The University’s top administrator for diversity and multicultural affairs will soon join the provost’s cabinet — a change administrators hope will heighten UNC’s focus on diversity.
The associate provost for diversity and multicultural affairs will become a vice provost and will meet with the provost’s cabinet weekly, said Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost Bruce Carney.
The change is meant to address a lack of racial diversity among administration and faculty, an issue widely acknowledged among University leaders, along with a pressing need for action.
“I would just call it an unfortunate reality,” said Terri Houston, who is serving as the interim associate provost for diversity and multicultural affairs as the search continues for a permanent head.
“It’s something that you will find at many predominantly white universities and colleges.”
Carney said the change, which will take effect when the University names its new diversity head, relates to the lack of a focus on diversity on campus.
“I want to make sure we have better representation of diversity issues on campus,” he said.
Carney said the University’s choice for the position will be announced soon but would not provide a specific timeline.
A revealing resignation
Two weeks ago, Julius Nyang’oro, the only black department chairman in the College of Arts and Sciences, resigned from his position as chairman of the African and Afro-American Studies department.
Of the 54 chairmen of the University’s departments and centers within the college, only five are minorities.
Houston said this disparity demands action.
“Can we do better? Absolutely. If we have no African-American department (chairmen) then I have the same question as you. Why is that?
“If we consider ourselves to be the University of the people, we should reflect this at all ranks and levels of the institution,” Houston said.
In response to the lack of diversity, the college has made the recruitment of more diverse faculty a priority, said Dee Reid, director of communications for the college.
A report conducted by the college found that minorities have made up 20 percent of all tenured or tenure-track faculty in the college since July 1, 2010, an increase of 13 percent from one decade ago, Reid said.
Karen Gil, dean of the college, wrote in a email that this increase is commendable but not enough.
“We have made steady progress in hiring outstanding faculty from varied backgrounds, but we need to do more,” she wrote.
Last fall, Gil appointed a task force to explore ways the college could enhance faculty diversity.
Valerie Ashby, a chemistry professor and chairwoman of the task force, said recommendations will be submitted to the dean for review at the department chairmen’s retreat on Sept. 23, but declined to discuss them, saying they have not yet been shared with the department leaders.
A peer’s program
The University of Virginia is also exploring ways to improve diversity through the advancement of minority faculty members into leadership positions.
Like UNC, the university is also struggling with diversity issues among faculty. Only 4.2 percent of its faculty members are African-American.
Gertrude Fraser, vice provost for faculty recruitment and retention at UVa., said administrators have developed a special leadership program to make sure the school has an incoming flow of racially diverse faculty.
“We’re beginning to see an effect on diversity in higher positions and more diverse folks serving on key committees,” she said.
Houston said UNC should look into establishing programs similar to that of UVa.
“I think (the program) is something that would be welcomed at UNC and certainly would provide opportunities for getting good faculty in the pipeline,” she said.
“We’ve got to stop talking about it and put our ideas into action.
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