By James Sheridan
The University administration has decided to hire a Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer (CDIO) after an independent consulting group first recommended it in 2011.
The IBIS Consulting Group was hired by the Committee on Diversity and Inclusion (CDI) for
approximately $25,000 in 2008 after former University President Timothy Flanagan tasked the CDI with exploring ways to create a more welcoming and diverse environment.
IBIS released its findings in 2011, and stated the University would benefit from a more strategic and integrated approach to diversity. The report stated the efforts of the Diversity Committee members required additional support and resources and it specifically advocated “adding a position to lead the diversity efforts. Many of the recommendations provided in this report will require a full-time resource to ensure effective implementation.”
The consulting group identified a CDIO as the type of executive-level position that could be a full-time resource tasked with organizing and integrating the many diversity and inclusion initiatives on campus.
However, according to Executive Vice President Dale Hamel, “Universities don’t turn on a dime.” So, some of the funding for more costly recommended initiatives such as the hiring of a new Vice President-level position was postponed.
Hamel explained that sometimes it takes an entire year to allocate funds for a new hire, and each year, about 20 positions are reviewed – of which only four or five are actually added to the University staff.
Sue Dargan, Co-Chair of the CDI, said the University had actually allocated the money for a CDIO in last year’s budget. She said that former Interim President Robert Martin was “pushing” for the position, but wished to wait for President F. Javier Cevallos to arrive at the University in order to help shape the position himself.
Dargan added that Cevallos met with members of the CDI in order to receive input about the position and subsequently decided that the Director of Multicultural Affairs would report directly to the CDIO and that the CDIO would report directly to the President.
Cevallos said making diversity and inclusion initiatives a priority is something important for the campus. He added, “If we designate something as being important, we have to put the resources towards it.”
Cevallos said in recent years, community members have worked to improve the climate on campus. This year, the campus was awarded a Higher Education Excellence in Diversity Award by “INSIGHT into Diversity.” (See page 1 for more details)
He said the hiring of a CDIO is one of the main initiatives that he wishes to see accomplished because the campus does not reflect the many cultures in the surrounding area. Cevallos said, “There is still work to be done.”
Gabriella Betonces, a junior biochemistry major and member of the hiring committee for the CDIO, said she likes the fact that the President and the administration have acknowledged, “We are not there yet.” She said she is excited the administration is continuing to work on the improvements to diversity and inclusion initiatives which have been ongoing for the last few years on campus.
Nuzaiba Haider, a junior business administration major who is also on the CDIO hiring committee, said, “The subject of diversity is one that is close to our hearts. ... I have seen the difference within the last two years, and I think what we need to do is at least maintain the difference we have seen.”
According to the Director of the Multicultural Center Kathy Martinez, in her second year at Framingham State, she has “already seen a remarkable commitment to diversity and inclusion on campus.” However, she added, “I still believe we have much work to do.”
In May, the O9ce of Multicultural Affairs conducted an Educational Benchmarking Inc. [EBI] Campus Climate Survey. The finalized report is currently scheduled to be finished in December of this year and presented to the CDI in March of 2015.
However, after reviewing some of the data collected by the survey, Martinez found that students reported that race influences how they feel valued on campus and the way they feel accepted by other students.
The data found in the survey also said African American students reported feeling less satisfied with their experience at FSU more than any other ethnic group, and gay and lesbian students reported feeling the most pressure to minimize characteristics about themselves compared to heterosexual, bisexual or questioning students.
Martinez said she is looking forward to the way an executive o9cer will be able to lead efforts and find out what works and what doesn’t.
Junior psychology major Cassandra Bernabel said she believes it is important to remember diversity “is not just about the color of skin. ... It is important that there is more support for those coming from different backgrounds,” including students with disabilities, for example.
The hiring of an executive-level o9cer symbolizes to some administrators a new level of commitment diversity.
According to John Santoro, the deputy chief of campus police and co-chair of the CDI, the CDIO will help promote initiatives and engage the campus community.
He said, “The reason we need this type of position is that the CDI has no power – we don’t answer to anyone, and no one answers to us.” Santoro added he believes the position will help bring a sense of responsibility and accountability to the initiatives across campus.
Rita Colucci, the University’s chief of staP and general counsel said the hiring process for the CDIO will be much like the process for the recent presidential search.
“There will be representatives from all of the unions on campus,” she said, “as well as representatives of the student body and the CDI.”
Colucci said LaDonna Bridges, director of academic support/disability services and co-director of CASA, will be the representative from the APA union, Chamara Sandarodora will be the representative from the AFSCME union and Nuzaiba Haider, Benni Arias Gonzalez and Gabriela Betonces will be the student representatives on the search committee. Colucci said the representative from the CDI has not been determined yet.
She said the hiring process would consist of two rounds. The first will include six to 10 applicants who will be interviewed over Skype by the search committee. The second round will narrow the number of applicants to between three and five. The second round of applicants will be invited to campus and introduced to campus at an open meeting much like the three presidential candidates were at the end of last year.
“Ultimately, the decision will be up to President Cevallos,” Colucci said. However, she encouraged students and faculty to give feedback to the committee.
“I truly hope the campus community becomes engaged with the process,” she said. “I think this position will touch all aspects of campus and I want as much feedback as possible.”
Colucci said although there are “high hopes for the individual to take diversity to the next level,” there is also a “legitimate fear” that the University might lose its “village ePort.”
However, Colucci said the same fear was present when Martinez was hired when the Multicultural Center was first opened. “But what happened in reality was the best possible outcome. She [Martinez] has been able to further engage the campus with events that are well attended by faculty, staff and students. ... Her impact has been beyond our wildest expectation and it is the model I hope continues with this new CDIO position. That is what my fingers are crossed for.”
SGA President Kendall Valente said she is excited about the prospect of a CDIO on campus.
“I know there are students who do not feel accepted on campus,” she said. “We know there is more we can do, and we are doing something.”