Skip to main content

Update on Diversity and Inclusion

On campuses throughout the country, voices are being raised with concerns about racism and inequality. We recognize that these are fundamental issues that reflect the history of our nation and our institutions, as well as ongoing events. At Northwestern University, this discourse provides us with the opportunity and responsibility to affirm our values, acknowledge our past and current shortcomings, and pledge to continue to create a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive environment for all current and future members of our community. We move forward knowing that this is a journey that will require the efforts of all of us; we can only succeed by working together. We are confident that we can lead in how we respond and in how we make lasting changes.

Over the past several weeks, we have listened to concerns about the need for more attention to, and support for, black students and members of other underrepresented groups. This outcry, often emotional and heartrending, has caused us to reflect, recommit, and consider what more we can do to ensure that all students feel truly valued and welcome. While more must be done, we have made progress in addressing issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion among students, faculty, and staff. Some of our recent and current initiatives are: 

  • Student Affairs has hosted the Black House listening sessions. It was decided not to relocate Campus Inclusion and Community staff there. The Black House Facility Review Committee, composed of students, faculty and alumni who were present at the sessions, will focus on providing recommendations on how to enhance the Black House to provide better support for our black students. The recommendations will be submitted in winter quarter.
  • In our annual discussion with the Associated Student Government on undergraduate priorities, students affirmed the positive impact of the Sustained Dialogue program. This led us to fund an expansion of the program so that many more students can participate.
  • Two schools, Medill and SESP, have adopted a diversity course requirement. Weinberg created the Hewlett Fellows program for faculty who would create new courses on social inequalities and diversities, discuss how to teach these topics most effectively, assess the impact of these courses, and provide guidance to the Dean’s Office. Through this program, WCAS now has 16 such courses, and the analysis of these courses will form the basis for discussion of a diversity course requirement.
  • Student Affairs created the Student Enrichment Services office, which is working to ensure that all students have the same experiential opportunities at Northwestern.
  • Jabbar Bennett has been hired as Associate Provost for Diversity and Inclusion. He arrived in October and is chairing both the University Diversity Council, which includes faculty, staff, students, and alumni, and the Diversity Leaders Group.
  • When President Schapiro arrived at Northwestern, the freshman class had 4.2% African American, 6.5% Latino/a, and 8.7% Pell-eligible students. We have made steady improvement since then, and the 2015 entering class is 9.0% African American, 13.0% Latino/a, and 15.5% Pell-eligible. We will continue to make progress in recruiting and enrolling a diverse student population.
  • A priority of our fundraising campaign is financial aid for our students to improve access, affordability, and equality of experience. We have already raised significant funds towards that aim.
  • Among our responses to the Native American Outreach and Inclusion Task Force recommendations have been the creation of new faculty positions in Native American studies with searches underway this year and that will expand on the recruitment this year of a faculty member in Native American literature; establishment of a new position between Admissions and Student Affairs for outreach to tribal high schools and within our campus community, which has been filled with the appointment of Jasmine Gurneau; hiring of Janet Dees as a curator in the Block Museum with expertise in Native American and African American art; and, of course, the One Book program this year with the selection of The Inconvenient Indian.
  • A number of other faculty searches this year have an explicit emphasis on diversity; for example, two searches in psychology in the area of diversity science.
  • The School of Professional Studies is working with WCAS on the development of several courses relevant to social inequality and diversity, which ultimately will lead to a diversity course requirement in the SPS evening undergraduate program.
  • The Pritzker School of Law has devoted substantial resources, including a full-time administrative position of Director of Diversity and Inclusion. That person organizes substantial programming and focused recruitment and retention efforts to enhance diversity and inclusion within the student community.
  • The Feinberg School of Medicine continues its long-standing commitment to diversity. The school has established a Vice Dean of Diversity and Inclusion and repurposed the Office of Diversity and Inclusion, focusing on energizing this issue at all levels of the enterprise. Feinberg now has 20% underrepresented minority enrollment in the freshman medical school class, 17% among the postgraduate resident physicians in the McGaw Medical Center, and 6% of school faculty. Ongoing initiatives and collaborations with student groups are underway to ensure a broad insertion of cultural competency into the curriculum, a growing social network of underrepresented minority students and residents, enhanced career and life mentoring, frequent public forums, a diversity newsletter, an updated diversity website, and an invited speaker series. Feinberg also is involved in nearly $20 million annually of funded disparate health care research.

As a University community, we succeed by engaging in reasoned, open, and honest conversations in which every member of the community may speak and be heard, and feel free to share opinions without fear of retribution. These discussions contribute significantly to problem solving, strategy development, and program and policy implementation. With ongoing assessment, we can evaluate which initiatives are achieving the desired impact and what changes are needed, so that we maintain our focus on specific actions and results.

We will continue to have discussions during this academic year with our students, faculty and staff on these important issues, both in small groups and as a larger community. In our hearts, we know that Northwestern is committed to this effort and that we will continue to make progress. We can do even better with support and feedback from every member of our community.

Morton Schapiro
, President and Professor
Dan Linzer
, Provost and Professor
Nim Chinniah
, Executive Vice President
Patricia Telles-Irvin, 
Vice President for Student Affairs
Jabbar Bennett, 
Associate Provost for Diversity and Inclusion