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General Information

Why is the University of Southern Indiana asking employees to self-identity their ethnicity, race, veteran and disability status?

The University of Southern Indiana is a federal and state government contractor and as a recipient of federal and state funding, USI is required to collect and report aggregate data on demographic information from our applicants and employees to assess whether our recruitment, retention, and other employee processes are effective at ensuring equal employment opportunity. USI’s failure to collect and report personal demographic information from employees would result in the loss of eligibility for government funding, including financial aid and research funds, which would be very costly to the institution.

Every federal contractor is required to collect this data and prepare an annual plan that documents its affirmative action efforts. The more employees who complete this survey, the more we can demonstrate that these efforts are a high priority at USI. Our goal is to diversify our workforce, support all employees equally, and learn more about employees to assess whether efforts to recruit, employ and retain a diverse workforce are effective.

Why would I want to self-identify?

At USI, we believe that a workforce inclusive of diverse perspectives and skills is critical to our success and encourage employees to bring their “whole selves” to work. By self-identifying, you help USI strengthen and focus our diversity and inclusion efforts by helping USI evaluate and improve its recruiting, hiring, and retention efforts.

Why are current employees being asked to provide personal demographic information, as well as new employees?

Federal regulations require that we ask applicants and new employees to fill out voluntary self-identification forms, as well as asking current employees periodically. This is because, for some of the demographic’s categories, such as disability and veteran status, an employee’s answers may change over time. Also, an employee may now choose to disclose information that they previously were not comfortable disclosing on former self-identification forms.

What does the term “self-identification” mean?

The term “self-identification” means voluntarily and confidentially providing information about ethnicity, race, veteran, and disability status that is used for statistical purposes only (i.e., data collection and reporting purposes).

Will my self-identification information be stored in my personnel file?

No. The data will be retained separate from your personnel file. This information is collected for the sole purpose of the equal opportunity and Affirmative Action Plan reports which are prepared each year.

Who has access to the self-identification information that I provide?

Self-identification is considered private employee information that the Human Resources office will use only for equal opportunity and affirmative action reporting purposes. The data from the Qualtrics survey will be entered in the Banner system and paper forms are stored separately from your personnel file in a locked cabinet of Human Resources with only a limited number of Human Resources personnel that have access to both the electronic and physical location. Supervisors do NOT have access to your self-identification information.

What if I do not want to provide this information?

Submission of self-identification of ethnicity, race, veteran, and disability status is voluntary. You will not be subject to any adverse treatment if you choose not to participate. We hope you will choose to self-identify because not only does this information help the university comply with reporting requirements and improve the accuracy of our records, but creating awareness can help spark discussions about the barriers and biases that can limit progress towards achieving our goals; and identify ways to remove those barriers; reduce the impact of biases.  In fact, research shows that an inclusive workplace benefits all employees.

Can my self-identification information be used in making employment decision(s)?

No, the self-identification information you provide is confidential employee information and will not be used as the basis for any employment decision(s) affecting you. Your answer will not be used against you in any way.

Do I need to participate if I already provided the information when I applied to a job and/or was hired?

Your participation is voluntary; however, we ask that you please review and designate your current status to ensure that USI has your most current information.  

Who can I contact for more information, questions or concerns about designating my ethnicity, race, veteran and disability status?

Please contact Sarah Will, Assistant Director of Human Resources, at 812-465-1066 or email

Who can I contact if I am having trouble accessing the Qualtrics survey?

Please contact Shelby Jackson, HR Generalist - Employment, by phone at 812-464-1840 or by email at

Self-Identification of Disability Status

Why is the survey asking about disability status?

As a federal contractor covered by Section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, USI is required to collect self-identification of disability data and take affirmative action to employ and advance in employment qualified individuals with disabilities.

How do I know if I have a disability?

You are considered to have a disability if you have a physical or mental impairment or medical condition that substantially limits a major life activity, or if you have a history or record of such an impairment or medical condition. The online Voluntary Self-Identification of Disability form in the Qualtrics survey includes a list of physical and mental conditions that may be considered a disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Please note, this is not an expansive or complete list of disabilities. This list is provided to help educate you, but you will not be asked to disclose a specific disability.

I am concerned about others knowing if I have a disability. Do I have to disclose this?

You are not required to disclose information about your disability. Please be assured that any information disclosed within the self-identification survey will be strictly confidential and will not be shared with your supervisor, manager or others within your department. Additionally, no one at the University can treat you adversely or take any action against you for having a disability. If you do not want to participate in the voluntary self-identification of disability, the option “I don’t wish to answer” is provided, and submission of self-identification of disability information is voluntary. You will not be subject to any adverse treatment if you select “I don’t wish to answer”. Even if you do not wish to designate your status, we hope you still click on the survey and select “I don’t wish to answer” because doing so still helps the university comply with reporting requirements. For more information on why voluntarily disclosing disability status is important, please view the information, video, and resources at

My disability does not really affect my work. Can I still report it?

Yes. Self-identification of disability status does not initiate the Americans with Disabilities (ADA) accommodation process.

Why collect self-identification of disability data on just employees with disabilities?

We invite all employees to participate in the voluntary self-identification of disability. If you believe you do not have a disability, the option “No, I do not have a disability” is provided.

Will I be able to change my self-identification of disability information?

Yes. Because a person may become disabled at any time, we are required to ask all our employees to update their information every five years, however, you can change your designation at any time in myUSI if your status changes.

What is the process for requesting a workplace accommodation(s) at USI if I have a disability?

The process begins when a faculty member, staff member or student worker communicates a request for an accommodation to his or her immediate supervisor.

  • A request for workplace accommodations may be verbal or written, and may use everyday language (illness, condition, help, changes, etc.) or "ADA language" (accommodation, disability, etc.).

Using input from the faculty member, staff member, or student worker, the supervisor identifies the workplace accommodation needs. The supervisor:

  • will discuss the needs with the individual who made the request, and
  • will review the job description and consider the essential functions of the job as well as the operational needs of the department.

If the individual and the supervisor agree on an accommodation that is effective for the individual and appropriate for the workplace, the accommodation(s) will be implemented.

  • Once the accommodation is in place, the supervisor, with input from the individual, will periodically monitor its effectiveness.

If a faculty member, staff member or student worker is uncomfortable approaching the supervisor at any point in this process, or if an agreement cannot be reached between the individual and the supervisor, either party can contact Human Resources at 812-464-1770 for assistance.

  • If the accommodation need is complex or is not readily apparent, Human Resources may request the individual to provide documentation from their medical provider(s) to confirm the accommodation need and/or to provide recommendations for accommodations that may fit the individual's specific needs.
  • Depending on the circumstances, Human Resources may consult with the ADA Coordinator to assist in evaluating the accommodation request and/or to identify accommodation options.

Still have questions about accommodations? For general questions about the ADA/Section 504, check out the ADA FAQs or contact the ADA Coordinator at 812-465-7101 or email

Where can I find external resources and support for individuals with disabilities?

Self-Identification of Veteran Status

Why is the survey asking about veteran status? 

Federal contractors are required by Vietnam Era Veterans’ Readjustment Assistance Act of 1974, as amended by the Jobs for Veterans Act of 2002, 38 U.S.C. 4212 (VEVRAA) regulations to take affirmative action to employ and advance in employment protected veterans. In 2014, the federal government instituted new requirements that include a periodic resurvey of employees' veteran status.  

What are the current categories for protected veterans? Why don't other veterans count for purposes of the survey?

The federal government defines "protected veterans" under VEVRAA.  The current federal categories are provided within the self-identification survey. For purposes of the survey, USI must comply with the definition of "protected veteran" provided by the federal government. Additional information about protected veteran definitions can be found at

Where can I find external resources and support for veterans?

Self-Identification of Race/Ethnicity

Why is the survey asking about my race/ethnicity?

As a federal government contractor, the University is required to ask employees for their race/ethnicity and report this information in the EEO-1 Report, which is a compliance survey mandated by federal statute and regulations.

What are the current race categories?

The U.S. Census Bureau defines race as a person’s self-identification with one or more social groups. An individual can report as White, Black or African American, Asian, American Indian or Alaska Native, and Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander. The definitions for these categories are provided within the self-identification survey.

Why is “Hispanic/Latino” not listed as a race category?

The Census Bureau considers “Hispanic/Latino” to be a national origin category and not a race category. Under the federal guidelines, an individual can be multiracial, for example, Hispanic/Latino AND white or Hispanic/Latino AND black/African American. The federal government requires us first to ask whether employees are Hispanic/Latino, and then to ask employees to identify their race.

What if I have origins in more than one race category?

You may select as many race categories as apply.

Where can I find local and external resources and support for minorities?

Affirmative Action/Equal Employment Opportunity

What is affirmative action?

Affirmative action requires employers to make every good faith effort to take positive, results-oriented steps to recruit, employ, train and promote qualified women, minorities, individuals with disabilities and protected veterans. Affirmative Action is not a quota system or requirement to extend preferences to unqualified candidates. In fact, government regulations forbid the use of quotas in Affirmative Action planning.

Executive Order 11246 is the primary piece of Affirmative Action legislation and is enforced by the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP). The executive order states that all government contractors must agree not to discriminate due to race, color, sex, religion, or national origin. The executive order also specifies that all contracts with 50 or more employees and with contracts of $50,000 or greater must develop and implement a written Affirmative Action Plan (AAP).

What is the difference between "affirmative action" and "diversity"? How does "affirmative action" relate to "diversity"?

Affirmative action is a legal obligation for USI as a federal contractor. Affirmative action refers to specific efforts undertaken by the University, such as supplemental outreach, designed to promote equal employment opportunity and to create diverse pools of applicants for University positions. Affirmative action is applicable to minorities, women, individuals with disabilities, veterans with disabilities, recently separated veterans, Vietnam era veterans, veterans who served on active duty in the U.S. Military, Ground, Naval or Air Service during a war or in a campaign or expedition for which a campaign badge has been authorized, or Armed Forces service medal veterans.

Workforce diversity is an organizational and managerial process for developing an environment which maximizes and values the potential of all employees. Diversity is a desirable and organizational objective but is not a federally mandated obligation. A diverse workforce is one which reflects all demographic groups that comprise the general population, encompassing race, ethnicity and gender as well as religion, national origin, age, physical/mental abilities, marital status, parental status, sexual orientation, socioeconomic level, educational background, lifestyle, and all other demographic characteristics.

Diversity is broader in its implications than affirmative action because it encompasses all individuals in the various demographic groups found in the general population.

What is equal employment opportunity (EEO)?

Equal employment opportunity requires that all individuals be treated equally with regard to all employment actions. It prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy, gender identity, and sexual orientation), national origin, age (40 or older), disability, or genetic information. It ensures that all applicants and employees, regardless of their protected characteristics, have a fair opportunity in the hiring process and in competing for promotions and have equal access to educational training and professional development opportunities.