Diversity Scorecard founder explains equity program

Amy Cooknick

Kent State’s “diversity scorecard” will hopefully bring racial and minority equality to campus, said Fashaad Crawford, assistant vice president for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion.

The scorecard, introduced to Kent State in January, is designed to evaluate the colleges on campus for ways to improve recruitment, retention and success of African-American, Latino and Native American faculty, staff and students.

Crawford said the scorecard is adapted from a model designed by Estela Bensimon of the Center for Urban Education at the University of Southern California.

The scorecard tracks the campus’ AALANA population and allows the university to set goals for where they would like to see those numbers.

Bensimon visited Kent State last week to tell students, faculty and staff what the scorecard is all about and how she’s seen it work at other universities.

She said universities must be careful not to focus more on getting ahead in the program than on helping students.

“The way we have structured the scorecard means it’s not about the number only,” Bensimon said. “It’s about how you get to the number. Getting to the number implies that you have to change. It’s not always the student who has to change. It’s about learning and not just about getting a grade, but a lot of institutions forget that.”

Crawford said he thinks Bensimon’s approach to equity is “interesting.”

“Not only getting students into a college, but also, if we make the promise to get them here, that we fulfill our promise to graduate them,” Crawford said. “If we’re getting a certain percentage into Kent State, we should also allocate the resources to make sure that those students persist to degree completion.”

The scorecard is designed to create questions about why inequities exist and help find ways to solve them Bensimon said.

“She’s enhanced the model to focus on retention and looking at how practices for one student group is oftentimes similar to another student group as the reasons they drop out, regardless of ethnicity,” Crawford said.

Crawford said currently the goal retention rate for all students at Kent State from freshman to sophomore year is 80%. There is no such goal for AALANA students, although Crawford said he hopes to have a target percentage in place by 2016.

Bensimon said the scorecard is not designed to allow universities to quit reaching out to AALANA students once a target level of equality has been reached. The five-year program is a training period for a university to identify and correct weaknesses in its organization, then maintain diversity even after the five years have ended.

Although the diversity scorecard is designed for a trained team of campus faculty and staff, Bensimon said it is important for everyone within a university to be informed on how the scorecard works and why it exists.

“Students can teach faculty,” Bensimon said. “They can pass on information to other students in terms of what works here and what doesn’t, and which teachers to take, where to go for information, which financial aid officer is responsive to students.”

Lauren Sewell, sophomore biology major and secretary for the Kent NAACP, said she agrees with the idea of students taking more control over their learning experience.

“I do like the idea of passing on information to other students about what has worked for us and what hasn’t in regard to diversity,” Sewell said. “I mean, we try to do that, but we need something a little better than RateMyProfessors.com.”

A key component of Bensimon’s approach is to involve everyone in a university’s administration.

“So far there’s been wide support for the scorecard,” Crawford said. “(Lefton) has been very supportive. We’ve met with the provost. We’ve met with deans. Everyone has been very supportive of trying to understand what the scorecard entails and how it affects their specific area.”

Contact Amy Cooknick at [email protected].