New President’s Equity Council to improve DEIJ initiatives

Sara Topliff, Reporter

California Lutheran University has designed a new comprehensive plan of diversity, equity, inclusion and justice initiatives and formed a President’s Equity Council to create a DEIJ strategic plan, which is set for the next five years and will be measured to track progress

“Through the PEC, there will be a continuity of communication established throughout the sectors of the institution that will allow us to make sure that we are in unity and working together and understanding what’s happening on campus…and elevate some of the areas of responsibility and awareness,” Christina Sanchez, Cal Lutheran’s associate provost for Global Engagement and member of the PEC, said.

This 15-member council will work together to identify issues and opportunities within the diversity, equity, inclusion and justice categories. 

According to a document included in President Lori Varlotta’s email about the PEC, the expectations of the council are to “cultivate a shared understanding of and appreciation for DEIJ by engaging university members from various ideological perspectives in conversations about DEIJ concepts, principals, and commitments…model what belonging, inclusion, and empowerment look like at Cal Lutheran at this moment.” Another expectation is to “support the university’s aspiration to become known and acknowledged as a DEIJ leader in Southern California.”

While the members of the council may come from many different departments on campus, their goals and responsibilities are all the same. 

“We focus on creating a sense of belonging for our students, staff, and faculty so all of our DEIJ initiatives line up with that and really being an inclusive campus,” PEC member Maria Guadalupe Thayer said. 

Thayer, also the director of the Hispanic-Serving Institution program and the DEIJ program, said she was inspired to see the vision for the future at Cal Lutheran because of everyone’s passion for DEIJ. 

According to the Cal Lutheran website, “Cabinet and members of the President’s Equity Council are expected to develop a sophisticated understanding of the following key concepts and use these concepts as a lens to make decisions around policies, practices, programs and services.” The Cal Lutheran website also says this campus-wide plan is comprised of seven key strategies.

The website says these overarching strategies include establishing key baseline metrics and performance indicators, recruiting, retaining and developing a diverse community, creating an inclusive, equitable, culturally aware and responsive campus climate, and developing and maintaining innovative and inclusive curriculum and pedagogy. The other key strategies include making an ongoing financial commitment to DEIJ, and building community partnership around DEIJ and crafting a comprehensive athletics DEIJ plan. 

“I think we are very invested in our mission and hope that can guide and direct us so we do look at things from multiple worldviews and bring a lens of inclusiveness for all of the work that we do,” Sanchez said.  

By expanding its initiatives, the council can reach its goals to better our community. The strategic plan is set for the next five years and will be measured to track progress. 

Sarah Garcia, assistant director of Student Life and a member of the DEIJ core team, said that she doesn’t know much about this beyond what was said in Varlotta’s email to campus. 

Additionally, the DEIJ core team no longer has standing/recurring meetings or projects, so it’s my understanding that the team no longer has a substantive role in guiding or leading institutional DEIJ initiatives,” Garcia said. 

According to the document included in the president’s email, the PEC will meet three times per year for 90-minute meetings. The document states that “the President will chair the meetings and send topics of conversation to members in advance.”

The document also says that “members of the DEIJ Core team may be invited to attend this council’s meetings in full or in part, depending on the topic.”