2021 Inclusive Excellence Awards

April 23, 2021 | Diversity, Op-Ed, UToday
By Dr. Willie McKether

Updated April 26 at 8 a.m.

This year’s Inclusive Excellence Awards from the Office of Diversity and Inclusion has launched a passionate and important conversation about how The University of Toledo works to ensure all individuals on our campus feel included and respected.

The awards were created in 2019 as a way to recognize the faculty, staff and departments on our campus who have put in the work implementing the University’s Strategic Plan for Diversity and Inclusion to make our campus a more diverse and inclusive place to study, work and grow.

When we talk about a diverse and inclusive campus we mean a community free from discrimination based on race, national origin, religion, beliefs, age, socio-economic status, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity or disability. As a public university educating the next generation of leaders, we have a responsibility to consider diversity, equity and inclusion in the broadest context allowing for and encouraging differing perspectives, backgrounds and thought. We must teach our students respectful discourse for our society is at its best when we challenge one another respectfully and consider viewpoints that may be different from our own.

In this our second year of the Inclusive Excellence Awards, which was paused in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we reached out to the campus community for nominations this spring.

UToledo College of Law Professor Lee Strang received an overwhelming number of faculty nominations focused on his presence in the classroom where he “enjoys and respects a good healthy debate,” as one nominator wrote. The individuals who nominated Strang for the award recognized his conservative point of view as a minority in academia and a benefit to legal debate.

One nomination read: “Professor Strang always welcomes students to present and defend their perspectives while respectfully challenging them to consider points of view contrary to their starting point. I believe the academy at its best is a place where truth claims and viewpoints can contend with one another based on their own merits and scholars from all life experiences have the opportunity to wrestle with the arguments of others as well as their own assumptions.”

Another wrote, “As much as any demographic measure of diversity, the diversity of thought and perspective is at the very heart of our identity as an academic institution.”

It is for these reasons Strang was recognized with the 2021 award.

The intent of this award is to recognize those at UToledo who best represent our diversity and inclusion values and the feedback we’ve received on the nomination and review process is important as we continue to advance this new recognition into the future.

We have learned that more work is needed on our part to inform our campus community and our alumni of this recognition opportunity and to seek their nominations. Our UToledo alumni is an audience we had not actively engaged for nominations and will do so in the years ahead. In addition, we will broaden the review committee beyond the Office of Diversity and Inclusion to be sure we have diverse perspectives during the selection process for this honor.

In these first two years of the awards in 2019 and 2021, the recipients have been selected based exclusively on the nominations submitted. We are working to revise the nomination and review process to be sure we take a comprehensive approach in selecting the recipients to ensure their bodies of work represent our diversity and inclusion values.

As an institution we are committed to promoting a campus environment where every member of the UToledo community feels included and respected. I will continue to do my best to acknowledge and facilitate respectful discussions that enable us all to grow and do better.

Thank you for your commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion.

Dr. Willie McKether is vice president of diversity and inclusion, and vice provost, at The University of Toledo.

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