Faculty and students at the University of Oregon are reviewing a new “diversity plan” for the campus, after the first stab at creating such a blueprint drew a firestorm of complaints.
The university, which has struggled alongside other Oregon schools to attract diverse students and professors, also recently lost its first diversity chief, who abruptly left for a job in Texas.
Charles Martinez, the UO’s interim vice provost for institutional equity and diversity, said the new diversity plan is a blueprint to ensure that the university can appeal to an increasingly diverse state and nation.
But the recent search for a new law school dean hasn’t helped matters. After a Mexican American withdrew from the running, law school faculty complained that he was treated differently from other candidates and questioned whether race was a factor. Two professors have since announced they’ll be taking leave from the university next year in protest, and are not sure they will be returning.
The law school dust-up is the latest in a series of events that has heightened tensions over ethnic diversity at the university.
Last May, students and faculty at the College of Education held rallies to urge the administration to address perceptions of cultural bias and insensitivity in the classroom. The university has since hired a consultant to help the college address concerns.
That same month, the university released the first draft of a five-year diversity plan. it called for actions like building a critical mass of minority faculty, but faculty critics zeroed in on a requirement that promotion and tenure be tied to evaluations of “cultural competency.”
Although many on campus supported the plan, some faculty argued that the requirement threatened academic freedom and quality, and the plan was sent back to the drawing board.
Other incidents left students of color unsettled and angry.
In the fall, a Hawaiian freshman withdrew from UO after a week of classes because, his parents said, he had been subjected to racist comments and threatened physically.
In February, a man walked into a class and threw a pie in the face of a minority student. He hasn’t been caught. There’s no proof that race was a factor, but many students concluded that it was.
Martinez said the revamped diversity plan differs significantly from the first draft in that it shifts responsibility for meeting goals from individuals to colleges and departments, which will be expected to incorporate diversity into their hiring plans.
Though a five-year plan doesn’t address day-to-day difficulties around race, it does lay the groundwork for reducing tensions over time, he said.
— Associated Press
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