The University is undergoing a search process to hire a new Chief Diversity Officer (CDO). The six-person search committee has identified four finalists for the position, chosen from a pool of over 100 applicants. Each finalist will participate in a public forum, attend meetings with staff and students, and go through more interviews before the position is filled. The process is intended to be as transparent and inclusive as possible.
In order to weigh input from as many areas of the University community as possible, the committee consists of professors, administrators, and one student. Andrews Professor of Economics Joyce Jacobsen and Vice President for Finance and Administration John Meerts co-chair the committee; the other members are Professor of Religion Peter Gottschalk, Director of Human Resources Julia Hicks, Adjunct Associate Professor of Physical Education Shona Kerr, and Christian Hosam ’15.
Jacobsen explained the expectations of the position.
“[The CDO position] does require somebody who is able to manage, on multiple dimensions, everything that is going on, and that’s why we have tried to run such an open and transparent search process where on our committee we have faculty, staff, and students,” Jacobsen said.
Encompassing many roles on campus, the CDO helps monitor compliance with well-known programs, such as Title IX and Affirmative Action, which are meant to foster diversity on college campuses. Besides administrative work, the new CDO will have a role in leading the community to think about diversity in its broadest sense, according to Meerts.
“The monitoring and tracking is just one aspect of what’s going on [with this job],” Meerts said. “More importantly, the question is how we can get the whole University to think about all aspects of diversity in just about everything we do.”
The new CDO will have the opportunity to help define the role that the position encompasses on campus. With the definition of diversity including not only race and gender but also sexual orientation, social classes, and geographical variety, the committee hopes that the new CDO can extend hir role beyond traditional minority groups.
“Diversity has expanded, for instance, to deal with class issues much more explicitly than 10 years ago, when it was much more restricted to race and ethnicity,” Jacobsen said.
Throughout the process, the committee has asked candidates to talk about their own definitions of success for the position and what resources they would need to achieve it.
“We all firmly believe that diversity is a good thing not just because it’s a good thing, but also because it is good for the educational experience,” Meerts said. “[We’re asking,] ‘How do you, as a diversity officer, engage on that question?’”
Hosam believes that the CDO can offer resources that benefit everyone and help foster a closer and even more inclusive group of students and staff.
“I have a real hope that [the new CDO] will be able to say, ‘Across campus, privileged or not privileged, here’s how we move forward as a campus, here’s how we move forward as a community,’” Hosam said.
Meerts stated that the University community needs to continue striving for diversity.
“We’ve put that label, inadvertently or not, on ourselves, of being ‘Diversity University,’” Meerts said. “People come here and think this is nirvana, that we have no diversity issues here because this is Wesleyan University. Well, not quite so.”
Hosam echoed Meerts, noting that he wants people on campus to realize that, although the University has come a long way and traditionally has led the charge in terms of a diverse campus, there is still work to be done.
“Historically, Wesleyan was out front in terms of diversity,” Hosam said. “A lot of times Wesleyan feels that it is on the cutting edge of diversity, whether it is or not. So a lot of the problems arise because sometimes people even question why we need a Chief Diversity Officer. What is that person doing if we’ve already come so far? Which is, of course, not the case. There are a lot of things still to work on.”