Washington State Public Institutions of Higher Education. There are six public baccalaureate institutions and 34 community and technical colleges (CTCs) that make up the public institutions of higher education (IHEs) in Washington State.
Professional Development for Faculty and Staff on Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Antiracism. A professional development program on diversity, equity, inclusion (DEI), and antiracism for faculty and staff is established at each public IHE.
Beginning with the 2022-23 academic year, each public IHE campus must develop a professional development program for new faculty and staff with the purpose of eliminating structural racism and promoting DEI. The program must be developed in partnership with administration, faculty, staff, and student leadership. The purpose of the professional development program must be rooted in eliminating structural racism and promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion while improving outcomes for students from historically marginalized communities. Efforts should be made to ensure the program is developed and delivered by individuals with innate and acquired experience in the field of DEI.
The IHEs must also create an evaluation for professional development participants. The evaluation must include certain questions on the participant's satisfaction, the degree learning objectives were achieved, and how they will apply knowledge gained to their work.
All new faculty and staff must participate in the professional development program and submit an evaluation. Other faculty and staff may participate in the program as needed or required by their institution. Though only new employees are required to participate, each institution must develop a goal of at least 80 percent of all faculty and staff completing the professional development program annually. The progress in that goal must be included in a report to the legislature.
Beginning July 1, 2023, IHEs must share completed participant evaluations with either the State Board for Community and Technical Colleges (SBCTC) or the Council of Presidents (COP). The SBCTC and COP will receive completed evaluations and pertinent information on the program.
By December 31, 2024, and biennially thereafter, SBCTC and COP will each develop and submit a report on the professional development programs and submit the report to the higher education committees of the Legislature.
Campus Climate Assessments on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. Each public IHE must conduct a campus climate assessment to understand the current state of DEI in the learning, working, and living environments on campus for students, faculty, and staff. The campus climate assessment must be conducted, at minimum, every five years. Additionally, every IHE must conduct annual listening and feedback sessions on DEI for the entire campus community during periods between climate assessments. Each assessment must be developed in partnership with the IHE's administration, faculty, staff, and student leadership. The results of the campus climate assessment shall be used to inform the professional development and student DEI programs.
Campus climate assessment and listening and feedback session findings must be reported to the SBCTC and COP annually beginning July 1, 2022.
The SBCTC and COP must develop a report on campus climate assessments and annual listening and feedback sessions and submit it to the higher education committees of the Legislature by December 31, 2024, and biennially thereafter. This report may be combined with the report on the professional development programs.
Student Training Program on DEI and Antiracism. Beginning in the 2024-25 academic year, the public IHEs must develop and establish a program on DEI and antiracism for students using data and promising practices from the faculty professional development program and campus climate assessments.. Nonmatriculated students are not required to participate in the program.
Each public IHE student must participate in the program annually. The SBCTC and COP must evaluate the student DEI and antiracism programs beginning in 2024, and report on findings biennially beginning in 2026.
The committee recommended a different version of the bill than what was heard. PRO: Campuses should be safe for everyone. There is a lot of work and learning required to support and create an environment that is culturally safe. This bill will help support and retain diverse faculty, staff, and students. There is a stigma against people coming from prisons and having some formalized training for all faculty and staff as a part of traditional training will help faculty to understand how to interact with these students. More oversight is needed to craft policies and procedures that are responsive to traditional and nontraditional students. As faculty does not tend to be very diverse, leadership should include vice-presidents with expertise in DEI who may provide better leadership in this space.
I grew up in a diverse environment and did not know how to navigate white spaces. When I arrived at Western Washington University, I was overwhelmed with fear. This bill will make institutions of higher education more accessible to all people—not just white people. Faculty that is largely white have a hard time connecting with non-white students. Racism is a persistent barrier to success. Wrap-around services also must be addressed. This bill is necessary to make students feel safe in the classrooms. People need to know about implicit bias and micro-aggressions, so they know these actions cause harm. This bill will help everyone interact with each other on campus and out in their communities.
DEI is important in higher education. The period between campus climate assessments should be extended. We need time for DEI campus climate assessments to be done correctly. Language regarding flexibility in the assessment process would be appreciated. TESC is currently offering DEI professional development opportunities that focus on historically marginalized communities. Having the flexibility to design these programs is something we care about. We are confident that the institutions can do this work without the need of including the WSAC. Individual colleges should have the flexibility to develop, deliver, and assess their equity programming. The SBCTC should have oversight on the CTCs' work. This bill is very prescriptive on how this work should take place. There should be more flexibility. DEI programming shouldn't be developed by one employee group. Culturally relevant pedagogy, student support services, affinity groups, and gathering disaggregated data has helped TCC in supporting all students. Clark College has done some work to ensure faculty, staff, and students are competent in anti-racism through a ten-month equity program. Lake Washington Institute of Technology has embedded DEI as a requirement for graduation for every student.
Let us grant the diversity officers the flexibility to do their work and have them tailor the programs to their campus. This is a unique bill, as it requires all institutions to provide this professional development. It would be useful for each institution to analyze their own program. We believe the deadline of having this implemented in 2022 is doable if provided funding. Anti-racist work is important for a democratic society. Inclusive work is not symmetrical. Equal does not mean inclusive. Students are the experts here and including their voices in this anti-racism work is important for success.
CON: Many Asian-Americans are very worried that they may be negatively affected by this bill. From the Chinese Exclusion Act to the internment of Japanese-Americans, there have been policies where Asian Americans have historically been negatively affected. There should be an amendment to call out and combat racism against Asian Americans. Language should be included to ensure that Asian Americans are not negatively affected by this bill. This bill will likely violate the equal protection clause which prohibits the state from granting preferential treatment to a certain group over another. If enacted, this bill will promote fear and lead to more conflict.
The committee recommended a different version of the bill than what was heard. PRO: The State Board is uniquely set up to help colleges with their DEI training. SBCTC should provide system-wide oversight of this effort and not WSAC. I also recommend allowing colleges to select their own assessment tools instead of requiring a standardized assessment tool across the board. It is important to empower local colleges to determine what works best in their local communities. Some students are enrolled in occasional courses for different reasons, for example, a retiree taking an art class. We would like to focus DEI training on degree-seeking students primarily. We need to prioritize investment in racial equity guided by students in higher education now. I would not be here if students felt their needs were being met by current diversity efforts in place.
OTHER: Ongoing work is needed to combat systematic racism. Students, administrators, faculty, and staff will all have a key role in supporting the bill. While we are aligned with the goals of the bill, we are happy to help the committee reduce the fiscal impact of the current proposal to avoid an unfunded mandate given the financial situations institutions are currently facing. We have new language that allows for efficiencies, innovation, flexibility in implementation, and streamlines reporting requirements, which results in a reduced fiscal impact while maintaining the intent of the bill.