For the column this time, I thought it might be helpful to provide some background and updates regarding numerous changes to our diversity efforts initiated last year under President Cyndy Anderson.
YSU’s former Office of Equal Opportunity and Diversity essentially morphed into two offices at the start of this year, one focusing on equal opportunity and its related rules, and the other concentrating on diversity through outreach and responsiveness which every university must undertake to build a more inclusive institution.
I think what YSU and Dr. Anderson realized is something that many campuses and organizations nationally have been learning for the past few years: It is very hard for one office – or one officer – to be engaged in both the regulatory and compliance responsibilities associated with a traditional EO office, while simultaneously undertaking those proactive, supportive, community-building activities necessary to create a diverse campus. The two broad missions don’t always match one another – and in some ways might even be viewed in opposition at times.
Therefore, as numerous institutions had already done, we separated the functions so that each can develop independently, without sending mixed messages from a single office. After the division here, each new office took on a new identity and title: the equal opportunity area is now covered within Equal Opportunity and Policy Compliance, under the direction of Cindy Kravitz in the General Counsel’s Office. Cindy does much of the EO compliance work for us and also serves as YSU’s Title IX officer, in addition to handling overall policy responsibilities beyond just those in equal opportunity. Diversity efforts are a responsibility for us all, of course, though Interim Director Sylvia Imler is now running the Office of Diversity and Multicultural Affairs, leading campus wide efforts in that regard out of my office. (Student programming is directed by the Office of Student Diversity Programs, headed by William Blake and the YSU Student Diversity Council.)
In Sylvia’s role as YSU’s Chief Diversity Officer, she has been restructuring the office to reframe priorities and re-energize our efforts by revising goals and developing operational guidelines and practices that are now being implemented. She is supported in that work by a restructured University Diversity Council, a diverse group of YSU and community members, reconvened to serve as an open forum to discuss diversity issues that affect us all – University and Valley.
The Community Diversity Program Series for 2013-2014 remains in progress with 34 events for the academic year. The Series has a variety of events for YSU and the larger community that promote an awareness and appreciation of all forms of diversity in our society. Additionally, a Task Force for Diversity Programming was convened which is comprised of primarily deans and their representatives to determine how each academic college can support the YSU 2020 Strategic Plan’s commitment to diversity and inclusiveness. The highly anticipated Diversity Leadership Recognition Celebration honoring students, staff and community members for their leadership in diversity and inclusion will be March 27, 2014, at Mr. Anthony’s.
At YSU, we will seek to broaden the definition and celebration of diversity, comprised of (but not limited to) differences in cultural, social, economic, racial and ethnic origin; gender; rural and urban communities; geographic origins; academic backgrounds; sexual and spiritual orientation; ability and disability; physical appearance; age; personality and learning style; personal experiences; multilingual abilities; and veteran status. Diversity and inclusiveness create a richness and wealth in human capital that enhances YSU’s campus climate and our region at large.
For more information, you can visit the Office of Diversity and Multicultural Affairs at http://web.ysu.edu/dma. We have much work still to do, but I’m excited about what the future can hold for us when we truly “Embrace Diversity.”