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University of Nebraska-Lincoln Chancellor Calls for Diversity Officer

LINCOLN, Neb. ― The chancellor of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln is hoping to see the institution join others in adding a chief diversity officer to its administrative cabinet.

Chancellor Harvey Perlman’s call follows several racially charged incidents on the university’s campus last year, including a student using racial slurs at a student senate meeting, another slur scrawled on a campus sidewalk and an ethnically insensitive homecoming skit in which students wore sombreros.

The early response to those incidents—an initiative called “Not Here, Not Now, Now Ever!”—was received without much enthusiasm.

UNL has no proactive strategy in place to deal with issues of diversity, tolerance, inclusion and respect—issues that Perlman said are becoming more pervasive on campus, the Lincoln Journal Star reported.

“They have encouraged us to take a number of steps to enhance our efforts to make a difference, recognizing that administrative steps alone are insufficient,” Perlman said.

More than 30 colleges and universities in the past five years have created an administrative position dedicated to fostering diversity and inclusion, according to the 2013 Diversity Officer Study conducted by researchers from the University of Connecticut and the University of Michigan.

Also, more than 200 colleges and universities have joined the National Association of Diversity Officers in Higher Education since 2006—including UNL and nine other Big Ten Conference schools. The association seeks to provide resources and ideas for chief diversity officers.

Ben Reese Jr., the president of the association, said that, for the past three decades, colleges and universities have “begun to think about the utility of having a person at a very senior level oversee diversity strategy for an institution.”

UNL has begun taking steps toward creating a chief diversity officer position, including selecting existing officials to study the campus’ climate and how universities recruit and retain underrepresented students, faculty and staff.

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