Administration says it is tackling diversity at all levels of university

Regina Garcia Cano

For Traci Williams, the presence of minority professors in the university has been the same since 1995.

“I was on the board of trustees, search committees, president of Black United Students and many of the same conversations that I hear as a faculty member now, I heard (them) then,” said Williams, an instructor of Pan-African studies. “It’s the same conversation, so once again, I feel everything is just the same.”

But administrators say the university is tackling diversity at all levels.

Vice Provost Steve Michael said one goal of the Kent State University Strategic Diversity Plan is to increase the number of underrepresented faculty in all academic programs. In 2006, the university established this plan to address diversity on campus.

Michael said in an effort to diversify Kent State’s faculty, some members of the Pan-African Staff and Faculty Association volunteered to form a focus group that will analyze the presence of minority faculty among all the colleges.

Michael said recruiting minority professors is also a priority for the university.

“The university set aside money that we use to recruit superstars or rising superstars that are minority,” Michael said. “That person should be someone with national visibility in his or her area.”

The last professor hired through this fund is Vincent Quevedo, associate professor of fashion. At the moment, Michael said there are no candidates to be appointed with this support.

After the replacement of George Stevens as the dean of the College of Business Administration, none of the deans of the university belong to a minority group.

Michael said the College of Technology and the College of Architecture and Environmental Design are currently filled by term-deans. Once their term is over, the university will set search committees in which representatives from the Office of Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action will participate.

“They remind them about the need to hire minority and the lack of diversity in that department,” Michael said.

The Kent State University Strategic Diversity Plan allows each college to set its own objectives and strategies to increase minority faculty. The College of Arts and Sciences has the largest number of minority faculty.

“In terms of recruiting, we are taking a pretty aggressive stand in terms of the advertising outlets, using all resources that are available,” said Tim Moerland, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. “Many professional associations have job boards or postings that are appropriate to a specific sector of underrepresented groups, and we are making great efforts to target those specialty job postings for all the disciplines.”

Moerland said retention of minority faculty members is also necessary to achieve diversity in the university. He said the college is in the process of implementing a mentorship program to help professors with a different background.

For Moerland, the presence of minority faculty in education is essential.

“If the university is the universe of ideas you can’t really claim to have a broad base marketplace of ideas without a fair representation of groups of people that bear those ideas,” Moerland said.

Moerland said the importance of diversity among faculty members is also related to economic issues.

“In the science, technology and engineering disciplines, the United States is having to import increasing number of employers in those areas,” Moerland said. “But we have a significant pool of very capable people that if we can bring them in to the overall workforce we could be addressing our need to grow the expertise of some groups in some disciplines.”

As a former minority student, Williams said there are benefits for students having minorities as their faculty because they can reach out to students on a personal level.

“I think that a lot of the minority faculty goes that extra length to help those students who are really in need,” Williams said. “I try to do the same things that those faculty did for me, I try to do those things for my students.”

Johnnie Legrair, freshman computer science major, said minority faculty also help eliminate stereotypes and race barriers in the classroom.

“To see someone who is successful as a professor strives you to also be successful, not being anything that is stereotypical in TV and in the media.”

Contact minority affairs reporter Regina Garcia Cano at [email protected].