Texas A&M has been awarded the Higher Education Excellence in Diversity Award, or HEED Award, for the second year in a row. The HEED award recognizes universities that have demonstrated an institutional commitment in creating a diverse and inclusive campus. In 2010, the university unveiled its 2010 Diversity Plan, which aims to remain transparent, hold university officials accountable, assess progress and have an equitable amount of diversity and inclusion on campus.
Assistant Vice President for Diversity Jennifer Reyes said this award recognizes Texas A&M’s long and hard work in ensuring a more inclusive and safe campus environment.
“It says that our institution is committed and transparent about our challenges,” Reyes said. “There are many things you could say about Texas A&M, but one thing you must say is we are very transparent about our data, the website brings data down to the academic department level.”
Political science junior and executive board member of the Council for Minority Student Affairs Rachel Mondragon said the university still has a long way to go before it should be considered an inclusive and safe campus.
“I have experienced racism more than once,” Mondragon said. “I know others who have been threatened verbally by A&M students… A&M doesn't really do much to stand by its students who speak out about racism.”
While some believe there is still a ways to go, the university has shown an institutional commitment to creating an inclusive and safer climate for all students, faculty and staff, Reyes said.
“The award is about institutional commitment which is a tremendous accomplishment for an institution the size of A&M, and it must be in place for all the other stuff to start working,” Reyes said. “The work will never stop, but we have the structure in place to continuously work to make this campus a safe place.”
Mondragon said to further celebrate diversity the university should seriously consider more concrete action to address the needs of the growing number of Hispanic and Latino students enrolled at A&M.
“A&M is reaching the point where it could be considered a Hispanic-Serving Institution… we have fallen behind other universities who have already had their Latinx Center for years,” Mondragon said. “A&M should focus on opening up a Latinx Center on campus separate from the Department of Multicultural Services.”
According to the U.S. Department of Education, a Hispanic-Serving Institution (HSI) is an institution that “has an enrollment of undergraduate full-time equivalent students that is at least 25 percent Hispanic students at the end of the award year immediately preceding the date of application.” In the Fall 2019 semester, 22 percent of students at the College Station campus were Hispanic.
While race and ethnicity are generally the first things that come to mind when we think of diversity, it’s just as important to realize that there are other non-race or ethnicity aspects of diversity to consider, Reyes said.
“It is about all of the dimensions of diversity,” Reyes said. “LGBT resources, accessibility resources and wellness and mental health. It’s a comprehensive approach to diversity and inclusion.”
Despite the work that must and will continue, this award reflects the commitment the university has shown the past decade in working towards making A&M a healthier and open campus for all who step foot on it, Reyes said.
“We want campus to be safe for everybody, every student and staff person to be able to work, feel safe and be successful,” Reyes said. “This award is not just for this year, it’s for the work of the past 10 years that we laid out in our diversity plan: accountability, campus climate and equity.”
To read about A&M’s diversity plan, click here.