It is the policy of Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) and the VCU College of Humanities and Sciences to provide equal opportunity for employment and educational access to all programs and services without regard to race, color, religion, national origin, age, gender, political affiliation, veteran’s status, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, genetic information or disability.

Within the framework of the aforementioned policy, the Richard T. Robertson School of Media and Culture is committed to diversity in all aspects of its program, including providing a climate of inclusion as well as addressing student and faculty hiring and retention, curriculum, research and scholarship, and outreach and service.

Learn About Safe Zone Allies in the Robertson School

I. Introduction

The Robertson School is committed to diversity as a fundamental principle in fulfilling its mission. The School recognizes the critical importance of educating its students to embrace diversity as an important consideration in their careers in mass communications and as a means of contributing to society.

Diverse individuals and groups bring varied human characteristics to the School.

Diversity includes, but is not limited to, differences in race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, age, physical ability, national origin, socioeconomic class, marital status, religion, political thought and academic freedom.

A diverse School provides for a diverse classroom setting, which facilitates exchange among individuals with different perspectives. The School will expose students to alternative viewpoints and will encourage critical thinking related to diversity, multicultural and global issues. In addition to ensuring that diversity is an emphasis in classes and curriculum, the School will work to ensure that diversity is reflected in student, administrator, faculty and staff recruitment, and in all of its activities, initiatives, programs and outreach.

All faculty, staff and administrators have responsibility for achieving these diversity goals. The School’s plan is intended to empower all of those individuals, as well as students, to redress non-compliance with the principles of diversity that are detailed in this plan. To that end, this plan places the responsibility for addressing any issues or concerns that may be raised by students, faculty or staff with the Director of the School and/or other appropriate University officials.

II. Action Plan

Goal 1: Create a working and learning environment where differences are welcomed and valued to ensure a climate that offers opportunity for and support of the success of all faculty and staff


1) The School will actively communicate its commitment to diversity though its publications, recruitment and other materials. The updated diversity plan will be placed on the School’s web site.

2) The School’s administrators, faculty and staff will work to ensure that the School’s students are provided with an open and inclusive environment, and will seek diversity in hiring and appointing student workers, peer advisers and members of other groups where opportunities exist to foster a diverse environment. The School’s director will ensure that search committees for administrative positions, staff, student workers, and peer advisers will have a diverse membership, and that in hiring, due consideration is given to diverse applicants. The School’s director also will work to ensure that diversity is a primary element of the work of other groups that are established to carry out the mission of the Robertson School.

3) The School’s Student Council will consist of a diverse group of undergraduate and graduate students so that students of many backgrounds will be represented in decisions affecting all of the School’s students. The School’s director will ensure that the Council’s annual membership reflects the diversity interests and commitment of the School. (SEE—MASC Student Demographics)

4) The School’s faculty annual report form will provide a means for reporting specific contributions faculty have made toward diversity and multiculturalism. Through this system, the School will monitor and also be able to provide documentation in its annual report of its advances in promoting a diverse climate.

5) The School will seek to reward and recognize administrators, faculty and staff who have contributed to the advancement of a climate of inclusiveness and acceptance by nominating such faculty for awards at the University, such as the VCU Presidential Awards for Community Multicultural Enrichment, or for similar recognition by professional or academic groups. Using the School’s annual report forms, the School’s director will ensure that administrators, faculty and staff are nominated for the PACME, Doris Budd and other awards that provide recognition for diversity efforts.

6) The School will encourage administrators, faculty and staff development in areas that will serve to promote a diverse and accepting culture and climate. The School’s director and/or associate director will ensure administrators, faculty and staff are provided with appropriate information and opportunities to participate in activities that promote their knowledge of and expertise in diversity seminars, programs or other learning opportunities.

7) The School will invite faculty and staff to volunteer and participate in the Green Zone initiative in support of student veterans. Participants in the Green Zone program agree to attend a workshop that provides information and resources related to issues faced by student veterans and to display a Green Zone sticker outside their office doors to not only let others know they are available for support to student veterans, but to also serve as a resource to other faculty, staff or students who may have questions about student veteran issues.

8) The School will invite faculty and staff to volunteer and participate in the Safe Zone initiative in support of the LGBTQ students. Participants in the Safe Zone program agree to attend a workshop that provides information and resources related to issues faced by LGBTQ students and to display the Safe Zone logo as a symbol outside their office doors to not only let others know they are available for support to LGBTQ students, but to also serve as a resource to other faculty, staff or students who may have questions about such student issues.

Goals 2, 3, and 4: Increase diversity of faculty and staff in University leadership and decision-making roles, increase the presence of diverse faculty members at all ranks and levels, and increase the presence of diverse staff members in the higher pay bands


1) All search advertisements will include language encouraging applications from diverse groups, including women and minorities. Search committee chair and the School’s  director will be responsible for reviewing any advertisements to ensure appropriate language.

2) All search committees will include membership with as wide a range of diversity as possible. The School’s director must approve demographic composition of the proposed search committee membership.

3) The School will seek to have as broad a search is possible, utilizing many publication outlets, to have a more diverse and qualified pool of candidates from the increased exposure. Chair of search committees and the School’s  director will be responsible for determining the length of the search period and appropriate publication outlets.

4) The School will participate in conferences and similar meetings  to increase its recognition among potential minority administrators, faculty and staff candidates. The School’s director will monitor and facilitate School participation on an annual basis and will report to the full faculty.

5) The School will encourage women and minority members of the faculty, administrators and staff to take part in leadership training, including but not limited to those programs sponsored by the University, academic or professional organizations.

6) As with all new administrators, faculty and staff, new minority faculty will be assigned a mentor. Mentors are encouraged to help the new administrators, faculty and staff member assimilate into the School and VCU communities. The School’s director will assign mentors to new faculty.

7) In making committee assignments, the School will work to ensure that female and minority administrators, faculty and staff members are not overburdened with service expectations within the School. The School’s director will maintain and review records on the amount and type of committee assignments as well as the depth and scope of other service responsibilities.

8) The School will foster collaborative faculty research that includes female and minority faculty. The School’s director will review annual reports and make note of collaborative efforts in annual administrators, faculty and staff reviews.

Goal 5: Maintain a student body reflective of the diversity in college bound students in the Commonwealth of Virginia by ensuring a climate that offers access, opportunity and support for the success of all students


1) The School (upon request) will mail, materials about the undergraduate program to high school and community college mass communications teachers. The information will include a statement of the School’s diversity goals.

2) The School will make scholarship and financial aid information readily available, in addressing recruitment and retention, as a means of achieving diversity goals.

3) The School will form relationships with professional and academic organizations, programs and/or conferences that promote diversity, as a means of providing additional ways for students to learn about diversity, as well as to network with professionals from diverse backgrounds and perspectives. The School’s director will review data from faculty annual reports to determine the appropriate level of the School’s participation.

Goal 6: Strengthen the capacity of the Robertson School, VCU and the greater community to engage in mutually beneficial outreach and/or partnership activities and/or events that respect and demonstrate diversity, and include groups with diverse backgrounds


1) The School will establish and/or maintain connections with professional organizations. These connections may include, but are not limited to, faculty and student membership in the organizations, serving on committees or planning workshops, panels or conventions. The faculty annual report form will ask each administrator, faculty and staff member to include their professional organization membership.

2) The School will encourage and support attendance at the conventions of professional organizations, especially those serving people of color. For example, the School might buy an advertisement in the convention program or have an information booth at the convention. The faculty annual report form will ask each administrator, faculty and staff member to include this content for the director.

3) The School will support a variety of initiatives and groups that promote diversity. Those include having representatives from relevant professional organizations visit the School as guest speakers and in other capacities.

4) The School will encourage administrators, faculty, staff and students to engage in service and service-learning projects that expose students to diversity issues beyond their previous experience. These projects might involve creating advertising or public relations campaigns for nonprofit groups, engaging in community projects, and mentoring programs for area public schools.  The faculty annual report form will ask each faculty member to include this content for the School’s Director. (Service learning is also a component of Goal 7—Curriculum)

Goal 7: Increase the amount of diversity content in the curriculum


1) The School will offer, and encourage student and faculty participation in, the course MASC 474—Diversity in the Media on a regular basis (at least once per academic year).

2) The Diversity Committee will provide all faculty with recommendations and guidelines/suggestions for class diversity inclusiveness.

3) The faculty annual report form will ask each faculty member to include the content of course development that deals with diversity issues for the School’s director. Faculty will include a summary of the diversity content in their courses on the annual report form.

4) Faculty will include on their annual report forms information about student projects on diversity, invitation to classes guest speakers of diverse backgrounds, and student participation in conferences and programs related to the issue of diversity.

Goal 8: Increase the amount of faculty research and scholarship that deals with the issue of diversity


1) Administrators, faculty and staff will be encouraged to participate in and attend conferences with diversity themes. The School’s director will use the annual report form to ask each faculty member to include this content.

2) Faculty will be encouraged to include diversity issues in their scholarship (professional and traditional/research). The annual report form will ask each faculty member to include this content.

3) Faculty will be encouraged to work in diverse collaborative research teams. The annual report form will ask each faculty member to include this content.

4) Administrators and staff will be encouraged to bring attention to and advance the discussion of diversity issues in their work, whether it is of a professional or academic nature. The annual report form will ask each administrator, faculty and staff member to include this content.

5) Administrators, faculty and staff will also report on the annual faculty report form any activities which bring attention to and advance the discussion of diversity issues as they relate to mass communications.

III. Conclusion

The School is committed to a climate in which students, faculty, staff and administrators can freely express themselves and interact with individuals from diverse backgrounds. The School will take active steps to foster a diversity-friendly environment so that all of these individuals, from various backgrounds and perspectives, will feel included. This plan also is intended to foster mutual respect among those diverse individuals. In keeping with the diverse culture of the University as a whole, the School will promote openness, acceptance and inclusiveness. The School is firmly committed to fostering free speech as guaranteed by the First Amendment.

The School will consistently endeavor to recruit, retain and promote administrators, faculty and staff members to facilitate diversity as defined above.

The School will also consistently endeavor to attract, recruit and retain undergraduate and graduate students to achieve a diverse student body. In recruiting and retaining students, the School also will monitor and attempt to address any gender disparity in the percentage of female and male students in the School.

The School will emphasize and promote diversity in its outreach and service to VCU, professional organizations, the Richmond community, high school and college students and teachers, and other groups. In such interactions, administrators, faculty, staff and students will encourage positive attitudes toward multiculturalism and showcase the School’s commitment to diversity.

Diversity statement for Robertson School class syllabi

From the Robertson School Faculty Handbook:

Faculty members are responsible for ensuring that the School’s diversity plan is implemented. Faculty are encouraged to include reference in their course outlines to the plan and to the role of faculty (and students) in its implementation.

The language approved by the faculty for syllabi is as follows:

“It is vital that students in this course, with guidance from the instructor, broaden their journalism/mass communications experiences by including in their course work people and subjects such as ethnic, racial and religious minorities, people with disabilities, the disadvantaged, gay men and lesbians and other similar groups. This includes but is not limited to developing a sensitivity to language and images that may create an appearance of bias. The intent is to ensure that student work reflects the diversity of the community, and that students are exposed to diverse ideas and perspectives. In this class, it is the responsibility of the instructor and students to foster an environment that supports free expression.

The VCU Robertson School of Media and Culture is committed to diversity in all aspects of its program, including providing a climate of inclusion, as well as addressing student and faculty hiring and retention, curriculum, research and scholarship and outreach and service. Students are encouraged to review the School’s Diversity Plan, which is posted on the School’s website.”

(Previous Revisions 2008, 2011, 2015 A-F)
Revised 12/4/15

Robertson School Student Demographics

Demographic breakdown of mass comm majors Fall 2012 Percent
Gender Male 470 37%
Female 788 63%
Unknown/Not Specified 2 0%
Race/ethnicity American Indian/Alaskan Native 6 0%
Asian 65 5%
Pacific Islander NA
Black or African American 295 23%
Hawaiian/Pacific Islander 5 0%
Hispanic/Latino 102 8%
International 10 1%
Two or more races 48 4%
Unknown 20 2%
White 709 56%
Residency In-state 1,188 94%
Out-of-state 72 6%

Source: VCU Office of Planning and Decision Support; provided for Robertson School’s Academic Program Review, Fall 2013

Safe-Zone Training

Safe-Zone Training has been completed by 17 of the Robertson School’s faculty and staff. All of these 17 Robertson School employees are “certified” Safe-Zone allies, which is indicated by the Safe Zone sticker placed outside their office doors.

From University Counseling Services: “The sticker indicates that, within your office or room, homophobic and heterosexist comments and actions will not be tolerated silently, but instead will be addressed in an educational, informative and non-threatening manner.”

Support Zone Training

Support Zone training has been completed by 20 of the Robertson School’s faculty and staff. These 20 Robertson School employees can be identified by the Support Zone Emblem (left) on their office doors.

Support Zone training was created and piloted in the Robertson School. Created laregely in part by Joshua Smith, public realtions faculty member, Support Zone better equips faculty and staff in the School to help students that might be suffering from emotional distress in and out of the classroom. Read more about it here.

Green Zone Training

Green Zone training has been completed by 15 Robertson School faculty and staff members. These 15 Green Zone certified staff and faculty members can be identified by the Green Zone training emblem (left) on their office doors.

Green Zone training, created by a VCU faculty member in 2010, helps faculty and staff better know how to assist student vetrans that are transitioning to university and civilian life. Read more about Green Zone here.

Diversity Resources