The final candidate for the director of the Office of Civil Rights and Institutional Equity emphasized coordination and cooperation between departments during an open forum Wednesday.
Finalist Francisco Gonzalez, the Senior Dispute Prevention and Resolution Specialist at the Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry, said the director of the Office of Civil Rights and Institutional Equity and the associate vice president for institutional diversity should work with each other in two ways.
“First, I think integration and coordination has to come from the top and there has to be a directive from the very top of the university to make sure working in tandem is a requirement,” Gonzalez said.
He said working in tandem with this office will be achieved by communication between the two offices.
“We strive to find ways in which a problem is turned into an opportunity,” he said. ”In which an issue of concern can be looked at as an advantage that can be fulfilled by all (of) the different parts.”
The associate VP for institutional diversity helps create an accepting atmosphere at the university in regard to diversity by educating students and faculty and fulfilling the diversity goals of the university, whereas the director of the Office of Civil Rights and Institutional Diversity handles disputes and legal issues related to diversity.
An adjunct faculty member at Minnesota State University, Gonzalez said student complaints of instances of sexual harassment by faculty, for example, are held to a higher standard than cases such as employee-employer workers compensation disputes. A more formal mediation process would be used in those instances because of the seriousness of such an allegation, he said.
The people who hire faculty and approve student applications for on-campus jobs deal with and use the tools of affirmative action.
He said the office would provide the legal framework and force the compliance of various laws and policies.
“Affirmative action by itself is the term we give to the tools in order to have a campus that represents the diversity of the nation,” he said.
Open forums for the other two candidates, CMU Assistant Director of the Office of Civil Rights and Institutional Equity Katherine Lasher and Ferris State University Director of the Office for Equal Opportunity Matthew Ovolson, were held earlier this week.
Jeannie Jackson, the current director, is set to retire effective May 17.