With the participation of Bryant University President Ross Gittell, Ph.D., during his first weeks as president, Bryant hosted a virtual Town Hall and panel discussion on July 22 to explore issues of diversity, inclusion, and equity. More than 250 students, alumni, faculty and staff contributed to a candid discussion with the new president.
Co-sponsored by several student organizations and organized by Aaron Bonsu '20, Emily Nunez '20, and Russell York '20, the forum included questions that touched on many areas of the Bryant experience, including academics and course curricula; recruitment and retention of students, faculty, and staff; awareness of systemic racism; and the bias incident response process.
“I am confident that working together we can achieve significant progress” on “critical matters of diversity, inclusion, and equity.”
In addition to President Gittell, the panelists were:
- Stephen Bannon, Executive Director of Public Safety;
- Michelle Cloutier MBA '05, Vice President for Enrollment Management;
- Mailee Kue, Ph.D., Assistant Vice President for Student Engagement;
- Tim Paige, Vice President for Human Resources;
- Glenn Sulmasy, J.D., LL.M., Provost and Chief Academic Officer.
Diya Das, Ph.D., Chair and Professor of Management, served as moderator.
Acknowledging need for increased efforts
The panelists shared some of the recent progress relevant to these issues. These include:
- Incoming class diversity increased to 20 percent, the highest in Bryant history and up from 14-16 percent in years previous, with additional Office of Admission staff dedicated to diversity and increased off-campus relationships.
- Increasing the diversity of the Student Affairs staff, including its public safety officers. Since 2019, 46 percent of new hires into Student Affairs have been people of color.
- The Provost2020 Diversity initiative, in progress, which includes changes to the Gateway curriculum starting with the class of 2024; diversification of faculty and staff; program initiatives on systemic racism; community programming about diversity, equity and inclusion; a summer reading initiative, and training for faculty and staff.
President Gittell and the panelists acknowledged the need for increased efforts in a number of areas, including retention of diverse employees as well as expanding staff capacity to work on diversity and inclusion; educating current Bryant students on inclusive topics such as systemic racism, and accountability for racial microaggressions and prejudices that are destructive and hurtful; and updates in the curriculum to reflect diversity. They reaffirmed their commitment to continued dialogue and ongoing focus to assure equity, data/measurement, and accountability.
Seeing members of the Bryant community "come forward with requests and solutions is a real demonstration of the value of a Bryant education,” said President Gittell, referring to a list of specific, measurable action items submitted by Be Better Bryant. The University will challenge itself to achieve 70 percent of the requests in three years.
Additional forums for continued discussion will be held to advance the difficult yet important work, Gittell said. “I’m committed to making progress on the critical matters of diversity, inclusion and equity, and I am confident that working together we can achieve significant progress.”