Web update, faculty search processes highlight deans' second diversity converstaion

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Assistant Dean for Academic Affairs Hanna Spinosa and Vice President for Academic Affairs and Dean of the College Jorge Gonzalez delivered a presentation at the second campus-wide diversity conversation of the semester Thursday. The two deans provided updates on the progress that has been made since the last diversity meeting on March 25. Over 70 people attended the meeting, including students, faculty and staff.

Spinosa began her presentation by reiterating her point from the March 25 meeting that although interactional diversity is more important than structural diversity, there must be structural diversity before the deeper issues of inclusion on campus can be addressed.

“Diversity is not a product – it’s a process,” Spinosa said.

Spinosa reviewed the revised diversity section of the website, including its new location under the “Our Story” tab rather than the “Life at Oxy” tab. Subsections will include pages specifically addressing student and faculty experiences, campus climate and program diversity.

Audience members suggested moving the diversity page to the main menu on the website rather than including it within a tab. They also proposed incorporating within each subheading blog-like content by students and faculty about their experiences relating to diversity at Occidental.

Next, Spinosa reviewed the Diverse Learning Environments Survey currently open to students. At the time of the meeting, 21.3 percent of students had responded, but according to Spinosa, a 60 percent response rate would make the survey more comprehensive and reliable. She reminded the attendants that the questions were developed by Higher Education Research Institute and not Occidental staff.

In Gonzalez’s portion of the presentation, he addressed faculty search processes, the possibility of an African/a American studies major, faculty handbook revisions, the creation of a Chief Diversity Officer position and the implementation of an Intergroup Dialogue class for faculty similar to the one offered to students.

Throughout the meeting, Spinosa and Gonzalez fielded questions from students, faculty and staff about the administration’s approach to making the campus more diverse and supportive for underrepresented minority students. Many questions asked about the inclusion of various identities such as sexual orientation and gender expression and about the intersection of racial and economic identities.

At one point, Gonzalez expressed a desire to establish a group of students and faculty to work together and discuss issues of diversity. When asked whether the Coalition at Oxy for Diversity and Equity (C.O.D.E.) fulfilled this desire, Gonzalez responded that the group is not representative of the entire community and that certain administrators should be involved as well.

Many larger questions were left unanswered after this hour long meeting, such as what constitutes equity and success and how the college can help underrepresented minorities thrive rather than just survive.

The meeting ended with students suggesting alternatives such as a blog or forum instead of emails for updating the student body on these issues. There was a general consensus that these types of campus-wide conversations that include staff, faculty, students and administrators were the most productive forum for discussing issues of diversity at Occidental.