The event was a seminar sponsored by the Human Resources Development Program, "Beyond the Comfort Zone: Dialogues About Race in the Workplace," which focused on how the University has addressed concerns raised by students last spring about diversity at Boston College. The seminar, held in the Lower Campus Dining Hall Heights Room, was led by Edwin Nichols, a clinical and industrial psychologist who has directed similar events at the University in the past.
Associate University Librarian Kathleen Boyd listens as School of Nursing Assistant Dean Susan Donelan makes a point during a focus group discussion at Tuesday's seminar. (Photo by Gary Gilbert)
"The issues we and the students talked about [last spring] are still here at Boston College and they still rise to the surface on occasion," said Vice President for Student Affairs Kevin Duffy, introducing the seminar. "We've done a decent job in addressing them, but we can do more and this is the next step in the journey."
Nichols formed the participants into focus groups, each as homogeneous as possible, to demonstrate the way diversity issues are perceived among different people according to racial, social and cultural backgrounds. Members discussed how their individual workplaces reflect cultural or gender diversity and what potential conflicts might arise in fostering further diversification.
By and large, the focus groups felt the University had made some gains in promoting diversity in recent years. Among other examples, groups noted an increase in workshops, seminars and faculty-staff interaction on diversity issues, the establishment of the Honorable David S. Nelson Professional Chair, and inclusion of diversity as a goal in major initiatives, such as the University Academic Planning Council report and the revised core curriculum.
However, the focus groups were in general agreement that the University had not yet developed long-term initiatives that would make diversity an integral part of its institutional identity. To accomplish this, members suggested examining areas such as salary competitiveness and employee orientation, and finding more ways to encourage socialization between students of different backgrounds.
Closing the seminar, Human Resources Vice President Leo V. Sullivan said, "The thinking on diversity has to be pervasive and we have to talk to the people who aren't here today. As we continue to look at how we do things at the University, there will be a need for the many bright, creative people employed here to play a role in promoting diversity."
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