Diversity: It’s Back.

3/28/2011: UO’s Office of Institutional Equity and Diversity needs a new Vice President. It’s a big job, with a large budget and staff, control of a lot of dedicated funds, and in the right hands it has the potential for a lot of positive impact.

The hiring committee was appointed in January and is chaired by Scott Coltrane and co-chaired by Robin Holmes. They will hold their first public meeting, a “visioning session” that will solicit input on a new job description for the VP position, this Wednesday, from 2:00-3:00pm in the EMU Fir Room. There are some good people on the committee and starting from scratch seems like a good sign.

Oregon has way too many bright kids from low SES families – of all races/ethnicities etc. – who are not ready for college. With the coming K-12 cuts this is going to get way worse. I think developing effective programs to help these students get ready for UO and succeed at UO should be job #1 for OIED. To do this we will need a VP with a lot of energy and expertise in “fill the pipeline” programs.

I started this blog a few years ago in large part because of my strong feelings about how badly UO had been handling diversity issues. I think there is a lot that could be learned from an honest appraisal of UO’s many past mistakes with this office. But there are also some reasons to not dwell on those mistakes. I intend to give this new start for OIED every chance to succeed.

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6 Responses to Diversity: It’s Back.

  1. Anonymous says:

    I saw your comments on the search for a new diversity czar. I admire you for being willing to forgive past mistakes. I wish I could be as charitable.

    I’d say that our record in this area is disgraceful. And I’m not the least bit encouraged by the committee, which I think is weak.

    You are right that the key is to develop transition programs that will give ethnic minorities and other disadvantaged groups a shot at succeeding. Those are expensive but essential. They have been in place for decades in many colleges and universities. We have some, but, over all, we devote far too little staff and money to the problem.

    The one group that has been most badly served is Hispanics. The 2010 census tells us that slightly more than 20 percent of the state’s under-18 population is Hispanic. The U of O’s Hispanic count is 3 percent. Addressing that anomaly should be a priority. Unfortunately, up to now, we have had relatively little contact with the impressive network of Hispanic educators in the upper Willamette Valley who could help us in doing that.

    The biggest problem, as I see it, is that we are not held in very high regard by minorities around the state. Other universities and colleges have far more contact with them. I find it symptomatic that in the proposed “visioning sessions,” we begin by consulting the campus community and then turn to the public. I’d suggest that the process be reversed. Decades of failure in these matters should tell us that we have more to learn from others.

  2. Anonymous says:

    I suspect almost everyone agrees on the need for effective transition programs for needy, disadvantaged students. the rub is likely on whether large-scale multimillion dollar bureacracies are needed. there is a solid body of evidence based on randomized experiments on what makes the greatest difference in recruiting from disadvantaged populations, and none involve multimillion dollar bureaucracies. A second rub is on the nature of the programs. Pprograms that set low expectations by group profiling and then offering identiy-based programs patronize, rather than help. if students need help in succeeding and making transitions, we should look at evidence-based programs to help based on need, regardless of race, ethnicity, religion, etc.

  3. Anonymous says:

    I certainly hope their will be meaningful progress on this in Johnson Hall. I won’t hold my breath, however.

    All evidence points to the fact that the UO only likes the idea of diversity.

  4. Anonymous says:

    The account of the diversity hearing makes Coltrane sound unbelievably inane. A lot of people think highly of him — he’s supposed to be a nice guy, and I find him so — but we need to rehash the whole cultural competency bullshit? How pathetic! By comparison, David Frank sounds positively Solomonic.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Two quick points. 1) we’re lucky to have Lariviere’s successful experience with Hispanic students from his years at Texas. Faculty might invite his insights, which he’s probably reluctant to share unless invited to do so—for fear of looking like he’s imposing his views. Even so, an issue for us is that we cannot afford anything like the administrative support structures of schools like Texas and Michigan, despite the enormous administrative budget bite over the past 5 years.

    2) UO has highest frosh retention rate in the state and Hispanic share of entering first-year undergraduates is rising quickly and only 1 percentage point below Hispanic share of high school grads in state, which would seem to be the right comparison, not state population.

  6. UO Matters says:

    I do not think Coltrane come across as inane at all. His stated objective was to encourage the people present to make comments about how they felt about the talking points. I think he did a good job with this.

    However, he did support the 5-year diversity plans. His remarks about the cultural competency were just that other universities do require this – not that he supported it. Although it gave the impression that he did. I do not, for example, recall him saying anything similar echoing the comments by others that we needed to consider SES and income diversity. But maybe I missed that.

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