Diversity: Everyone’s doing it

If there’s been one buzzword circulating campus and the rest of the United States for the past four years, it’s diversity. From M&Ms to provost searches, diversity’s goal of promoting fair and equal representation is something everyone has become worried about – but maybe in the wrong ways.

This week, George Garrison, the president of Kent State’s Pan African Faculty and Staff Association, requested the current search for the vice president for academic affairs and provost be stopped and another started.

The search, which started at the beginning of this semester, had narrowed down to four candidates last month, but after two candidates (Walter Harris Jr. and Elizabeth Langland) withdrew from the search, Garrison’s red flags went up.

“When the top 50 percent of the finalist pool withdraws, it calls the process to question,” Garrison wrote in an e-mail to President Lester Lefton, as reported by the Daily Kent Stater. Charlene Reed, senior assistant to the president, said Garrison was wrong when he implied Harris and Langland were the top 50 percent of the provost pool.

Garrison’s seemingly biggest concern brings us back to the buzzword: diversity.

He also said the narrowed pool of the provost candidates should be more diverse than the choices the university is left with. The choices should extend “beyond white males,” Garrison said, as reported by the Daily Kent Stater.

Reed countered this argument by stating that diversity was one of the biggest issues during every step of the search. She continued that a new search would be unfair (back to the being fair conundrum) to the final candidates.

And the search is still on.

While we appreciate Garrison’s plight for making sure Kent State chooses from the best a provost search could offer, his diversity reasoning is flawed. The final four candidates were diverse in gender, race and experience. Just because the narrowed down candidates are white and male doesn’t mean a standard wasn’t intended. We really don’t think those candidates were finalists in order to keep up appearances.

This leads us to the question many who are trying to accomplish diversity’s goal are faced with: When does enforcing diversity get in the way of selecting who is ultimately best for the job, whatever that job may be? We don’t know – it’s not an easy answer – but we think the decision to keep the search on is the right one.

But even if diversity is a buzzword, it is an important one. And even though the argument of lack of diversity in the provost search is a weak one, it’s something that should continue to be spotlighted when deciding who is best to lead our university, as Reed said it was during the provost search.

Diversity is also something that should be addressed at the university, especially with positions already held on campus. For example, what’s up with only five women holding a position of dean or department head out of 39 total positions? The number of ethnic and racially diverse faculty probably isn’t too impressive either.

Chew on that.

The above is the consensus opinion of the Daily Kent Stater editorial board.