University of Cincinnati debuts policy requiring diversity and inclusion statement on applications

CINCINNATI — As of Friday, anyone applying for a faculty or staff position – even an hourly position – at the University of Cincinnati will be required to submit a diversity and inclusion statement.

Faculty and administrative/professional applicants must now submit a personal statement summarizing their contributions (or potential contributions) to diversity, inclusion and leadership. All other applicants will have to respond to a question asking how their qualifications have prepared them to work with faculty, staff and students from cultures and backgrounds different from their own.

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Applicants for student-worker positions will not be required to submit such statements for campus-based employment.

According to UC's chief diversity officer, Bleuzette Marshall, it’s a more holistic approach to the admissions process.

“We want to be able to see who people are a little bit coming through the door, and we want them to know who we are, so we aren’t surprised by each other,” she said.

Bleuzette Marshall

Tamie Grunow, UC senior associate vice president and chief human resources officer, said it’s a way for UC to send a “strong message” about its commitment to diversity and inclusion as well as its commitment to respect and civility in the workplace.

“It’s my hope that, through this policy, we’ll be attracting people who are comfortable working in diverse environments in a respectful manner,” she said. “We really want to send the message that we want to attract and hire people who will grow in their understanding of a global environment, working with people of different backgrounds and cultures in diverse environments.”

For those who aren’t comfortable working in diverse environments or who don’t desire diversity in their workplace, the policy will serve as a self-screening tool, Grunow said. “They may elect not to apply.”

Although the policy just went into effect Friday, it was piloted in UC’s recent search for a new police chief and assistant police chief.

“From what we heard, the folks we interviewed appreciated that we cared enough to ask them to share their interest in diversity and global perspectives and in understanding cultures,” Grunow said.

Grunow added that it’s not out of the ordinary for universities to require a diversity and inclusion statement from faculty applicants. What is more unusual, she said, is for a university to require it from staff applicants.

“UC has seen itself as a leader in so many areas and would be happy to see other organizations follow suit," she said.

Ronald Jackson, UC communications professor and advocate for minority inclusion at the university, said he considers the new policy a win, but he urges mindfulness of the fact that it should be understood in context:

“This isn’t a big move,” he said. “This is very modest in terms of what it can allow.

“You can have everyone fill out the form, sure, but who’s going to say they’re not for diversity and inclusion?” Jackson continued. “Even the most discriminatory people aren’t going to say that on a job application.”

Ronald Jackson

Marshall agrees that an applicant merely writing that he or she is committed to diversity and inclusion doesn’t guarantee it. She said the follow-through will come in the interview process.

“It’s one thing to say, ‘Oh, yeah, I’m committed to diversity and inclusion,’ but it’s another thing when you’re sitting in front of a search committee and asked to go a little deeper on the topic,” she said. “How is that person going to share and relay those experiences? And, if they haven’t had those experiences, how open are they to learning, to newness?”

UC isn’t planning on assigning a rating for the statements but will consider it one criterion among many on applications, Marshall said.

According to UC, at any one time the university has about 400 job vacancies and receives roughly 63,000 applications each year.

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