DEI Message Archive

Updates from the Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

April 2021

As we approach the 20th anniversary of Soka University of America’s opening, we continue to advance our work in diversity, equity, and inclusion. We recognize the need to address individual and systemic oppression that impacts everyone navigating society, and remain committed to fostering global citizens who contribute to changing this fabric into one that is based on respect for the dignity of life. We will continue to work together with students, faculty, and staff to ensure every member of our community feels a true sense of belonging at Soka.

We are committed to taking action and continuing dialogue about identity and social justice. We will engage in dialogue more deeply, effectively, and thoughtfully so we can hear the voices of our entire community and work alongside them to make change.

Through this process, we aim to move away from the binaries that have been used to discuss and enact change in society, while creating focused and universal approaches that will be assessed by how they help us advance our goal of equity and justice on campus for all. Toward that end, we are highlighting some of the efforts that are underway, which will continue to evolve and develop.

Enhancing Diversity in All Areas of the University

  • Three new Black-identifying faculty and staff were hired in summer 2020.
  • The search committee for a Presidential hire in Black Studies, chaired by the vice president for Academic Affairs, was formed in March 2021. The committee is comprised of the fellows of the Center for Race, Ethnicity, and Human Rights.
  • Through the Center for Race, Ethnicity, and Human Rights, new courses related to the issues of race, ethnicity and human rights are being developed; and the center will assist in the development of additional academic programming.
  • During the 2019-2020 academic year, a multi-faceted strategy for diversifying SUA faculty was created to include: expanding the applicant pools, providing diversity training for search committees, expanding the short list, and recruiting through the Consortium for Faculty Diversity.

Building a Community of Care and Belonging

  • Anti-bias Reporting: We are in the process of creating an anti-bias reporting and response system that will go live in fall 2021, incorporating the input of students.
  • Community Forums: We will hold regular community forums for all members of the Soka community.
  • Mental Health Services: We have improved our mental health services by contracting a Black-identifying counselor to support Black-identifying students, and giving students access to an online counseling platform for minoritized individuals to pair with a counselor of a shared identity.
  • Collaboration: As of spring 2020, student affinity organizations are officially being supported by the Office of Student Activities. Working with the affinity groups, several collaborative programs have been hosted by Student Activities and the Office of Career Development, including for first-generation college students. We remain committed to including student input in creating future programs.
  • Embrace a Living Room: Once students return to campus, Residential Life will be initiating the “Embrace a Living Room” program to promote and highlight minoritized identities. The Living Rooms will be available for residents to use and can be reserved by sponsoring affinity groups. All student affinity groups registered through the Office of Student Activities may submit a proposal to Residential Life for consideration.

A number of DEI trainings have taken place over the last academic year, and comprehensive training is being developed out of the Office of DEI. They are listed below in order of occurrence.

  • Effective spring 2021: All students are being required to take an online DEI course in the spring to register for fall classes.
  • Spring 2021: Athletic department staff completed a six-module certificate program hosted by LGBT SportSafe.
  • Fall 2020: First years participated in new student orientation mandatory eight-part DEI educational sessions which will be expanded upon in subsequent years.
  • Fall 2020: Student-athletes participated in diversity and anti-discrimination training.
  • Fall 2020: Athletics department staff participated in separate mandatory training from RISE.
  • Fall 2020: Student Affairs staff participated in mandatory DEI training from Dr. Carmen Rivera.
  • Spring 2020: Staff and faculty participated in mandatory unconscious bias training led by Dr. Bryant T. Marks from the National Institute on Race and Equity. Dr. Marks also held a separate unconscious bias training specifically tailored for our Public Safety staff.
  • Winter 2020 – Spring 2021: Staff and faculty participated in mandatory harassment and discrimination training which also covered Title IX and Clery Act with more in-depth training for faculty and those in supervisory roles.

Planning, Sustaining and Measuring our Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Work

  • Launched the DEI Strategic Planning Process in spring 2021.
  • Unity and Diversity Council was formed in fall 2020.
  • Student Affairs Diversity Committee was formed in fall 2020 with representatives from all different areas to develop a department-wide strategy for DEI.
  • Became an inaugural member of the Liberal Arts Colleges Racial Equity Leadership Alliance (LACRELA).
  • Eight representatives from Soka University of America have attended monthly eConvenings, each session focused on approaches for achieving racial equity across areas on college campuses.
  • We will conduct a National Assessment of Collegiate Campus Climate (NACCC) racial climate survey in fall 2021 through LACRELA.
  • Conducted Promise54 DEI Climate Survey in fall 2020, and using findings as a baseline for further planning.

The actions we have taken in response to the original set of student demands presented to the university in November 2019 can be found on a Demands and Actions document online. We reiterate our commitment to working in collaboration with all students to create the most inclusive campus.

January 2021

Members and Friends of the Soka Community,

Thank you for visiting the webpage for the newly formed Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI). This page will continue to evolve as new initiatives develop and programs get underway, and it will serve as a central location for sharing campus developments relating to diversity, equity, and inclusion.

At this important juncture in the history of the university, we also face a turning point in our world. Now, more than ever, we see the tremendous need for the steady stream of global citizens committed to living a contributive life that Soka aims to foster.

Diversity, equity, and inclusion as defined by Soka’s mission and values are rooted in a systems-way of thinking, where each person polishes and advances the “other,” where each individual and the “other” foster mutual growth, from which is born a true respect and compassion for each other. The work will be about building our humanity and character individually and collectively, and collaborating to ensure that community practices and policies align with our mission.

One of the immediate focuses of the office will be rolling out more comprehensive training and educational opportunities for the community.

The Office of DEI will serve as the central body carrying out and supporting SUA’s ongoing efforts around diversity, equity, and inclusion. We will work closely with the DEI Strategic Planning Committee—responsible for short and long-range planning and assessment—and the Unity and Diversity Council (UDC)—responsible for offering guidance and advice to the office. The below links will contain ongoing updates from each body.

I am sincerely looking forward to connecting with you and engaging in this important and transformative work together.

In Community,
Maya Gunaseharan
Manager for Diversity Initiatives and Community Building