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Houston to serve as interim provost of diversity and multicultural affairs

	Terri Houston will replace Archie Ervin as head of diversity affairs.

Terri Houston will replace Archie Ervin as head of diversity affairs.

In 11 years, Archie Ervin shepherded diversity and multicultural affairs to new heights.

After serving as assistant to the chancellor and director for minority affairs, he elevated the role to associate provost of diversity and multicultural affairs, giving the University’s chief diversity officer a broader role.

To continue the momentum of his efforts, Ervin, who will become the Georgia Institute of Technology’s inaugural vice president for Institute Diversity on Jan. 1, recommended the woman he hired as an assistant to the chancellor in 1999 — Terri Houston.

In an e-mail sent late Thursday night, the University announced Houston, the senior director for diversity and multicultural programs, will serve in Ervin’s post on an interim basis, beginning Dec. 1.

The announcement came just short of a week after Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost Bruce Carney told the Faculty Council that he had extended an offer. Fearing that the University might have to “scramble” to fill the position by July 1, Carney urged faculty members at the meeting to accept an invitation to the committee appointed to direct the national search for a replacement.

Carney added that his selection for the position would be announced Monday, but the announcement was delayed after hesitance from Houston, who said she was initially unfamiliar with Carney and his vision for diversity at UNC.

“I’ve heard her sing more times than I’ve spoken with her,” Carney said, in reference to Houston’s role as the lead singer in Chancellor Holden Thorp’s band.

But after three meetings spread between Oct. 8 and Oct. 13, Carney and Houston found that they had a shared vision for improving the recruitment — and retention — of minority faculty members and making the University a more welcoming and nourishing environment for minority students.

“To borrow a phrase from our chancellor, it is about what creates an environment that embraces our ideas and our identity,” said Houston. “Are we there yet? No.”

Getting to that point, Houston said, is a mission that requires relentless attention. And with a leadership vacuum, she said the ongoing diversity assessment and upcoming update of the 2006 Diversity Plan would not receive the care they deserve.

“To have the person leading that step away and still have someone to give it leadership and purpose — that’s huge,” said Houston, who was considered second-in-charge within the office of diversity and multicultural affairs.

“We cannot afford to lag.”

Houston said the office does not pigeonhole the term “diversity” into a racial context, but rather expands the term to one’s sexual orientation, creed and economic background. Those aspects combine to make diversity an inherently volatile issue that requires strong leadership and action, she said.

“College campuses are reactive beings,” Houston said, citing the University’s creation of the Alert Carolina system after the 2008 shooting at Northern Illinois University and review of the Greek system in the aftermath of former Delta Kappa Epsilon President Courtland Smith’s death in 2009.

Houston said the University must be proactive with regard to diversity efforts, noting the recent suicide of 18-year old Rutgers University student Tyler Clementi as the most recent incident related to diversity.

“We’re one situation away from that,” she said. “We can’t rest on our laurels and think that just because it hasn’t happened, it won’t.”

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