University of Virginia Panel Recommends Diversity Officer, Collaboration with HBCUs
A committee that was formed after racially tinged incidents at the University of Virginia recommended recently the creation of an officer for “diversity and equity” who would report to the president.
The panel also recommended the development of an academic program on issues of equity and diversity; an exchange program between U.Va. and historically Black colleges and universities; a clear system of reporting incidents of “inappropriate and/or disrespectful behavior”; and initiatives to recruit minority students, faculty and staff. The report, “Embracing Diversity in Pursuit of Excellence,” was presented to the university’s board of visitors.
The diversity committee was created along with the President’s Commission on Diversity and Equity following two incidents involving students in 2002 (see Black Issues, Jan. 2, 2003).
Three students wore Blackface makeup to an off-campus Halloween party, prompting the Inter-Fraternity Council to temporarily suspend the two fraternities who organized the party.
In another incident, a student council presidential candidate of Black and Asian descent said she was the victim of a racially motivated attack in a campus parking lot (see Black Issues, March 27, 2003).
Racial tensions were stirred further this past year when Charlottesville police began randomly asking Black males to submit to DNA testing in hopes of finding a serial rapist. Critics called the practice racial profiling and police revised the testing.
“Today’s reality is that, all too often, we encounter a negative racial climate at the university and within the Charlottesville community,” the report’s authors wrote. “A chronically covert, and frequently overt, atmosphere of racial insensitivity characterizes this climate.”
The officer for diversity and equity recommended by the committee would counsel the president and address issues of race and ethnicity on campus. The officer would be “no less than the president’s agent for advocacy, focus, ideas and accountability in this area.”
— Staff and AP news wire reports
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