By Erin Hallissy

The Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC), which accredits learning institutions as an arm of the federal Department of Education, issued a “notice of concern” to Saint Mary's in spring 2008 over issues of diversity, civility, adult and graduate education, the education doctoral program and library resources.

After receiving the letter, Brother President Ronald Gallagher reiterated to the comunity the College's “Lasallian commitment to an inclusive, civil and diverse campus.”

“Our approach when faced with institutional challenges has been to clearly and openly articulate the problems, describe our plans and report to our community on progress in solving them,” Brother Ronald said.

Brother Ronald charged Provost Beth Dobkin with leading the effort to address the concerns, and she responded quickly by arranging forums to gather information and creating new positions and committees to implement changes, including a Graduate Council chaired by associate dean Chris Sindt.
In May, the College Committee on Inclusive Excellence (CCIE), with leaders from the administration, faculty, staff and students, was established. Co-led by Dobkin and associate sociology professor Robert Bulman, the CCIE began meeting in June with goals to improve the recruitment, retention and success of underrepresented students, staff and faculty; build an inclusive community; and develop systems of accountability and assessment.

During the summer, the CCIE participated in workshops, analyzed a campus survey on diversity and other issues, incorporated inclusive excellence modules into new faculty and staff orientations, clarified response protocols for acts of intolerance and held discussion groups on Privilege, Power, and Difference by Allan G. Johnson.

The College also hired L. Reuben Mitchell, an inclusion, diversity and employee relations specialist, as a consultant to academic administrators, staff and faculty.

Dobkin briefed SMC's Board of Trustees and WASC officials in separate meetings at the end of May, and reported that both groups “were impressed by the depth of our commitment, the scope of our activities and the aggressiveness with which we are mapping our future.”

“We look forward to … continuing a dialogue with staff, faculty and students in order to support a vibrant and inclusive community that understands and values diversity in all of its forms,” she said.

To read more about WASC and SMC, go to www.stmarys-ca.edu/about-smc/provost.

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