In September 2019, the university formed a Graduate Student Diversity Task Force to assess, develop, and implement a coordinated campuswide strategy to expand the diversity of the Berkeley graduate student body. Over the past nine months, this committee has evaluated evidence-based research and set forth preliminary recommendations —both broad and specific —to increase the enrollment of underrepresented, low socioeconomic status, and first-generation graduate students and to improve the campus experience and academic outcomes for underrepresented graduate students across all of our graduate programs.
We use “diversity” broadly to refer not only to underrepresented demographics and protected classes, but also to be inclusive of the experiences of disabled students, LGBTQ+ students, undocumented students, students from low socioeconomic backgrounds, and first-generation college students.
There are already many dedicated faculty, staff, and students who are working to address many of the issues we raise and implement strategies we recommend. We hope to further build on their successes and raise the bar across campus.
Finally, while most of the recommendations are geared towards central campus administration and departments, the Academic Senate has significant policy and cultural influence on campus and thus must be a critical stakeholder should the university aim to achieve its goals regarding diversity, equity, and inclusion.
Institute meaningful accountability mechanisms at the college, school and department level that improve the infrastructure, support, and assessment of climate for graduate students.
Invest resources in programs, institutions, and initiatives that support academic preparation, retention, and holistic well-being.
Articulate a consistent message of inclusivity and belonging that places diversity at the very heart of our academic excellence.
Outreach & Recruitment
Prioritize resources to expand pipeline programs and summer research opportunities for prospective and admitted students, as well as undergraduate courses that strengthen graduate school readiness and provide opportunities for apprenticeships with faculty.
Expand recruitment networks within the California State University and University of California systems, Historically Black Colleges and Universities, Hispanic-Serving Institutions, and other minority-serving institutions.
Support departments with their outreach and communications by developing templates and inclusive website language that incorporate universal design.
Develop a shared list of admissions principles and practices that center academic excellence, value underrepresented perspectives, affirm a commitment to provide equitable access and funding, and establish an inclusive foundation for the future of each discipline.
Disseminate educational materials for admissions chairs, committees, and equity advisors on stereotyping, confirmation bias, implicit bias, gender bias, and context of achievement.
Coordinate with Graduate Division, Equity Advisors and department admissions committees to take contributions to diversity into consideration from the earliest stages of recruitment and admissions.
Establish a funding model for graduate students that is equitable, reliable, and promotes student security, well-being and mental health.
Promote practices that create clear expectations and program structures, including holistic mentoring practices that support academic success and foster a culture of well-being.
Institute accountability mechanisms to improve local-level infrastructure, support, and assessment of climate for graduate students.
Trends in applicant demographics have remained flat over the past five application cycles across many fields, despite changing demographics of graduating undergraduate classes (Graduate Program Reports)
Graduate admissions and recruitment is highly decentralized and various programs often operate on different cycles and timelines.
Some schools and programs have been able to successfully attract and admit more diverse cohorts by incorporating intentional recruiting and holistic review (Graduate Program Reports, Department Equity & Inclusion Plans)
Recommendations: Marketing and Communications
Support departments in their messaging efforts based on a comprehensive branded marketing plan.
Provide customizable templates for brochures and web pages and incorporate principles of universal design
Information about the value of graduate education should be enhanced through greater coordination among Graduate Division, Public Affairs, and Schools and Colleges.
Develop funding guides to make the process of funding doctoral education more transparent.
Recommendations: Academic Preparation and Early Outreach
Expand the number and reach of Signature Pipeline Programs.
Expand research opportunities in summer programs and undergraduate courses on campus.
Continue to strengthen and institutionalize partnerships with the Center for Educational Partnerships, the UC Transfer Centers, and minority-serving institutions to fill gaps in academics and research experiences.
Invest in databases, research, and other tools to identify potential applicants and reach them more strategically.
Programs should systematically leverage and build upon relationships to develop more recruiting networks within the UC system, the CSU system, and at minority-serving institutions.
Explore the feasibility and cost of hosting “Preview Days” in the Fall or producing branded Berkeley promotional materials
Support college, school and department outreach efforts.
Use best practices from the field for communicating with students upon application.
Invest in more equitable funding for yield events at the college, school and department levels (where appropriate).
Increase coordination, collaboration, and resources for campus units and other departments to align visit weekends and Diversity Day.
Elevate the roles and participation of current students and alumni in recruitment and yield events.
Each department has a different admissions process, which creates barriers to standardization.
Academic freedom: faculty buy-in is critical
Although best practices have been developed in some departments, this has not led to significant campus-wide changes in overall enrollment of diverse graduate students
Departments do not universally or consistently factor diversity in the early stages of admissions processes.
Unintended barriers to access exist.
Application fees, over-reliance on GRE, disability accommodations
Without clear evaluative scripts, admissions is subject to bias.
Over-reliance on common performance metrics reinforces implicit bias and can lead to disparate outcomes.
Current enrollment management and fellowship awarding practices place the burden of over-enrollment on units.
Guidance to Graduate Division
Consistent messaging from Graduate Division and Equity & Inclusion.
Review policy language to emphasize diversity and inclusion as a component of academic excellence.
Diversity also includes disability and other dimensions; including people of all diverse backgrounds requires more understanding and planning to ensure equitable access to education.
Provide critical guidance to admissions and fellowship committees.
Develop our own educational materials on stereotyping, confirmation bias, implicit bias, gender bias, context of achievement, disability accommodations etc.
Disseminate best practices and diversity resources to committee chairs.
Evaluate and assess the outcomes of the multi-year fellowships competition.
Guidance to Faculty and Department Admissions Committees
Reconsider the composition of admissions committees.
Consider including graduate students, who are key stakeholders and represent the future of the field.
Advise departments to implement carefully designed rubrics incorporating holistic review.
Think boldly about evaluation criteria and examine assumptions about merit before starting the evaluation process.
Include “Broader Impacts” as a rating category.
Provide institutional templates in SLATE.
Recommend a study evaluating predictive metrics for success.
Letters of recommendation, personal statements and writing samples, previous lab and undergraduate research experience
Expand access to fee waivers (including low socioeconomic status international students.)
Advise departments to be flexible on GRE requirements.
Ensure online applications and websites incorporate universal design.
Include proactive communications about accommodations for virtual interviews.
Provide clear prompts with explicit instructions for written statements and essay questions.
Mentorship and Advising
UR students are overall less likely to be satisfied with the current level and quality of mentorship and advising (2019 My Experience Survey)
Graduate students indicate wanting more advice about applying for jobs and professional and career development (2019 My Experience Survey)
UR graduate students (especially those who identify as transgender, gender non-conforming, and disabled) report higher rates of food and housing insecurity. (2019 My Experience Survey)
About 15% of graduate student respondents self-identified as experiencing homelessness since coming to UC Berkeley, with 54% reporting being homeless between 1 week to a month. (2017 Housing Task Force Survey)
44% of graduate students met the screening threshold for depression that would suggest further clinical inquiry, with higher rates for many UR groups. (2019 My Experience Survey)
Additionally, 54% met the screening threshold for anxiety that would suggest further clinical inquiry
Overall Campus Climate
UR graduate students report more experiences with exclusionary and bullying behavior, lack of respect, as well as less comfort with overall climate; this is perpetuated by faculty and peers
UR graduate students (especially transgender/nonconforming students and African American/Black students) are less likely to agree that UCPD can be trusted to have their best interests in mind
Recommendations: Mentoring + Advising
Clear Expectations and Program Structures
Graduate Student Handbooks should be held to a campus-level standard that includes communication of program milestones and timelines, as well as campus resources.
Conduct Academic Progress Reviews on an annual basis, with ongoing reevaluation of plans for student support.
Advisors and students should complete advising agreements that outline expectations for the advising relationship, including meeting frequency, communication preferences, and work styles.
Cultivating Holistic Mentoring Practices
Develop an onboarding program for new faculty hires on graduate teaching, mentorship, and advising
Conduct annual reviews of faculty mentorship and advising and incorporate climate questions into the tenure and promotional review process
Create an incentives program for faculty to participate in ongoing trainings on teaching, mentorship, advising, and recognizing/correcting implicit bias
Professional School Advising
Develop more robust advising plans to help guide students on how to pursue particular tracks in their fields, such as public interest
Cross-Institutional Mentoring and Community Building
Create opportunities for interdisciplinary mentoring, advising, and community building, modeled on the NSF’s “Third Space Model” whereby students share work, develop professional contacts, and engage in a space that is not the campus or department
Provide campus-level support for affinity-based mentorship groups
Recommendations: Basic Needs
Establish a funding model for doctoral students that is equitable, reliable, and promotes doctoral student security and wellbeing
Development and reassessment of the model should include consideration of factors such as:
Cost of living
Impacts of enrollment on diversity of cohorts
Increased flexibility in combining funding sources and fellowships
Reconsider policies governing normative time and teaching limits for disabled students
Establish a model for intentional Masters’-to-PhD bridge programs that would also provide UR students equitable, reliable, and adequate funding
Include more graduate student input when considering increases to university-owned-and-operated housing stock
Review and redesign housing policies, waitlists, and assignment practices to allow for alternative contract lengths and increased transparency
Explore possibilities to provide prioritized housing for disabled students
Housing Financial Support and Access
Create a housing liaison to assist students in finding suitable housing, especially for students coming from out of the area or students who would require physical accommodations
Supplement financial assistance for housing and transportation costs
Basic Needs and Emergency Support Resources
Collaborate to create a singular, central application for emergency and basic needs support
Develop a screening process to identify students who are more likely to be basic needs insecure and mobilize resources and communication strategically and proactively
Identify and address program and structural barriers that limit graduate student access to existing basic needs resources
Increase availability of and access to culturally competent mental health services
Expand on satellite office model and increase presence in spaces trafficked by UR graduate students
Provide targeted financial support to UR students for mental health and wellbeing services
Destigmatize conversations about mental health and reject the valorization of adversity as part of the graduate student experience
Host regular fireside chats on graduate student mental health to continue to encourage open, candid dialogue
Develop department-level programming and messaging sharing faculty experiences with mental health and disability, explicitly naming issues, and advocating for a compassion-driven framework
Recommendations: Campus Climate
Task existing diversity initiatives to review goals and progress on graduate student needs (e.g., African American Initiative, HSI Doctoral Diversity Initiative, Disability and Accessibility Planning) to ensure alignment and consistency.
Improve local-level infrastructure, support, and assessment of climate for graduate students
Support and hold departments accountable to building out internal equity and inclusion committees to identify climate issues in their departments and develop and implement department-specific plans
Develop 10 pilot field-specific cluster groups to foster peer-to-peer support
Conduct a review of building facilities for accessible and gender-inclusive facilities
Increase trained staff resources to address climate and retention issues with mediations and restorative justice practices
Continue to build on earlier initiatives announced by UCPD, including:
Evaluate potential alternatives for relocation of UCPD from Sproul Hall
Conduct independent assessments on the effectiveness and impact of current training programs in working with communities of color
Implement trainings and protocols for alternative safety practices
Invest in expansion of alternative community programs for safety services
Develop a central posting system for Graduate Student Instructor and Graduate Student Researcher appointments
While priority may go to internal candidates, a central posting system provides equitable access to employment opportunities
Investigate Graduate Student Instructor and Graduate Student Researcher step inequities across departments and academic units
Review and assess campus procedures for communications in response to timely issues
Timeliness and transparency build trust during times of crisis
Inventory and align communications for critical information about basic needs, mental health and wellness resources
Office of Planning & Analysis. (2017). 2017 Student Housing Survey Findings. Retrieved from https://housing.berkeley.edu/housing-task-force
Updates on campus policing initiatives. (2020, January 30). Updates on campus policing initiatives.
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