Diversity Awareness Series to Start

By Mark Sullivan
Staff Writer

The Department of Human Resources is offering a series of diversity awareness workshops in May and June, which organizers hope will foster greater campus-wide understanding and dialogue in regard to issues of race, gender and ethnicity.

The pilot workshops, being offered on a voluntary basis on May 22, May 28, June 17 and June 24, are the forerunners of diversity training programming that will become an integral part of new employee orientation this fall. Diversity themes also will be introduced to the University's performance management program.

Administrators say the increased emphasis on diversity training in employee development programs is intended to advance the goal of a "just community" at Boston College, in the spirit of University President William P. Leahy, SJ's, recent open letter urging racial harmony and understanding on campus.

"I really think it's exceptionally important for us to demonstrate to the University community, in a tangible way, the commitment we have to diversity and multiculturalism, and how critical they are to our University goals and directions at the highest level," said Vice President for Human Resources Leo V. Sullivan. "Every person here at Boston College has to be aware of that direction and commitment."

As part of this initiative, Fr. Leahy and University vice presidents will participate in a diversity awareness training program next month. Also, 15 University staff members will be tapped as in-house "diversity trainers" and will take part in an intensive program June 10-13 that will instruct them in leading workshops for their co-workers.

Human Resources Employee Development Director Bernard O'Kane said appreciation of diversity will be a major theme in the revamped orientation program. Plans call for new employees to participate in a two-hour "Welcome Program" that emphasizes the value the University places on the diverse talents and backgrounds in its community. The seminar would accompany a more formal orientation program consisting of four segments: the traditional orientation to the University and job benefits; the Shared Vision program's introduction to the tradition of Jesuit education; diversity training; and the performance management program.

O'Kane said two complementary diversity awareness programs will be used for day-long employee retreats. Cultural Introduction creates an opportunity for individuals to reflect on and discuss their own cultural identities, and to appreciate differences and similarities in others. A follow-up, Earliest Encounter, examines a person's reactions on first encountering someone of a different race or culture.

Administrators said the seminars are meant to offer opportunities for collegial exchanges in an atmosphere of acceptance and trust. Discussions concerning race, culture and gender issues too often become polarized, O'Kane said, and differing opinions are perceived as personal attacks.

"One of the goals of this approach is to find a mechanism so honest dialogue on race and multicultural issues can be held in an atmosphere of trust," O'Kane said. "Nobody's being told what to think or what to say. We are providing people with an opportunity to feel comfortable saying what they do feel or do think."

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