Task force reveals recommendations for improving USC’s racial equity, diversity and inclusion

President Carol Folt distributed the 40-page report via email and pledged the university would take serious efforts to address the report’s suggestions.

The Office of President Carol Folt sent an email to the USC community on April 8 detailing the university’s efforts to improve diversity and inclusion. These efforts include a new report published by USC’s Racial Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (REDI) Task Force.

Additionally, the email said the university has created a committee to rename the Center for International and Public Affairs, formerly known as VKC. USC renamed the building this summer after months of scrutiny surrounding former University President Rufus von KleinSmid’s status as a known eugenicist.

The REDI Task Force, composed of students, faculty and staff, was reestablished last year after its initial creation in 2015. Members were asked to compile data and analyze the school’s strengths and shortcomings regarding the state of inclusion and diversity on campus. Senior Vice President of Human Resources Felicia A. Washington and Dr. Manuel Pastor, Distinguished Professor of Sociology and American Studies & Ethnicity at Dornsife, who co-chaired the initiative, led the project.

In the 40-page report, the Task Force outlines 10 general recommendations to address five areas: recruitment and retention; programs and curriculum; research and evaluation; culture and values; and support and resources.

The first recommendation is to “set ambitious and bold REDI goals,” such as hiring 100 faculty of color each year. The Task Force hopes to build on previous hiring initiatives at the school in order to create and retain a more diverse community.

The Task Force aims to establish systems of transparency and accountability within the university’s departments. According to the report, equity and diversity-related goals have been set in the past, but have not been met because of a lack of accountability. They recommend allocating resources to departments based in part on how well they achieve diversity goals.

Next is to train USC’s leaders how to promote diversity and inclusion, as well as to encourage all members of the community to become leaders in racial equity through anti-racism training accessible to all members of the USC community.

The report states that anti-racism training “should go beyond anti-bias skills and include proactive capabilities for conflict identification and resolution.”

It has also been suggested that general education (GE) requirements should be updated to be more focused on anti-racism, and new courses can be created to address education for racial equity.

The Task Force acknowledges the negative impact of racism on mental health, and suggests the school provides support to handle trauma from racism, rather than ignoring past events.

It also recommends a thorough examination of systems that might be creating barriers to diversity, equity and inclusion. This includes rethinking and reinventing housing programs and retraining supervisors and managers to better handle performance management.

The report states that USC has “leading-edge scholars in the area of racial equity.” These scholars are not named but the REDI Task Force believes that they can aid with faculty recruitment and establishment of new data systems within the university to make pay, merit increases and promotions more transparent.

The REDI Task Force also wants to see the school create “multiple pipelines to equity” by promoting faculty diversity through undergraduate research programs and generating more postdoctoral opportunities at USC. This could be achieved through collaboration with other universities, like USC Annenberg’s recent partnership with the University of Pennsylvania.

Last is the introduction of a USC “Campaign for Equity,” funded by both USC and a large-scale fundraising effort. According to the report, USC can “leverage [its] strengths to become the nation’s leading institution on DEI.”

The report comes off the heels of several actions taken over the last couple of years including the recently rebooted Community Advisory Board for the Department of Public Safety and hiring of a Chief Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Officer this spring. USC acknowledges that the report does not provide solutions to all equity and diversity issues at the school.

The Task Force encourages members of the USC community to provide their opinions on the report through an online form that was provided in the email. All the feedback will be forwarded to the newly hired Chief DEI Officer, Christopher Manning, so that he can work with the school to address these concerns.