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10 recommendations given from study assessing city of Kalamazoo's diversity, equity and inclusion

Kalamazoo City Hall
Posted at 5:58 PM, Apr 05, 2022
and last updated 2022-04-06 13:20:56-04

KALAMAZOO, Mich. — An important report was presented to Kalamazoo City Commission on Monday night for the second time, so four new city commissioners could hear it.

It is the city's assessment on diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI).

The 155-page report outlines 10 recommendations to achieving a diverse, equitable and inclusive organizations.

A majority of the city's employees surveyed said they were skeptical of the city's commitment to real change in DEI.

"Now this is our opportunity to try and even more importantly, to know where to focus our efforts at so we can actually be transformative," said the City of Kalamazoo's Director for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Dorla Bonner.

The DEI assessment for the city of Kalamazoo had been in the works for around two years.

Last year, the city approved a contract to hire the Michigan Public Health Institute (MPHI) out of Okemos to conduct it.

"We have to make sure everybody understands the work, because that's what I miss. That's the biggest thing that came up in the report. People don't understand diversity, equity inclusion. They don't get it," said Bonner.

Dorla Bonner was hired two years ago to lead the city's DEI department.

She said many discoveries made during the assessment were things she could already see as a person of color.

"There’s a lack of diversity. We're primarily a white organization, primarily led by white men," said Bonner.

In addition to that majority, the assessment found an even greater divide between white and non-white employees when it comes to salary, job classifications and length of employment.

Compared to white employees, the assessment discovered that three times as many black employees and twice as many Hispanic/Latin-x employees said they experienced unfair treatment.

It also discovered many misconceptions about applying DEI into the workplace and general confusion about what DEI meant.

"We really kind of have to reset, because we really didn't know how bad it was, the disconnect between the work and the information of understanding, and so we have to reset and take our eyes off of those 10 recommendations and, and determine how do we help us all get as close to being on the same page as possible," said Bonner.

Bonner also said that a timeline could not be given considering the work to create a DEI workplace is evolving.

The 10 recommendations from MPHI are as follows:

  • Create a coordinated DEI strategy, via a process inclusive of employees from levels and identities most impacted by inequity, to combine all internal and external DEI efforts into one measurable and accountable vision.
  • Establish an internal DEI accountability and leadership team that intentionally includes employees from levels and identities most impacted by inequity to assist the DEI department and embed accountability of DEI responsibilities into each department.
  • Develop a comprehensive, DEI, data collection and use plan and policy for regular, ongoing reporting along a set of benchmarks aligned with the City’s DEI goals to better facilitate evidenced-based DEI planning, assessment, quality improvement and accountability.
  • Explore new or improved ways for employees to bring discriminatory actions to light, such as promotion of your retaliation policy, creating an ombuds office and establishing anonymous channels for formal reporting, in a coordinated and communicated program to reduce fear of retribution that provides employees alternatives to reporting harassment and discrimination to either their supervisor or the Human Resources/Labor Relations Director.
  • Engage supervisors and managers across the organization to, with the input of employees at every level, establish a baseline of the City of Kalamazoo’s philosophy and values for supervision and management that centers a DEI lens.
  • Establish a coordinated approach to charging and supporting each department in setting a mission, vision, and plan for quality improvement, including DEI goals, benchmarks, and accountability.
  • Establish a vision and plan for addressing and supporting the overall wellbeing and sense of belonging of employees across the organization.
  • Establish an Equity in All Policies committee to oversee the establishment and implementation of an ongoing internal policy review process and develop tools like an equity impact statement required for all new policy and Equity in All Policies review board that is intentionally diverse and inclusive of employees and community members.
  • A budget is a moral document: Expand and sustain a permanent appropriation for your Office of Diversity Equity and Inclusion to reflect the enormous scope of this work and demonstrate commitment to the sustainable transformation of the City of Kalamazoo towards being an anti-racist, anti-oppression city government.
  • Build an anti-oppression curriculum for every level of the organization that articulates resources, training, concept application, support cohorts, and professional development with learning goals mapped from recruitment to on boarding and throughout the tenure of each person’s employment.

You can read the full DEI assessment by clicking here.