Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion: Summary of Initiatives
To better support its diverse community of artists, designers, and scholars, the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC) has made diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) initiatives a significant element of its planning efforts over the past decade. This webpage provides a brief narrative overview of some of the concrete steps SAIC has taken from 2009–20 in its efforts to make the School more diverse, equitable, inclusive, and anti-racist.
Strategic Planning 2009–13
In the 2009–10 academic year, SAIC developed a seven-initiative strategic plan; one of those initiatives was devoted to building diversity. Over the next several years, actions groups of faculty, staff, and students worked towards fulfilling the plan’s aspirations. The diversity-focused action group fostered campus-wide discussion among faculty, staff, students, administration, and board leadership, culminating in a Diversity Action Plan, charting the course for future progress. Meanwhile, several other action groups pursued diversity-related measures in student and faculty recruitment. During this period:
- Four symposia held to foster a campus-wide discussion of diversity ambitions at SAIC
- New student recruitment, criteria, and aid strategies established to reach diverse prospective students
- Proposal for a bridge program for Chicago high school students drafted
- Three-year recruitment plan to diversify international recruitment drafted and implemented
- Established articulation agreements with six community colleges to diversify prospective transfer students
- Hired a diversity liaison for full-time faculty searches role created to work with search committees to build more diverse applicant pools
- Established multiple collaborations with Chicago Public Schools (CPS), serving their over 85% of color student body through professional development opportunities for teachers, advised on development of city’s first visual-art focused public magnet school, began annual hosting of CPS students’ art exhibition
- Portfolio development and financial aid workshops, training, and tours for students at Marwen, a not-for-profit that provides free art instruction for under-served Chicago youth in grades 6-12, offered
- 26-point, multi-year Diversity Action Plan established
Enacting the Diversity Action Plan and Beyond 2013–20
The Diversity Action Plan began to be implemented in the 2013–14 academic year, establishing a new committee and staffing structure to further diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts. Throughout this great expansion in DEI efforts at SAIC, initiatives were taken that continued to diversify the reach of student admissions and faculty recruitment, incentivized diverse content in the curriculum, introduced DEI training for new community members, encouraged increased membership and participation among student affinity groups, established new pathways to make an SAIC education accessible to the Chicago’s diverse population, renewed the School’s commitment to its hometown through partnerships throughout the city, and increased programming and support structures to better nurture and create an environment that respects, values, and includes the backgrounds and perspectives of all its community members. By 2017, as the initial goals were realized and exceeded, diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives, as well as the complementary belonging initiatives, became central elements in a new strategic planning effort. During this period:
- 26-point Diversity Action Plan realized
- Establish Diversity Advisory Committee and four sub-committees
- Recruited and hired for distributed model of DEI staffing, led by two directors of DEI for academic affairs and student affairs, respectively; the academic affairs role is a hybrid tenured faculty/staff position
- Introduced ongoing workshops for students, faculty, and staff on multiple DEI concerns, including microaggressions, trans inclusivity, name pronunciation, diverse critique spaces, DEI hiring practices, and disability accommodations among other topics
- Inaugurated required diversity training for new students, faculty, and staff
- Offered anti-racist training to staff, faculty, and student resident advisors and orientation leaders
- Diversity Infusion Grants (DIG) established to fund infusion of diverse course content
- Introduced diverse-content question as part of course evaluations
- Provided DEI tools and standardized language for syllabi and classroom management
- Continued to increase diversity of full-time faculty hiring pools, resulting in 30 percent more hires of color from 2016 (80 percent white or not-specified and 20 percent of color) to 2019 (50:50)
- Standardized full-time faculty hiring packages (salaries, course releases, and research funds) to avoid implicit bias
- Made salary compression adjustments to 24 full-time assistant and associate professors
- Made diversity training a requirement for applying for merit raises, grants, and residencies
- Piloted diversity statements for full-time faculty searches
- Establish peer-mentorship program for first-generation college students
- Compassion and belonging grant program started to fund diverse student-, faculty-, and staff-led projects that promote DEI initiatives; awarded programs include BIPOC makers space, disability-based design, and international cultural celebration
- Established bathroom inclusion policy, expanded number of gender-neutral bathrooms, and hosted all-gender bathroom days
- Student-led decolonization dinner and symposium inaugurated
- Student-led multicultural affairs advisory committee established
- Diversified School-wide speakers’ series, including Visiting Artists Program (VAP), Conversations at the Edge (CATE), and the Mitchell Lecture Series
- DEI communications strategy, including web presence, video resources, support resources, student affinity group publications, and School magazine, implemented
- Five-year disability awareness campaign undertaken
- Joined amicus briefs and op-eds in support of the Deferred Action on Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and in opposition to bans on travel and immigration, and restrictive requirements for student visas
- College Arts Access Program (CAAP) established, providing fully funded college-preparation program for CPS
- Walter and Shirley Massey Scholarship Fund established, providing full-tuition funding for undergraduate CPS alums
- Bank of America Scholarships established, providing full-tuition funding for undergraduate Chicago-area alums
- Peer-mentorship and academic advising for Chicago Scholars, diverse group of local scholarship recipients, established
- Commitment begun in North Lawndale neighborhood, establishing, by invitation, a satellite campus, community-based projects and courses, an artists’ residency program, annual day of service, and long-term projects with community partners and residence of the predominantly African-American West Side neighborhood in 2015
- DEI and belonging constitute two of seven initiatives in new strategic plan
Even before this summer’s political activism, SAIC’s community knew there was more DEI work to be done despite their efforts to date. To be a part of global demand to actively seek an anti-racist society and in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement, SAIC announced several new initiatives this summer, which include:
- Established a new Anti-Racism Committee to amplify the needs of our community, especially its Black and Brown members, design further initiatives, and see to fruition sustained action toward an anti-racist, diverse, equitable, and inclusive campus. This committee reports directly the president of the School and its members include faculty, staff, and students.
- Appointed the director of diversity, equity, and inclusion for academic affairs to president’s cabinet.
- Held a day of mourning, during which all community members were encouraged to take time for self-care, and self-directed education. Flaxman Library staff compiled a list of resources so that community members could learn more about racism, social justice, the Black experience, and promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion.
- Financially supported our community partners in the predominantly African-American neighborhood of North Lawndale, where SAIC maintains a satellite campus. SAIC is also matching all faculty, staff, student, board member, or alum contributions to these organizations up to $10,000 until December 31, 2020.
- Continued efforts to build diverse hiring pools for positions throughout the institution, especially among full-time, tenure-track faculty.
- Reaffirmed our current practice of not contracting with the Chicago Police Department.
- Announcing several undergraduate scholarship opportunities for graduates from Chicago’s public high schools, a district which is approximately 89 percent students of color:
- $1 Million Investment in Chicago Scholars Programs: A recent gift from Carol and David Ostrow will create an endowed, named, need-based scholarship opportunity for graduates from the Chicago area high schools’ student population matriculating to SAIC, a district which is approximately 89 percent students of color. The first cohort of scholarship recipients will be awarded by the 2021–22 academic year.
- Undergraduate Scholarship Named for Lynika Strozier: Named in honor of beloved colleague Lynika Strozier, who passed away from complications due to COVID-19, this full-tuition, need-based scholarship will go to support an undergraduate student matriculating from a Chicago area high school beginning in the 2020–21 academic year.
- Expand the scope of the Student Emergency Relief Fund, originally established to support students financially impacted by COVID-19, to alleviate financial hardships incurred during this summer’s protests and governmental response, including food insecurity, transportation needs, and health care.
The work of making SAIC’s campus more diverse, equitable, inclusive, and anti-racist will require many kinds of work, committed by all members of the School community over the coming days, weeks, and years. Throughout the 2020–21 academic year and beyond, SAIC will continue to realize initiatives that seek to create the more just and compassionate campus we aim to realize.