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ASU releases exhaustive but unspecific updates on racial justice commitments

The LIFT Report details the status of multicultural spaces, police reform and the other 23 action items President Michael Crow outlined last September

091417 ASUsign.jpg

Students ride past a sign with the ASU charter on the Tempe campus on Thursday, Sept. 14, 2017. 

Editor's Note: This story was updated Oct. 1 at 4:30 p.m. to include quotes from Colleen Jennings-Roggensack.

ASU outlined its progress — and lack thereof — it has made on 25 goals to make its campuses a more racially equitable and inclusive place in its LIFT Report published Friday.

The 25 points were created in September 2020 following protests demanding action against police brutality, including the murder of George Floyd and the shooting of Jacob Blake by police officers. 

Just three days before ASU President Michael Crow released the 25 action items, hundreds of ASU students, alumni and other community members marched in protest, demanding defunding of ASU police, the creation of a multicultural center and hiring more faculty of color.

The 66-page report listed the names of new programs and proposals underway. But a year after Crow committed the University to the 25 actions to support Black students and employees, many points still lacked specifics, such as the names of who is part of what initiative, timelines, key metrics and data on feedback collected.

In February 2021, ASU rebranded the goals as the LIFT Initiative, categorizing the commitments into four sections: four under “Listen,” six under “Invest,” five under “Facilitate” and 10 under “Teach."

The State Press combed through the LIFT Report to identify new developments since the initiative's introduction. Below is a list of those new initiatives, developments and action items, followed by a breakdown of each of the 25 points in its original order. 

CATCH UP: ASU announces plans to support BIPOC students, faculty

New developments

  • Eight town halls have been held by the newly formed Advisory Council on African American Affairs and the vice provost for inclusion and community engagement
  • Eleven faculty members from underrepresented groups were hired in four cohorts of cluster hiring
  • ASU secured spaces on all four Phoenix metropolitan area campuses to develop multicultural centers
  • Created the position of Assistant Dean of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion at Barrett, The Honors College
  • Presidential Postdoctoral Fellowship Program created; four out of 15 positions filled
  • Presidential Graduate Assistant Program created, 23 out of 50 positions filled
  • Hiring training manuals revised
  • Release time for employees to use for professional development extended from 16 hours per year to 24 
  • Arizona Board of Regents approval for new bachelor’s degree in Race, Culture and Democracy
  • Proposal to modify ASU police practices
  • Launched multiple initiatives with Black African Coalition to mentor and support Black students
  • Two pilot programs, 2021 Black Student Persistence and Graduation Plans, and an outreach program to understand the Black student experience and its impact on retention, were launched
  • A proposal for a Community Advocates fellowship program is being developed to be sent to the Provost's Office
  • Virtual career assets rebranded and redeveloped as Mentoring at Scale

Breakdown of each item

1. Historical study of race and discrimination (L1)

The first of the 25 points in the LIFT Initiative aimed to launch the Faculty Inclusion Research for System Transformation (FIRST), which is tasked with conducting a historical study of race and discrimination at ASU.

Victoria Sahani, associate dean of special projects and professor of law at Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law, was tapped to lead FIRST, which was launched and has begun its study. Sahani was included in 2020's list of action items, but her name was not included on the LIFT Report.

2. Creation of Advisory Council on African American Affairs (I1)

In September 2020, ASU committed to establishing the Advisory Council on African American Affairs, which it fulfilled in October 2020.

Colleen Jennings-Roggensack, vice president of ASU Cultural Affairs, and Jeffrey Wilson, associate dean of research in the Department of Economics and professor of statistics and biostatistics, co-chair the ACAAA, which is made up of student, staff and faculty committees. 

The executive committee and general council had meetings once a month. The ACAAA also held a mid-year retreat, planning sessions and held eight town halls with the vice provost for inclusion and community. 

The ACAAA also worked on a video series explaining the four points of the LIFT Initiative — Listen, Invest, Facilitate and Teach. The report did not include specific feedback from the eight town halls.

3. Vice provost for inclusion and community engagement and her already existing office (F2)

ASU recommitted to supporting the work of the vice provost for inclusion and community engagement, who is currently Tiffany López. 

López assumed the position in January after Stanlie James, her predecessor in the role, left in December to retire in May. 

López heads The Office of Inclusion and Community Engagement, which is focused on diversity in scholarship, learning, teaching and governance. The support, stated in the initial 2020 items, was supposed to come from the Committee for Campus Inclusion, but the committee was not listed in the LIFT Report. The University provost, now Nancy Gonzales, was listed as a means for support for this initiative, but her name and title were left out of the LIFT Report.

No progress for the point is specified in the LIFT Report, but it mentions the office is working on establishing diversity, equity and inclusion officers for each college. 

4. Regular discussions about initiative (L2)

One of the LIFT Initiative's goals called to “convene a regular series of discussions” about the LIFT Initiative’s progress with the chairpeople of the ACAAA and the vice provost for inclusion and community engagement.

From November 2020 to April 2021, the ACAAA and vice provost hosted eight town halls with faculty, students, staff, tenured faculty, non-tenured faculty, Ph.D. candidates and alumni. 

Jennings-Roggensack said participants in the graduate town hall discussed hurdles that African American and Black graduate students, doctoral and postdoctoral students face at ASU. 

The undergraduate town hall, Jennings-Roggensack said, focused on partnerships for the multicultural spaces to involve all people of color. The town hall participants also discussed the want for counseling, grants and other support services in the multicultural spaces.

“We looked at places, not just spaces where people can meet and be and breathe and and do work, but also spaces where there’s content,” Jennings-Roggensack said. 

In the staff town hall, participants felt that mentoring Black students was an important task, Jennings-Roggensack said. The staff town hall discussed ways for faculty to support Black students without burdening themselves with work outside of their official job description. This eventually led to ASU giving employees additional release time as outlined in the 19th point.

In the town hall with Black and African American community leaders in the Valley, participants wanted to learn more about how to support Black and African American students and help show paths to job openings for students, Jennings-Roggensack said.

Participants at the alumni town hall said they wanted to feel more connected to ASU. To help the alumni feel more engaged, the participants discussed hosting an alumni symposium during Homecoming week of 2022 to discuss the progress of the LIFT Initiative, Jennings-Roggensack said.

5. Multicultural spaces (I2)

ASU committed last year to establish a multicultural space on each of its four Phoenix metropolitan campuses and funding a group to have a vision and produce design options for the space. 

After the original 25 commitments were released, ASU modified the commitment to add the design workgroup it developed would provide recommendations for design options by the end of Spring 2021.

The University has since secured multicultural spaces on each of its four Phoenix campuses.

The Tempe campus' space is on the third floor of the Student Pavilion, in Taylor Place on the Downtown Phoenix campus, in the University Center at West and at Citrus Dining Pavilion at the Polytechnic campus, according to a slideshow assembled by the Multicultural Solidarity Coalition, a student group working with the University to develop the spaces.

Currently, the space on the Tempe campus is furnished, but it has nothing on the walls and has no operational support services directly affiliated with multicultural spaces.

“The next phase of development includes the continued and intentional involvement of students, students of color, underrepresented communities, and intersectional identities,” the LIFT Report said.

6. Report on Black students, staff, faculty (L3)

The sixth point was to publish a report on Black students, faculty and staff, specifically regarding recruitment, retention and graduation data.  

According to the report, data collected from a survey sent to Black students, faculty and staff would be published in "The LIFT Report: Status of Black and African Americans at Arizona State," the same name as the report released Friday.

There were few quantitative metrics in the report, and there was no data on graduation or retention rates among Black students. But it did include a chart on the number of Black/African American students enrolled for the past five years, not including 2021. It also included the 2020 percentages of Black/African American people at the University: 9% of students, and 4% of faculty and staff. 

Screenshot from the "The LIFT Report: Status of Black and African Americans at Arizona State University."

7. What ASU is doing to facilitate its plans (F1)

ASU also committed to promoting the well-being of students of color and to work on achieving a student body reflective of Arizona. 

The University began collaborating with the University Innovation Alliance, a coalition of University representatives Crow helps lead, and also created two initiatives to focus on Black student graduation rates and success. The initiatives are said to focus on the retention and graduation rates of Black students, similar to the metrics outlined in the sixth point.

8. Enhanced support to student organizations (L4)

In September 2020, ASU committed to working to enhancing "service support to student organizations and their initiatives on behalf of Black students.”

Since then, the Black African Coalition launched Black Support Circles with Educational Outreach and Student Services (EOSS), the BAC Scholarship with ASU Foundation, the Black Excellence Experience Tour with Admissions and the BAC Digital Guidebook with EOSS. The BAC also increased participation in the annual Sankofa program, and also helped launch the CoNext Mentoring program, the RISE Leadership Institute and the Black Sun Devil Network.

“The goals are to increase the number of Black student organizations within the colleges, and increase student involvement and BAC membership,” the report said. 

9. Graduate School Diversity Fair (I6)

To address the commitment of hosting a spring graduate recruitment fair annually for undergraduates of color, ASU held a two-day Graduate School Diversity Fair on Feb. 25 and 26, which "drew interest" of almost 800 students, the report said. 

The Graduate School Diversity Fair is not an entirely new event, however. It was renamed and expanded from a previous iteration of the event.

The University plans to continue to expand the fair to reach more students and increase visibility on campus to expose students of color to areas of graduate studies they can pursue. 

10. Postdoctoral program (T1)

To diversify ASU’s faculty, the University committed to creating the Presidential Postdoctoral Fellowship Program (PPFP), which hires postdoctoral students, gives them the opportunity to have a tenure-track position at ASU. 

The program is set to fund a minimum of 30 postdoctoral fellowships over two years.

So far, 15 positions have been approved, and as of the end of June, four have been filled. 

It also included a chart on the number of Black tenured faculty from the years 2016 to 2020. The percentage of tenured faculty who are Black has increased from 3.24% in 2016 to 3.59% in 2020.

11. Community Advocates fellowship (I3)

The University committed to establishing graduate fellowships for students of color. Students hired into the fellowship will support student needs and help them navigate college life. 

The fellowship, named "Community Advocates," is being designed by student leaders assigned to the initiative, and a proposal for it is being developed to be eventually presented to the provost’s office. 

Eventually, the Community Advocates will be linked to the ASU Multicultural Center. The LIFT Report does not specify what exactly that connection is. 

12. Establish graduate assistantships (T2)

The University committed to the establishment of 50 graduate assistantships for underrepresented students over the next two to three years. 

The Presidential Graduate Assistant Program (PGA) was created in order to provide Black students with increased access to research and teaching assistantships and to help them through graduate school. 

Out of the 50 graduate assistant positions, 23 have been filled. Of the 23, 11 students were Black. The University is attempting to fill all 50 positions in 2022. 

13. University-wide entrepreneurship and advising (T3)

The University also committed to providing an entrepreneurship and career advising initiative for students of color. 

Previously existing virtual career services were redesigned and renamed “Mentoring at Scale” in 2020.  

The University is currently experimenting using the Mentoring at Scale program with the already existing Co-NEXT ASU-Greater Phoenix Urban League Young Professionals mentoring program in a pilot program.

No other details about the services were specified, and Mentoring at Scale does not have a website.

14. Training and hiring procedure revisions (T4)

The University updated a training PowerPoint in Fall 2020 to fulfill the commitment to identify and address biases in hiring.

The report also states it revised training to include how a committee should evaluate a diversity statement in the hiring process.

15. Cluster hiring (I4)

ASU committed to prioritizing cluster hiring, which involves hiring for faculty positions in groups to attract a more diverse group of applicants.

The University committed to hiring at least 10 positions each year for five years, eventually yielding 50 new faculty members. 

So far, ASU has three cluster hire cohorts funded by the Provost’s office and one through The College: Natural Sciences. In total, 11 faculty members were hired: one cluster of two faculty members to School of Earth and Space Exploration, two clusters that added a total of seven faculty members to the English department, and one cluster of two faculty members to the School of Human Evolution and Social Change

16. Recruitment certification (T8)

Although the LIFT Initiative aimed to support academic centers through the support of endowments as one of its goals, the report's section for the goal instead discussed ASU's Recruitment Certification Training, providing no information about how endowments were being used to support academic centers.

The training, which existed prior to the creation of the LIFT initiative, underwent revisions about recruiting more diverse applicants and removing bias. About 600-800 hiring leads complete the training each year, according to the report.

17. Add a Black tenured faculty member to Barrett, The Honors College (I5)

ASU committed to hiring a Black tenured faculty member to Barrett, The Honors College, in hopes of increasing enrollment and retention of Black students at the college. 

The position of Assistant Dean of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion at Barrett, The Honors College was developed to help achieve this goal. The report did not include a name for a person who would take the position.

The Assistant Dean of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion will eventually lead the BEST@ASU program, which will focus on helping Black students find mentorship programs, internships and career preparation opportunities. 

No other details regarding BEST@ASU were provided in the report.

18. Implement "To Be Welcoming" training (T5)

ASU committed to implementing a “To Be Welcoming” training for faculty, staff and students. 

The training was originally developed in 2018 in collaboration with Starbucks for its staff. Starbucks shared the training with ASU in June 2020 to adapt it for broader use. 

Mako Ward, an assistant professor in African and African American studies, said in a meeting with the ACAAA on Sept. 10 that the adapted training consists of three, 90-minute courses.

The training is supposed to be put in place at some point during the 2021-2022 academic year, with hopes of creating a safer environment to share ideas and welcome others. 

19. Additional release time to facilitate mentorship (F3)

Another program ASU committed to in September 2020 involved service time for employees to help with mentorship programs for students. 

In January, employees became eligible for up to 24 hours of release time per year, which is time away from regular job tasks to take part in professional growth and development opportunities. This is an increase from the 16 hours offered previously. 

Employees are encouraged to use the time to mentor students from underrepresented communities. 

20. New bachelor's degree (T6)

The 20th point in the original 25 commitments aimed to establish a new degree program for a bachelor of arts in Race, Culture and Democracy.

So far, the University has obtained approval from the Arizona Board of Regents to offer the degree.

The finer details of the degree, including curriculum and graduation requirements, are in the process of being finalized by the Center for the Study of Race and Democracy, the Provost's Office and colleges.

21. Support for Center for the Study of Race and Democracy (F4)

In the original 25 commitments, ASU committed to continuing to support the already existing Center for the Study of Race and Democracy.

CSRD offers programs such as Words on Wheels, Social Cohesion Dialogue, Race, Arts and Democracy, and more.

While not explicitly mentioned in the report's specific section, ASU is proposing a plan to procure funds from the Arizona State Legislature for the center, according to the report.

22. Creation of The Difference Engine (T10)

With the commitment of launching a “multicollege interdisciplinary initiative” to reduce inequality across the U.S., ASU launched the Difference Engine in February 2021. 

Civil rights lawyer Ehsan Zaffar leads the initiative, which currently has two main programs: Women’s Power Index, which scores organizations on metrics of inequality, and Supercharger, a program that connects non-governmental organizations to entrepreneurs to fund hyper-local projects with a positive impact. 

“The Difference Engine pairs interdisciplinary entrepreneurship with the enthusiasm of ASU students and thought leadership of ASU faculty and staff to fix our nation’s greatest inequalities,” the report said.  

23. Support for Community-Driven Archives (T9)

ASU also committed to “fund and sustain” the Community-Driven Archives Initiative, run through ASU Library.

The Community-Driven Archives, which were established in 2017, held meetings with BIPOC and LGBTQ+ communities to find better ways to serve them, according to the report.

The CDA team has put together a vision proposal and a budget to better serve the Black community. So far, the proposal has been sent to a LIFT subcommittee. 

24. Support for A. Wade Smith Memorial Lecture on Race Relations (F5)

The University also committed to continual institutional support of the A. Wade Smith Memorial Lecture on Race Relations, an annual event that has been running since 1995, through increased sponsorships and funding. 

Amy McGrath, the deputy vice president of Educational Outreach and Student Services, has requested more funding for the lecture, and it will be worked on in connection with ASU Gammage and CSRD. 

25. Police reform (T7)

The last of the original 25 commitments aimed to “reimagine and enhance” the campus police force by establishing “a police force comprised of baccalaureate degree-holding members,” and creating a certification program with an emphasis in racial sensitivity, mental health, crisis intervention and conflict de-escalation.

Although the original objective said ASU was attempting to get all police officers to have bachelor’s degrees, or at least the opportunity to get a degree, there are no mentions in the report of programs to educate police officers, attract officers with bachelor’s degrees or how many officers now have bachelor's degrees. 

A proposal called “Objectives and Principles of a Campus Police Agency” was made and is in the presentation process. Among recommendations in the proposal are policies, procedures and practices, and methods to diversify the police force. 

Separate from the LIFT Initiative, ASU PD has joined the 30x30 initiative, which is an effort to increase the representation of women in the police force. The LIFT Report says that the 30x30 initiative will also increase the presence of minority police officers, but the initiative is focused on the representation of women. 

ASU PD has also expanded its Crisis Intervention Training, community policing and procedural justice and legitimacy training.

Reach the reporter at and follow @Anna_Lee_Camp on Twitter.

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