The 17-member Committee on Diversity and Inclusion (CODI) at Eastern Mennonite University has a broad mission – and specific plans for implementing its vision. CODI hosts a racial equity leadership institute introductory forum in the Campus Center main lounge at 7:30 p.m. on Tues., Nov. 27. The forum is cosponsored by the Student Government Association.
The event will serve as “groundwatering” for upcoming cohort-based racial equity trainings, said CODI chair Melody Pannell, professor of applied social sciences. The pilot program for the racial equity leadership institute initiative will launch on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day in January.
“These trainings will in part give people the same language for speaking about equity,” Pannell said. “Knowing what is meant by ‘white privilege’ or ‘intersectionality,’ for example, will help us develop shared values relating to expanded diversity.”
Comprised of students, staff and faculty, CODI is tasked with working “to develop and sustain a diverse and welcoming community of learning,” according to its mission statement. Through education, training, policy proposals and support of “practices that foster respect, equity, restorative justice and dignity for every person,” the committee “encourages the critique of dominant narratives and works to develop a campus culture that listens to and learns from counter-narratives,” among other goals.
Reporting to Provost Fred Kniss, the committee supports EMU’s strategic goal on diversity, which in part directs the university “to attract, develop and sustain a thriving team of faculty, staff and administrators whose diversity mirrors our student body, community, and the broader church.” Its five subcommittees are focused on marketing and programs, research and assessment/recruitment, human resources and retention, policies and practice, and curriculum and training.
Progress on initiatives
CODI has already been active on campus. It advocated for the “day-on” designation of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day scheduled for January 2019, and last spring it joined Faith in Action and the Harrisonburg-Rockingham branch of the NAACP in hosting a religious leaders summit and racial equity training. It has also provided various trainings, plus provided support and counsel for a variety of events and initiatives.
The committee consults and collaborates with campus departments and other entities, speaks into student life processes and situations, and informs the development of administrative policy and practices. [Read EMU’s Statement on Diversity and Inclusion.]
“This body will make it possible to thread conversations about diversity more comprehensively through the fabric of our core curriculum,” said Pannell. “It’s a big vision, but I think that we’re ready and primed for it.”
- Melody Pannell, professor of applied social sciences, chair
- Erick Camodeca, cross country/track associate coach
- Tae Dews, undergraduate student and pastoral assistant, campus ministries
- Deanna Durham, professor of applied social sciences
- Kathy Evans, professor of education
- Scott Eyre, lead residence director, housing and res life
- Emily Forrer, operations coordinator of student life
- Matthew Hunsberger, assistant director of housing and residence life
- Steve Johnson, professor of visual and communication arts
- Oksana Kittrell, residence director of housing and residence life
- Mia Kivlighan, marketing and communications
- Celeste Thomas, director multicultural services
- Marcy Frederick, director of libraries
- Hannah Nichols, undergraduate student, SGA representative
- Emily Powell, undergraduate student – Safe Space
- Rachel Roth Sawatzky, staff, associate dean of students
- Kate Smucker, graduate student
The committee has evolved over the last 15 years. From 2003-08, Pannell, then the director of multicultural services and Jon Kratz, then the director of international services, co-chaired of the Diversity Initiatives Committee. In 2013, Susannah Lepley, then the director of multicultural services, became chair of the emerging Diversity Task Force, formed to serve as a clearinghouse for campus-wide initiatives and research. Later, Jane Ellen Reid became co-chair with Lepley. Upon her return to EMU, Pannell joined the Diversity Task Force, now renamed CODI, and became chair in 2017.