On Wednesday, I attended a forum on Inclusion and Diversity at VCU. The room was set up for 360 attendees, but trust me, 500+ were in attendance. It was standing room only.
The forum was organized on the heels of a meeting between the on-campus group Black VCU Speaks and VCU President Michael Rao. Some of the core issues were: under-representation of Black professors, the lack of ethnic diversity in the curriculum and the insensitivity toward diversity and inclusion by some professors. It was clear that Dr. Rao understands the issues and he said the school must do more to make sure that "all students felt safe and represented."
It was refreshing to see that the room was well represented by all of the races and cultures of VCU. I was also taken by the very honest dialogue from both the students and the faculty. It is clear that this is not just a Black & White issue. It is truly about all diversity of gender, thought, culture, race and self-identification.
This was a good start and now President Rao, the students, the faculty and the Board of Visitors need to complete the Strategic Plan on Diversity and Inclusion by the May target date.
The rhetoric was very good, but it must be followed with collaborative plans, action and change. If not, the next meeting might have a different tone. I think the voices have been heard.