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Diversity committee established by Senate

by Elizabeth Omara-Otunnu - November 17, 2008

The University Senate has established a new committee to focus on diversity.

The committee, which will meet monthly and will report to the Senate annually in April, brings the total number of Senate standing committees to eight.

The committee will review University policies, practices, and conditions relevant to supporting and promoting diversity among students, faculty, and staff, according to an amendment to the Senate bylaws approved by the Senate during its meeting on Nov. 10.

Anne Hiskes, associate professor of philosophy in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and a member of the Senate Executive Committee, who proposed the new committee, says the idea grew out of a workshop on promoting inclusive leadership, sponsored by the Provost’s Commission on the Status on Women.

“The issues are so important,” she says, “but there has been no central place that brings together representatives of every aspect of the University to talk about diversity.”

The Senate recognized diversity as a broad and open-ended concept, as identified by the University’s Diversity Action Committee in 2002, and noted that diversity among student, faculty, and staff populations has been a long-standing goal of the University.

In the most recent academic plan, diversity is identified as a specific goal.

The new committee will provide a way for people to bring diversity issues to the attention of the University community and be a venue for discussion of such issues by individuals from a cross-section of schools, colleges, and departments.

It is intended to supplement, not change, the efforts of those people and programs currently responsible for promoting diversity.

The committee’s membership will comprise a representative of each of the other Senate standing committees, together with two undergraduates and one graduate student.

Hiskes noted that diversity intersects with every other Senate committee, including curricula and courses, enrollment, faculty standards, growth and development, scholastic standards, student welfare, and University budget.

Having each of these committees represented on the diversity committee will facilitate communication, she said, and discussion of diversity from multiple perspectives.

She said in addition to members of the Senate, members of the University community at large are invited to serve on the committee.

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