May 1, 2013

University diversity planning extends beyond campus

In a May 1 message to the community, President David Skorton emphasized that Cornell’s universitywide diversity planning effort, Toward New Destinations (TND), engages several key areas, including developing initiatives involving such off-campus constituents as parents, alumni, community organizations and vendors.

“The provosts, vice presidents, deans and I are committed to the implementation of goals outlined in Toward New Destinations, which involve all members of the greater Cornell community and those with whom the institution is formally and informally engaged,” Skorton said in his statement.

Other TND advances have focused on helping the colleges and units translate the core diversity principles of composition, engagement, inclusion and achievement into concrete goals that they can pursue and stressing the relevance of bias prevention in achieving the TND goals, informed by the results of a climate study that was folded into this year’s Perceptions of Undergraduate Life and Student Experiences (PULSE) survey.

“This year we are emphasizing the design of initiatives in support of engagement and inclusion, which might include ideas for improving the climate for one or more groups,” Skorton said. Those who develop specific initiatives can apply for a monetary grant to help implement them through the University Diversity Council, he said.

As part of this engagement effort, Cornell Procurement Services has reached out to 13 of the university’s diverse suppliers to explore ways to increase their business transactions with the colleges and units.

Currently, about 9 percent of the goods and services purchased by Cornell are from diverse suppliers – 7 percent from woman-owned suppliers and 1 percent each from minority- or veteran-owned suppliers. However, according to a survey conducted by students in the Samuel C. Johnson Graduate School of Management, only 32 percent of college and unit respondents are aware that the university supports diverse suppliers or know who the diverse suppliers are.

“We are working to enhance our engagement with diverse suppliers in support of the Toward New Destinations initiative and as part of the work of the [Division of Financial Affairs/Cornell Information Technologies] Diversity Committee,” said Joanne DeStefano, vice president for finance and chief financial officer. “Moreover, many of the government-sponsored contracts Cornell receives require that a portion of the goods and services obtained through those contracts are purchased from diverse suppliers.”

The procurement office aims to increase the amount Cornell departments and units purchase from the 13 identified diverse suppliers by 5 percent to 10 percent annually. As part of this effort, the office has partnered with the Johnson to involve its students in project work to help these diverse suppliers implement their ideas for increasing their business with Cornell. The student leading the project is a Roy H. Park Leadership Fellow.

To increase these vendors’ visibility on campus, the procurement office has launched a new Diversity Supplier website and identified diverse and local suppliers on e-Shop.

The diverse suppliers have also been invited to campus May 16 for a Diverse Supplier Event and to the annual Supplier Show, June 13.

This summer, the University Diversity Council will review the initiatives undertaken this past year, Skorton said. The results will be posted online with a report to the Cornell community on progress made, and an archive of each year’s initiatives established, he said.