The Daily Tar Heel

Serving the students and the University community since 1893

Wednesday December 8th

Faculty discuss importance of student, faculty diversity

Archie Ervin and Terri Houston agree the fight to diversify the University is never quite complete.

“We say that we look for the best students, the best faculty, the best staff,” Ervin said.

“Those people aren’t limited to one part of the world.”

Ervin, the associate provost for diversity and multicultural affairs joined Houston, the senior director for diversity and multicultural programs, Monday to answer questions on the importance of a diverse student body and faculty. Ervin also discussed the progress made in the Upendo Lounge and the increased resources provided through the Office of Diversity and Multicultural Affairs.

Ervin, who will step down from his position at the end of the year to become the inaugural vice president for Institute Diversity at Georgia Tech, emphasized the different experiences and opinions to which a diverse faculty can expose students, and mentioned it was important for his office to make everyone feel welcome.

“We want people to not be afraid of who they are, or what they are, because it’s their minds we want to benefit from,” he said.

One student asked how diverse faculty could be recruited, especially in tough economic times.

Roy Charles, director of diversity, recruitment and retention at the graduate school, spoke to the need for current students to want to fill that void in diverse faculty. He mentioned that underrepresented communities produce far fewer Ph.D. candidates, and it takes more time for those students to become qualified to teach.

“If you’re looking for diverse faculty, you’re looking for yourselves,” he told the room.

“If you want to see underrepresented faculty, you will see it for your children and grandchildren, and you will be those faculty members.”

The event, entitled “Diversity at UNC: Honoring its ambassadors,” took place in the Upendo Lounge in the Student and Academic Services Building. About 45 students attended.

The modern Upendo Lounge is a re-creation of one which was located in the since-demolished Chase Hall, the former Student Union. The room’s creation was advocated by the precursors to the current Black Student Movement.

“Upendo had this sense of being a living room of sorts, a place where we could all be a family,” Houston said.

Ervin stressed the importance of a space on campus for those who may not always feel comfortable.

“It was a place where those few students didn’t always have to be on guard,” he said.

“And when people take ownership in something, they take pride in it,” Ervin added.

Students brought up positive experiences with programs such as Project Uplift and various high school honors days.

“When I first visited, I saw a lot of people but I didn’t see communities,” said Denise Mitchell, a student.

“When I came to Project Uplift, everything changed.”

Contact the University Editor at udesk@unc.edu.

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