Dec. 14, 2006 • Volume 15 Number 8

Campus Dialogues on Diversity Continuing

Several initiatives under way to address communication

By Jack Dunn
Director of Public Affairs

Working to improve the on-campus climate for students, faculty and staff of all backgrounds, University administrators are engaged in a series of meetings with student leaders they hope will lead to improved communications on diversity matters and a new protocol on race-related issues at Boston College.

A Protocol Review Committee, composed of students, faculty and staff and co-chaired by Executive Director of Institutional Diversity Richard Jefferson and Associate Vice President for Student Affairs Sheilah Shaw Horton, is meeting with students to establish clearer definitions of hate crimes and bias-motivated offenses and methods of reporting and responding to such crimes and offenses. The committee is also looking to put together a response network, modeled after the sexual assault and discriminatory harassment networks, to which victims of racial incidents can turn for assistance.

Student representatives, including UGBC leaders Jenn Castillo, executive director of the student life department, Omolara Bewaji, director of academic affairs, John Hellman, director of GLBT Affairs and Senator Jodi Ann Burey, have worked closely with the co-chairs, other administrators and faculty in the hope of finalizing an agreement on these important issues early in the spring semester.

Administrators and faculty involved in the process include Dean for Student Development Robert Sherwood, Residential Life Director Henry Humphreys and Associate Director Justin Price, BC Chief of Police Robert Morse, AHANA Student Programs Director Ines Maturana Sendoya, University Counseling Services Associate Director Erin Curtiss, Campus Minister Sister Mary T. Sweeney, Africa and African Diaspora Studies Program Director Assoc. Prof. Cynthia Young (English) and Prof. Ramsay Liem (Psychology).

"While at times they have been challenging, these meetings have been very positive because we have been able to sit down together and ask hard questions and come up with answers to hard questions," said Jefferson. "I think that all of us, including the students, have learned that this is a much more complex undertaking than we originally thought it was, and a lot of the complexity has actually been unearthed by the students' own questions.

"But we have learned to work together and to build trust, and as a result we are building an understanding of what is involved in putting together a successful protocol.

"Sheilah and I believe that the process of communication that we are engaged in might be at least as important as the product that it will eventually produce."

Castillo offered a similar assessment: "We are really pleased to be working with the administration and appreciate the fact that they are letting us partner with them in drafting this protocol. We feel that more student input will only help to advance the University."

In addition to the Protocol Committee, Executive Vice President Patrick Keating, Provost and Dean of Faculties Cutberto Garza, Vice President for Student Affairs Cheryl Presley and Dean of Student Development Robert Sherwood have formed the VP Advisory Group that has met monthly with student leaders over the past three years to discuss overall campus climate issues.

Among the UGBC leaders involved in these discussions this year are Castillo, Bewaji, UGBC President Santi Bunce, Senator Nyck Bernier, GLC leaders Veronica Joseph and John Hellman, ALC leaders Seye Akinbulumo and Rose Chou, and Kerry Brennan from the Quality of Student Life Committee.

These two committees have supplemented the work of the Diversity Steering Committee, which is composed of Jefferson, Presley, Garza, Keating and Vice President for Human Resources Leo Sullivan. The Diversity Steering Committee has met monthly since June of 2005 to address and promote issues of diversity on campus. The committee has supported a major employee study and student experience survey that will be released in 2007, and is developing a Diversity Advisory Committee made up of students, faculty and administrators that will advise the Office for Institutional Diversity.

The Diversity Steering Committee also will establish a strategic plan for diversity based, in part, on recommendations made from the employee and student surveys.

"I am pleased that much progress is being made on these important issues," said Jefferson. "I want to thank all involved for their many efforts."

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