The next step is infusing equity into all our business practices.”
Inequity sometimes hides within institutions, even well-meaning ones.
This has become evident at Bridgewater State University in recent years. That’s because the Enterprise Risk Management Committee has been on the lookout for inequities that had previously existed below the radar.
“We had this reckoning within the committee,” recalled co-chair Steve Zuromski, vice president of Information Technology and chief information officer. “We said, you know what, we may have never evaluated all of the risks through an equity lens. That’s a risk unto itself.”
Enterprise risk management committees typically help businesses and organizations identify and address risks and potential impacts to optimal performance. BSU’s committee dates to 2019 and is composed of 20 administrators from across campus. It reports directly to President Frederick W. Clark Jr. and the Board of Trustees.
“Just getting the group together and looking at these issues is so beneficial,” said Dr. Jennifer Pacheco, assistant vice president for Finance, Procurement Services and Contracting, and co-chair of the ERM Committee. “We share a lot of ideas, experiences and solutions. It’s the true value of the committee and doing this work.”
The committee’s equity awakening followed the release of the report by the Special Presidential Task Force on Racial Justice in May 2021. Members began discussing what inequities may be lurking in the university’s policies and practices and what to do about them.
They reached out to Dr. Sabrina Gentlewarrior, vice president of Student Success, Equity and Diversity, for some guidance navigating this new territory. One suggestion was the formation of a subcommittee focused on issues relating to equity.
The subcommittee reported back with a host of recommendations for rooting out inequity across the institution.
“We went back through everything and flagged anything that might have an equity component that we may have missed,” Mr. Zuromski said. “We re-evaluated things, created new questions to ask and developed a consistent process.”
This included an equity worksheet and a method of collecting information garnered through this process. The committee has also worked with a consultant from Gallagher Risk Management to ensure it was taking the best approach to finding and addressing issues of inequity.
The subcommittee wrapped up its work and left the ERM Committee with a roadmap as to how to move forward.
Important changes have already been made in some processes, meaning equity risks were flagged by the ERM Committee and subsequently addressed by the relevant departments.
“I think the biggest takeaway is that we are now working to infuse equity in the collection, review and treatment of all risks from the very beginning,” Mr. Zuromski said.
Bringing equity into an institution’s risk discussion is not yet common in higher education, Dr. Pacheco said. Already, it’s become an important part of the committee’s mandate.
“The next step is infusing equity into all our business practices,” she said.