Governor Andrew Cuomo announced a new Diversity, Equity and Inclusion policy for all 64 SUNY schools. New York State is the first in the nation to implement this type of policy.
Adopted by the board of trustees on Sept. 10, the plan will include implementing a chief diversity officer on every campus, as well as plans to increase cultural awareness among students, faculty and staff.
“New York has a long and proud history of embracing diversity,” Cuomo said in a statement. “Our world-class SUNY system is no exception. With this new Diversity, Equity and Inclusion policy, we are once again sending a strong message that the Empire State is a national leader and a beacon of inclusion for all students.”
According to Cuomo, diversity is all-inclusive and includes students from all minority backgrounds.
“The new policy broadly defines diversity,” Cuomo said in a statement. “To include race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, gender, and expression, age, socioeconomic status, status as a veteran, status as a student with a disability, first-generation and international students or those transferring between colleges.”
According Cuomo, students will now have the option to voluntarily self-identify their gender identity and sexual orientation or other status if they choose to. This can be updated at the start of each semester.
There are seven different categories that students can choose from for sexual orientation: man, woman, transman, transwomen, genderqueer/gender-fluid, questioning, unsure or an unlisted identity.
“With these actions, SUNY makes another clear statement that it is a welcoming place for members of the LGBTQ communities,” said SUNY Trustee Richard Socarides, a nationally-recognized LGBT rights leader, in a statement. “[SUNY] continues to align itself with the commitment to full diversity and inclusion that New York State has demonstrated under Governor Cuomo.”
According to Socarides, the program aims to regulate policy throughout the campus community.
“This tool will allow us to view retention and completion patterns on campuses and throughout SUNY to consider areas where improved supports may be needed, Socarides said.”
In effort to promote the initiative across academic sectors, Cuomo’s plan will include
faculty researchers, annual reporting, search firms that value diversity and cultural competency training for SUNY and campus staff.
“SUNY is committed to being the most inclusive system of higher education in the country,” said SUNY Board Chairman H. Carl McCall. “This policy ensures that all of our campuses and our system offices are held to the highest standard.”
On Sept. 15, SUNY Chancellor Nancy L. Zimpher announced that the SUNY system received the HEED award (Higher Education Excellence in Diversity) from Insight, a diversity-focused magazine based in St. Louis, Missouri for the fourth consecutive year in a row.
“As the public university system serving one of the nation’s most diverse states, it is essential that SUNY adapt to the evolving needs of all students,” Zimpher said in a statement. “Diversity is interwoven throughout our strategic plan, and now, as we implement a completion agenda with the goal of awarding 150,000 SUNY degrees per year by 2020, our commitment to diversity must be stronger than ever before.”
Since 2007, the SUNY system has implemented statewide offices and policies in diversity, equity and inclusion.