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City of Springfield’s DEI office proposes name change 

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The city of Springfield’s Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion is planning a name change to the Office of Belonging and Intercultural Development. 

“We are redefining the concept of our office and the function of our office,” DEI Director Taj Suleyman said during his annual report to Springfield City Council at its weekly luncheon meeting yesterday. 

The office was created in 2022 and reports to City Manager Jason Gage. Suleyman joined the city’s leadership team in 2021, according to past reporting. 

In his presentation yesterday, Suleyman said the office would continue to offer diversity-related training and workshops while providing equitable opportunities and advocating for inclusive policies and practices. 

Its goal is for the office to foster a more inclusive and welcoming environment internally and in the community, Suleyman said. 

The concept of intercultural development has to do with the ways in which two or more cultures interact, within a team, an organization or the community, Suleyman said. It is a concept that dovetails with a sense of belonging, which he said the office is committed to fostering. 

“We realize that these two concepts, they work hand in hand in actually recognizing the role of the office,” he said. 

Suleyman said the concept of culture is always present. 

“As we talk about professional development in the future, we will be talking about how do we all contribute as a staff or as teams within the city organization,” he said. 

Suleyman said the city is redefining the concept and function of the DEI office, which brought on a second team member, DEI Specialist Adriana Failla, a year ago.  

Moving forward, its goals include elevating community engagement, encouraging inclusive procurement practices, advancing workforce employment opportunities and providing professional development support, Suleyman said. 

Councilmember Monica Horton said she sees the critical importance of the DEI office, and she added that Suleyman is doing quality work. 

“I am certainly an avid supporter of the work that this particular division of the city manager’s office does in the face of staunch opposition, of course,” she said. 

A May 2023 report from the Pew Research Center found 56% of workers say focusing on DEI at work is a good thing, with 61% saying their company has policies that ensure fairness and hiring and 52% saying they have had trainings or meetings about DEI at work. Only 32% say they value having a racial and ethnic mix at the office, with 28% saying they value a mix of ages and 26% saying they value having an equal mix of men and women. 

There is a partisan component to attitudes about DEI, Pew reported, with 78% of Democratic-leaning workers saying a focus on DEI at work is a good thing compared with 30% of Republican-leaning workers. 

A report issued this month in the Chronicle of Higher Education found that since the start of 2023, 116 college campuses have altered or eliminated offices, jobs, hiring practices and programs that explicitly recruit and retain students and staff from marginalized communities in response to state legislation and political pressure. 

Missouri State University renamed its DEI office to the Office of Inclusive Engagement last year. The Missouri legislature is currently considering several proposals to prohibit state funds from being spent on DEI initiatives. 

City officials say more information on the changes – including the timeline and whether the director's title would change – would be revealed at a later date. 

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