Presentation to Staff: Inclusive Excellence at Saint Mary's College

Thank you for the generosity you have shown me since I've arrived at Saint Mary's College. As Brother Ron said, this year will be different in many ways. In coming here, I know I do things differently than many of you have experienced, and that can be a little scary. Sometimes it makes me nervous, too.

There's been a lot of talk over the past several months about that "c" word, "civility." I'd like to offer a definition to start today, one that was given to me by Joan Cube: "Civility is claiming and caring for one's identity, needs and beliefs without degrading someone else's in the process" (Institute for Civility in Government. Co-Founders, Rev. Cassandra Dahnke and Rev. Tomas Spath). If you look at this definition, it speaks centrally to our mission, to the honor and respect we must pay to others. Brother Ron mentioned the Climate Survey that many of you participated in last spring, and the extent to which staff feel that their work is integral to the mission of the College. I'd like to spend a few minutes talking to you about the preliminary results of that survey, how it connects to mission, and ask you to engage in an exercise that is a little bit of something different.

The highlights I've chosen are based entirely on staff responses. As you know, students and faculty were also part of that survey, and we're working on putting all of the results together for you. I've picked out a few preliminary points, but know that the interpretations are my own, and that others will have much more to say about the data as well. In fact, I see Mary McCall here ready to correct me if I get some of the statistics wrong. Let me thank her at this point for all of the help she is providing in analysis of the Climate Survey data.

The 2008 Climate Survey doesn't vary much from the 2006 Climate Survey in many respects. I'll point out a few key differences in a moment. The 2008 survey shows that we believe a diverse student body enhances the educational experiences of all students (84.1%). This makes sense; diverse views, perspectives and backgrounds broaden our discussions, prompt us to think in new ways and make learning more rich. It's the idea behind inclusive excellence: we can't be excellent if we don't include this diversity. We also believe that the College should place emphasis on increasing representation of people of color in faculty, staff and administration (85-98.5%). We believe we should develop community, help students bring about positive change, promote a climate where differences of opinion are aired openly and regularly, develop appreciation of multiculturalism, develop an inclusive community, recruit high achieving students and encourage collaboration between offices.

This is what we believe, but we aren't there yet. The biggest gaps between what we should do and what we think we are doing are in promoting a campus climate where differences of opinion and aired openly and regularly (34%), and in encouraging collaboration between offices (53.7%). So, not only do we need to engage each other more openly, but we also need to do a better job working with each other, particularly in the areas of transactions and getting our basic work tasks done.

Overall, job satisfaction is high. Over three-quarters (76.2%) of staff reported that they are satisfied with their jobs; this looks quite good to me. Employees are most satisfied in the areas of autonomy and independence (84.7%), opportunities to interact with other staff (75.3%) and professional relationships with co-workers (75.1%). But there are also areas of dissatisfaction: recognition for meritorious performance (37.7%), extent to which the campus administration willingly shares important information (30.8%), campus administrative leadership (25.3%), input in decisions that affect you personally (24.9%) and integration of staff in the life of campus (24.5%).

In most organizations, the farther away people are from administrators, the less satisfied they are with them. That makes sense; it's harder to know what people are doing and why when you don't know them and they aren't part of your daily work. We have a long way to go with this, but we're already trying to do better. If you haven't already, and have a free moment, check out my web page. We are continually putting up more information there what's going on in Academic Affairs, and there are many opportunities to comment or offer suggestions. And my door is always open. Come by and see me or drop me an e-mail. I welcome hearing from you.

For staff, top concerns about the work environment include the following: 59.4% reported that they have to work through lunch to get their work done, 44.4% did not feel their work was appreciated, and 41.7% wanted more responsibility. This says to me that our staff our staff are willing to do much more, we just need to value their work -- and not ask them to do it during lunch.

Two staff concerns about institutional support increased since 2006. In 2006, 16.1% said they did not receive an equitable salary. In 2008, 49.2% of staff said this. In 2006, 17.8% felt there were insufficient opportunities for advancement. In 2008, 36.6% said this.

Salary and advancement concerns are, of course, linked, and it's hard to say how much of this has been influenced by general problems with the economy. Nonetheless, it affects what we need and how we feel about the work environment. The conditions that lead to staff changing jobs are related to these concerns. The top factors in job changes were: the desire for an increase in salary (77.8%), the feeling that work was not appreciated (63.3%), a desire for more responsibility (65%) and not being treated with respect (44.3%). All other reasons received a frequency lower than 25%. This tells me, once again, that staff need more appreciation and respect, which, if you think about it, goes right back to our mission and inclusive community.

For staff of color, stress is more often a reason for changing to a new job. Sometimes it's useful to look at the ways a particular population has different experiences. Clearly, staff of color are experiencing more stress than our majority staff members, and it might be useful to try and understand why.

Much of the survey asked about experiencing or witnessing disparaging or hurtful behaviors based on ethnicity, sexual orientation, age, religion, disability or gender. I'm pleased to report that overall, these behaviors don't seem to be that common. However, there is one area that stands out. On the one hand, most staff feel their work contributions are appreciated by their manager/supervisor, women have equal opportunities and respect as men, and the immediate work environment is free from sexual harassment. On the other hand, the most frequent insensitive or disparaging comments, behaviors or gestures were directed toward women (42% report having seen or heard these behaviors).

In some ways, this is easy to understand, as it reflects the general tolerance in our culture about insulting women. Recently, I was with my husband, and we were talking about a friend named Aaron. My husband complained that Aaron, had been gossiping, and he said, "Aaron's being a girl." I said, "No, he's not being a girl, he's being a person. Men do it, women do it; people gossip."

That's not the kind of comment that ruins my day, it's just one of those everyday insults that we've come to tolerate, but it's still an insult. What if I said, "She's such a dumb ____." Fill in the blank with any ethnicity, and it would probably be appalling. Fill in the blank with "blonde," and it's no big deal. Frankly, I would rather not hear a dumb blonde joke ever again. We just haven't reached the same level of awareness or concern about gender issues that we have for some of the other kinds of identity.

All kinds of identity are important. Our mission demands that we treat each other with recognition, appreciation, respect and equity, and that means a willingness to honor the identity that others have for themselves. We can't have inclusion without it. If you look at that earlier definition of "civility" again, it might look different now: "Civility is claiming and caring for one's identity, needs and beliefs without degrading someone else's in the process." We can't fulfill our mission without civility.

Often, the things that are most important to you, such as your faith and your family, aren't the ones that people notice about you. The three things that people notice first are race, gender and age. Have you ever noticed how uncomfortable people are when they make a mistake about someone's gender? We use these categories to guide how we behave toward others. Not only are they not the things we often care the most about, they're the things that they can't control. For some of us, one of those three characteristics is the most important, but we're not supposed to acknowledge them.

When I was looking at the Climate Survey data, I also had the opportunity to read the open-ended comments. I haven't had a chance to look at themes or do a careful analysis yet, but I'd like to present a few phrases that were there: "regardless of color," "doesn't matter if you're a woman," "best qualified" or "best person for the job," "just deal with it," and "It's all about a liberal agenda/political correctness." These were comments made in response to the question about hiring more people of color on campus. If I'm African American and that's a very important part of my identity, how might I feel to be told I was hired "regardless of color?" I'm quite proud to be female; it's a top identity category for me. So what does it mean to hear, "It doesn't matter if you're a woman"? It certainly does matter for me. I might be the best qualified despite the parts of me that I find to be the most important. What does that say about how we define "qualified"? These are identities that we need to value, rather than saying it's political correctness or a liberal agenda, to honor the things that are most important to others. It's not about politics; it's all about our mission.

We can't have true inclusion without recognizing, respecting and valuing our differences. Over the next year, we'll be working on ways to achieve inclusion. As you know, the College Committee on Inclusive Excellence has been working all summer. This committee is different than those that have come before it; for instance, about half of the President's Cabinet is on the committee. We wanted to be sure that the committee included that level of administrators who have the ability to implement the changes that are recommended. We have already drafted a vision statement, and those of you who have tried to do this know that writing a vision statement over such a short time period is pretty impressive.

The CCIE Vision Statement is:

"We at Saint Mary's College of California are dedicated to treating others with dignity and respect in ways that acknowledge and validate their diverse backgrounds and ideas. Our policies, practices and behaviors foster a safe and inclusive community and promote learning that is equitable, collaborative and inspired by the presence of God in and among us."

Part of treating others with dignity and respect requires having clear expectations and recognition for meeting them. In the fall, Human Resources will be conducting a compensation study to re-evaluate our job classifications. Human Resources will also continue to sponsor training opportunities, such as those offered by Linda Rose and Barry Chersky. The CCIE will be supporting many campus-wide changes, such as continuing the intercultural dialogue groups through the fall; sponsoring campus-wide workshops in January; working on interdepartmental collaboration on protocols regarding acts of intolerance; and providing inclusive excellence modules in student, faculty and staff orientations.

We already have many great activities going on, with staff who are dedicated to our mission and want to create and be part of an inclusive community. Thank you for your willingness to move ahead, do things a little differently, and live the mission that is so integral to our work.