The Students’ Association held their third Town Hall meeting on Wednesday night, discussing UR President Seligman’s adoption of the 31 recommendations designed by the Task Force on Faculty Diversity and Inclusiveness. Throughout the meeting, it was stressed that the overall goal of the Task Force is to make the University community more welcoming.

Speaking at the event was Deputy to the President and future Vice Provost for Faculty Development and Diversity Lynne Davidson, who addressed current issues with diversity of the faculty at the University. Currently, only two percent of tenured or tenure-track faculty are African American or Latino, and only 28 percent are female. She then informed the students of the actions taken by the Task Force to work toward fixing these problems.

The recommendations from the Task Force include the appointment of a faculty diversity officer for every school in the University, strongly encouraging training for members of faculty search committees and new policies toward faculty leave time associated with families. To create these recommendations, the Task Force consulted with other universities and looked at current models. According to Davidson, the University is implementing these ideas early, but not as early as some other universities.

“Students are not getting the best possible education if we’re not able to provide them with the best possible faculty,” Davidson said. “If there are cases in which we are failing to retain minority and women faculty members because they’re not feeling welcomed, then in some of those instances, the students could be losing the opportunity to receive an education from the greatest people in the field.”

Implementation of these recommendations officially begins on Jan. 1, 2007. At that point, an 18-month plan with mapped out beginnings of all 31 recommendations will begin. Although the program has not officially started, Davidson feels that the environment is already beginning to change.

“The current attention to faculty diversity will be very helpful,” she said. “The program may take a while to gear up, but the visibility of these efforts could bring about a more welcoming feeling on campus almost immediately.”

Interim Dean of the College Richard Feldman spoke about the process of hiring new faculty throughout the College. He emphasized that changes need to be made in the advertisement and recruitment process of hiring.

“Out of 300 to 400 applicants in the Philosophy department, the number of minority applicants is probably less than a dozen,” Feldman said.

What he hopes to see is a change in the pools from which departments are currently recruiting by doing things such as using alternative databases of graduates and graduate students and creating new contacts at universities with a more diverse student base.

Next to speak was Assistant Dean and Director of the Office of Minority Student Affairs Norman Burnett. He discussed his role as the co-chair of the College Diversity Roundtable, which is a group comprised of members of various groups throughout campus who come together to discuss campus climate issues and policy issues related to diversity. The group is currently working on a College Diversity Mission Statement.

The final member of the panel was president of the Minority Student Advisory Board and senior Catalina Berry, who highlighted the successes of MSAB and commended Seligman and the Task Force on their efforts to diversify the faculty.

After a 15-minute speech from each panelist, the floor was opened for discussion. At this time, the speakers were asked to define “diversity,” “minority” and “bias.” According to Davidson, this was one of the things discussed at the first meeting of the Task Force, along with the definition of “faculty.”

It was determined that minority is a broad term that includes many different groups, but the most severely underrepresented minority causing the most urgent problem is that of African Americans, Latinos and Native Americans.

The most prominent topic of discussion for the rest of the Town Hall Meeting was the fact that students seem to be apathetic toward diversity on campus. Members of the panel were asked to discuss how to more fully integrate uninterested members of the campus community into diversity initiatives and programs.

In light of the discussion, many on campus think that students must take a more active role in diversity.

“I feel that it’s really important that the student leaders work with the administration and work together to figure out how we can actually engage more students in this conversation,” SA President and senior Alexander Pearlman said. “The tangible benefit for students is to have experiences they wouldn’t normally have.”Philbrick is a member of the class of 2009.

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