Brigham Young University President Kevin J Worthen announced that the Committee on Race, Equity & Belonging (CoREB) has completed its study, which included numerous meetings with students, alumni, faculty, staff and administrators. Additionally, the university released key findings from a national diversity and equity campus climate survey, which includes data from nearly 20,000 respondents.
The purpose of both endeavors is to help the university better understand and address people’s experiences with diversity and belonging, as well as to develop plans to improve the campus experience for all students and employees.
CoREB Study & Recommendations
“As a committee, we felt fortunate and honored to hear individuals from the BYU community recount their experiences of racism. Their honesty and courage will help BYU become a greater place of belonging,” said Ryan Gabriel, an assistant professor of sociology and a member of CoREB. “We witnessed an outpouring of support and saw how many at BYU were actively working to improve the campus climate by meeting the call from the president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Russell M. Nelson, to build bridges of understanding. It was inspiring.”
Michalyn Steele, who is the Francis R. Kirkham Professor of Law at the BYU J. Reuben Clark Law School and a member of CoREB, stated, “I am encouraged and hopeful for meaningful change to improve the experience of Black, Indigenous and People of Color at BYU. I am gratified by the widespread commitment in the BYU community to lead out in realizing a more inclusive future where the diverse gifts of each individual are welcomed. The Committee’s work is an important first step in building that future together; it is the work of every member of the BYU family to be part of the positive change to come.”
The BYU Committee on Race, Equity & Belonging, under the direction of Academic Vice President Shane Reese, has been deeply committed to this study, said President Worthen. “From its beginning in June 2020, the Committee established as its mission the call from leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and the NAACP that educational institutions ‘review processes, [policies] and organizational attitudes regarding racism and root them out.’ They have worked tirelessly to accomplish this goal. They did not always agree on the issues they discussed, but it was clear in my meeting with them that they have grown to respect and love one another despite their differences.
“In addition to the specific recommendations they have produced,” he said, “they have provided an example of how these important conversations can transform both institutions and individuals. The university will be a better place going forward because of their efforts. We owe a debt of gratitude to every member of CoREB.”
The Committee provided President Worthen with a 63-page report and 26 recommendations, which are available at race.byu.edu. The national Higher Education Data Sharing Consortium (HEDS) campus climate survey can be found at data.byu.edu. In addition to the HEDS findings, more information about student academic success, including graduation rates, can be found at this data.byu.edu link.
The Committee’s report, along with the HEDS findings, has given the university a greater and better understanding of the experiences of Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) at BYU, said Worthen. “With the committee’s recommendations we now have specific actions to address the issues and concerns the study found. We also have a model of how counseling together can have remarkable results.”
In its report, CoREB acknowledges its work to identify the sources and effects of racism at BYU is ongoing. The committee’s knowledge, expertise and experience will be helpful to the President’s Council, who will have significant responsibilities for addressing the findings and recommendations.
“All of the recommendations are extremely helpful,” said Worthen. “Some of them, such as making curricular changes to general education, religion and elective courses that educate students on race, unity and diversity, as well as establishing college-wide statements on race and belonging, are already in process,” said Worthen. “Others will take more time; some will require additional consideration. The committee’s full report and the recommendations will help us better nurture and retain our BIPOC students and employees. There is hard work ahead, but the committee has outlined some important steps we need to take and provided a model for how this can be done.”
HEDS Equity & Diversity Survey
As part of BYU’s ongoing efforts to understand and address people’s experiences with diversity and belonging, President Worthen invited students and employees in October 2020 to complete a national diversity and equity campus climate survey administered by HEDS. The data complement the qualitative data collected by CoREB. While the committee’s work included numerous meetings with students, alumni, faculty, staff and administrators, as well as more than 500 online submissions of experiences and perspectives from members of the campus community on race.byu.edu., the survey collected quantitative data from 19,626 people.
Like CoREB’s report, the findings from the survey emphasize the need to create a sense of belonging for every student and employee.
- Overall, the majority of students and employees (80%) reported satisfaction with the overall BYU campus climate, with 9% reporting they were dissatisfied.
- While a majority of non-white students and employees (71%) also expressed satisfaction with the campus climate, the difference between the two groups, as well as the fact that 13% of the non-white students and employees were dissatisfied with the overall climate, indicates that there is need for more work if all students and employees are to feel fully welcomed in the BYU community.
- BYU has official discrimination complaint procedures, yet only 37% of all undergraduate students said that they knew who to contact if they experienced or observed an act of discrimination or harassment.
- The survey also found that 16% of respondents said they had experienced discrimination or harassment on the BYU campus, at an off-campus residence or a BYU-affiliated off-campus program or event. Of the 16%, the most common form experienced in the last year were derogatory remarks.
Though most students and employees reported satisfaction with the overall climate, BYU’s assistant to the president for assessment and planning Rosemary Thackeray said the survey does help point out where improvements can and need to be made.
“These findings reiterate President Worthen’s counsel that he gave us this summer,” said Thackeray. “He encouraged us to ‘come together, to address injustice and to truly love one another.’ The work of CoREB and the campus climate survey is part of the sustained effort the President asked of us to make things better on campus for everyone.”