Lefton creates vice president for new diversity position

Regina Garcia Cano

A search committee for a new vice president to oversee diversity, equity and inclusion will be in place by the end of this month. Yesterday at the Faculty Senate meeting, President Lester Lefton said the title is not necessarily final, but it reflects the aspects that are crucial to the job.

“A vice president for diversity, inclusion and equity will wake up every single day worrying about ‘How do we enhance this (diversity and inclusion) mission?'” Lefton said. “We are going to give them a budget, we are going to give them a responsibility and hold them accountable for holding other people accountable for doing the right thing.”

Diversity is part of Lefton’s excellence agenda.

During Fall 2007, he instituted the Commission on Inclusion, a task force that examined diversity on campus. The commission issued a series of recommendations, including the creation of this vice presidential position.

“. Given that diversity and inclusion are everyone’s responsibilities, I am directing that they are part of the goal-setting and evaluation of every senior administrator,” he said. “Diversity is one of the top goals I have established with the Board of Trustees for myself, and it will be part of the formal evaluations of vice presidents and deans beginning in 2009.”

Lefton said he has asked Steve Michael, vice provost for diversity, and Charlene Reed, secretary to the Board of Trustees and senior assistant to the president, to prepare a report on diversity by the end of this semester. He said this report would serve as reference to go ahead with the diversity agenda.

Lefton asked Faculty Senate Chairman Tom Janson to add this topic on the Senate’s May or July agenda “to have a common understanding of our data, programs, strengths and challenges.”

“I am not looking to point fingers or sugarcoat anything – I want a full and honest assessment of where we are so we all know where we actually stand and where we need to go.”

Lefton said the commission’s deliberations illustrated some concepts that are not normally mentioned in diversity discussions. He said all groups – majority and minorities alike – need to break out of their comfort zone.

He said the commission’s chair, the Rev. Ron Fowler, told him it is important to help students develop meaningful relationships with others different from themselves that will persist after graduation.

Contact academics reporter Regina Garcia Cano at [email protected].