that we project to our students and community. Be the institution we promise to be. Stop stalling and squabbling over minute details.

Success starts here.