Diversity and Inclusion Action Plan (DIAP)

On Feb. 1, 2016, Brown University President Christina H. Paxson shared with the Brown community Pathways to Diversity and Inclusion: An Action Plan for Brown University, a detailed action plan to create a more diverse and inclusive academic community. The action plan and its appendices, known as the DIAP, were developed as a strategic plan for realizing Brown’s commitment to diversity and inclusion as articulated in Building on Distinction: A New Plan for Brown, which was launched in 2014.

The plan built upon decades of the University confronting issues of racism, discrimination and non-inclusion throughout its history. Strong campus activism around issues of race at Brown and across the United States in 2015 coincided with the DIAP’s initially planned release in fall 2015 and informed the process for final development of the plan. The plan had been in development for more than a year, and its ultimate release followed more than two months of engagement with the Brown community of students, faculty, staff and alumni.

The University launched DIAP Phase II on March 30, 2021, five years after the adoption of the DIAP. The document re-commits to the goals established in the original action plan. DIAP Phase II does not replace the DIAP but rather is a companion of the original document. It includes new actions for the original DIAP goals and also lists actions that continue from the original plan.

Developing the DIAP: A Community Process

After a working draft of the DIAP was distributed to the Brown community on Nov. 9, 2015, the University received input through an online feedback form, meetings, campus discussions, forums, emails and letters. A comment period expected to close in December 2015 was extended to January 2016 to ensure that all members of the community could fully express their views.

The University shared the expectation that all students, faculty and staff would fully own and take responsibility for what would become the community’s plan to confront the very real issues of racism and lack of inclusion at Brown. University leaders acknowledged that the draft plan built on a history of student and community activism in the struggle against racism, intolerance and discrimination. The continuing contributions of students, faculty and staff would ensure a stronger plan and add to generations of efforts to make Brown better.

Feedback from all sources throughout the community engagement process — students, faculty, staff and alumni — amounted to more than 720 comments, edits and proposals that were considered in finalizing the document. The Brown community contributed proposals for action items in areas including:

  • Student, staff and faculty recruitment, retention and financial support
  • Support for specific historically underrepresented groups
  • Curriculum
  • University governance
  • Community engagement
  • Alumni
  • The plan, including accountability and definitions of diversity and inclusion, etc.

In a detailed campus engagement process, the University shared with the community how recommendations were incorporated into the plan.

The release of the DIAP launched a campus-wide effort to address issues of racism and various forms of discrimination that can interfere with sustaining a campus environment where all members can fulfill their potential as students, scholars, professionals and leaders.

DIAP Phase II

Five years into implementation of the DIAP, the process to develop DIAP Phase II emerged from years of collecting information from the Brown community about areas of work that were effective and others needing improvement.

In spring and summer 2020, the Office of Institutional Equity and Diversity (OIED) met with several governance groups representing faculty, students and staff, and various diversity deans to review progress and plans for implementing the second phase of the DIAP. In addition to these meetings, OIED hosted a series of community town halls to discuss DIAP Phase II with students, faculty and staff.

Building on the ideas brought forward in these forums and various discussions over several years, OIED met with offices that were responsible for implementing specific actions in the 2016 DIAP to inform the development of DIAP Phase II. President Paxson shared DIAP Phase II with the Brown community in spring 2021.

Building on a Legacy of Activism

Inclusion and openness to diverse perspectives have been part of Brown’s ethos since the University’s founding in 1764. Early on, Brown opened its doors to students without regard to religious affiliation (ahead of its time among institutions of higher education).

In 1850, Brown’s fourth president, Francis Wayland, sought to reach a more diverse mercantile class through flexible, elective degree programs — a model of open and rigorous liberal education that was embraced even more fully in 1969 when Brown adopted the “New Curriculum,” now known as the Open Curriculum. Women were first admitted to Brown in 1891 through the Women’s College that became Pembroke College, and women increasingly took classes with men on the Brown campus through the 1930s.

Yet it was not until the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s that Brown was compelled to look more critically at its practices, policies and campus environment with respect to race and other areas of inclusion. Campus efforts to foster inclusion across race and ethnicity were fueled largely by student activism in the form of such large-scale events as the 1968 Walkout, the 1975 takeover of University Hall, and the 1985 occupation of the John Carter Brown Library. Women’s issues also came to the fore in the decade before full coeducation became official in 1971.

Brown’s ever-expanding efforts to educate students from a full range of diverse backgrounds and to create a more inclusive academic community had been critically examined by a number of visiting committees in the three decades preceding the launch of the DIAP. Their recommendations led to the establishment and ongoing support of programs and practices designed to nurture an appreciation of the need and value of diversity in every aspect of life at Brown.

I have been repeatedly struck by the courage of the members of the Brown community and by their commitment to addressing the difficult challenges presented by the need to deal with difference. The problems associated with difference — discrimination; inequalities of status and power; persistent patterns of exclusion — are society’s problems, not just Brown’s alone. Brown’s willingness to confront these problems and to offer innovative solutions defines its leadership role as an institution of higher education and of social change...

Joan W. Scott Diversity Pluralism and Community at Brown Visiting Committee Report, 2000

In 2003, the examination of Brown’s historical ties to the transatlantic slave trade led to the release of the seminal 2006 Report of the Brown University Steering Committee on Slavery and Justice. That same year, the 2006 Diversity Action Plan, developed under the leadership of President Ruth Simmons, created institution-wide diversity goals with oversight from a newly established Office of Institutional Diversity (now the Office of Institutional Equity and Diversity).

In 2013, the exploration of race and inclusion at Brown after what has become known as the “Ray Kelly Affair” further contributed to the decades-long journey toward building a better Brown for all members of the campus community. The immediate aftermath of students protests against inviting New York City Police Commissioner Ray Kelly to Brown — because of a stop-and-frisk policing approach linked to racial profiling — led to the University’s engagement with students and academic and administrative departments toward developing a diversity action plan.

The development of what has become the DIAP commenced shortly after Brown’s 2014 release of the report on the Ray Kelly Affair. As work on the action plan continued for several months, it was informed by activism ignited in fall 2015 by protests and rallies around issues of race at Brown and at colleges and universities across the country. Activism by students and faculty prompted an extended community engagement process, and feedback from students, faculty, staff and alumni ultimately helped shape the DIAP significantly.

Today, the DIAP makes clear that diversity is not the work of a single office or of groups of individuals — it is the responsibility of the entire Brown community. Included in the original DIAP is an appendix that provides a detailed history of advocacy and action — by students, alumni and the University — to make progress on confronting issues of diversity.

To ensure that Brown can fulfill its mission to advance knowledge, all University community members are called upon to strengthen an inclusive campus community. Through the work of the DIAP, all who live, work and study at Brown are expected to acknowledge that excellence in teaching, scholarship and research demands the diversity of thought and experience that nurtures respect and understanding.