Department Head Resigns, Blasts Diversity Efforts
Washington State University’s efforts to make the campus a friendlier place for minorities suffered a blow when a department head resigned, calling diversity efforts “mere lip service.”
Dr. Epifanio San Juan Jr. announced his resignation as head of Comparative American Cultures in a letter to faculty last month. The resignation is effective June 15.
San Juan said the university failed to follow up on promises made three years ago, when he took over the program, to provide more money for new faculty, research and travel.
“Unless concrete tangible resources are given to CAC, all the WSU claims of supporting ethnic diversity and education to promote diversity ring hollow — mere lip service,” he wrote.
Dr. Barbara Couture, dean of the College of Liberal Arts, says San Juan’s department was “supported very well, given the university’s current resources.”
Last month, President V. Lane Rawlins adopted a plan to make the campus a friendlier place for minorities and said he will make minority hiring a priority for the university’s provost and academic deans (see Black Issues, May 24).
Those efforts are likely to be complicated by budget constraints and Initiative 200, the 1998 voter initiative banning affirmative action in admissions and hiring at public institutions.
San Juan, a distinguished scholar and author of several books on race and cultural studies, has accepted a fellowship in humanities at Wesleyan University in Connecticut.
Stephen Nakata, director of multicultural student services, said the university has made strides in recent years on the issue of diversity. Still, lack of money has hindered his program’s mission to recruit and retain minority students. Student mentors, for instance, are paid through partial tuition waivers, a funding source that is uncertain from year to year.
“It’s frustrating,” says Nakata. “We consider this to be a model program and a very successful program for retention, but we struggle every year wondering if we’re going to be funded.”
Dr. Victor Villanueva Jr., chairman of the English Department, said the university has developed a strong ethnic-studies curriculum, but needs more minority faculty.
Minorities make up about 11 percent of the 1,200 instructional faculty.
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