By Nicholas Schleh, Staff Writer
The Intercultural and Diversity Advisory Council (IDAC) at USM is made up of faculty, students and staff that are committed to creating a diverse and more inclusive community. The council advises President Cummings on the campus climate and other topics related to diversity.
IDAC’s goal, as stated in their mission statement, is to promote and honor a diverse set of values and to facilitate a collaborative approach to the institution around issues and policies of difference, diversity and interculturalism.
African American history and politics professor LeRoy Rowe, an active high-ranking member of the council, said that IDAC “serves as this advisory council to the president and his cabinet on issues of inclusivity and diversity.”
The council has monthly meetings that are open to everyone in the community and the location alternates between USM’s three campuses. The council also provides a listserv that updates community members on what’s being deliberated, discussed or proposed. Rowe said another main goal for the council was helping to create an environment where students of various background can be heard.
The council has three subcommittees, one of them focuses on the curriculums at USM. Rowe said its goal is “to bring diversity and issues of inclusivity into the classroom and how do we support faculty syllabi development, course preparation and teaching – to have these issues at the center of what they are doing in the classroom.” Rowe said this initiative began because students were expressing that they would like to see more effort on that front.
There is also a subcommittee for co-curricular programming that does partnering with convocation, the multicultural centers, the women and gender studies department and others to develop programs around issues of diversity and inclusion. The final subcommittee deals with hiring and employee relations. Rowe says that the council has received positive support from the administration.
Investigating and implementing strategies to not only create but sustain intercultural policies and practices is a major initiative for the council. President Cummings has been in attendance for all of the council’s meetings and takes an active role – providing resources and input.
“The incremental changes that we have been seeing are going to produce results in the interim,” Rowe said. “I do think that we see a more diverse faculty body here at USM over the last few years; we have been increasingly doing more recruiting and have been training various departments and programs so that when they are hiring that they do take diversity and inclusion into their consideration.”
Rowe hopes that USM “reaches various different constituencies and communities, that we are advertising in these regions to say that USM is a place that is open and welcoming and we are looking for people with different perspectives.” Rowe said the provost has taken a large interest in this cause and the vice president of human resources has as well.
“There needs to be a marriage between the social aspect and the academic aspect to support intercultural work here,” Rowe said, “for these things to happen we have to do more work to make sure that diversity and inclusion are the principle part of the university’s mission for equality.”
One of the things students asked for of the council was for diversity of leadership within IDAC. Rowe said that he entered the council because he was asked by students who wanted him to be a representative of their voices. He said he cares deeply about this cause and he believes that students perform better in the classroom when they do not have to worry about climate issues on campus. “Even if I weren’t asked by the students to be a part of the leadership team, I would still want to participate in the council because I think that if I want to be at USM I want to be at a USM that reflects the larger society.”
All members of the USM community, including students, staff and faculty, are welcome to join IDAC to assist or keep up with meetings and initiatives.