EDITORIAL: During the search for a Chief Diversity Officer, the administration should support student input
Central Michigan University is searching for a Chief Diversity Officer and students should be a part of the conversation.
In 2015, Sociology Professor Mary Senter surveyed 2,125 CMU minority students and found that 40 percent felt discriminated against or ignored because of their racial or ethnic background. Of those students, at least 60 percent thought university officials weren’t doing enough to promote racial and ethnic diversity on campus.
We believe that’s far too many students who feel marginalized.
This position is being formed because the CMU Equity and Inclusion Task Force’s recommendations adopted by the Board of Trustees in September, in response to Senter’s study and a two year-long, campus-wide study done by the Barthwell Group.
As of now, we know the CDO will report directly to President George Ross as a member of his cabinet. The role and duties have yet to be defined and in an attempt to reach out, the administration hosted an open forum for students and faculty to voice what they expect from the CDO.
Two suggestions stood out to us. We hope the administration will incorporate those ideas into the official roles and duties of the CDO.
First, students and faculty suggested the CDO to work with the academic colleges to expand diversity education throughout their curriculum.
We know there are diversity education categories in the University Program requirements, but these few opportunities are not enough for students to learn enough about such important topics. Expanding diversity and inclusion education to the business, medicine and other STEM colleges is needed because America is changing into a more multicultural nation.
In 2015, Ross and student leaders participated in a panel discussion with other students about diversity and inclusion on campus and in Mount Pleasant.
A student on the panel asked Ross if diversity education would be added to academic colleges’ curriculum, not just in the University Program requirements. Ross said that would be something he would be open to.
With Ross’ acknowledgment, we hope he and the administration will listen to students and make expanding diversity education beyond the UP requirements a priority for the CDO.
The second suggestion students and faculty made was for the CDO to work with the Mount Pleasant community to make it a more welcoming place for minority groups.
Senter’s 2015 study also focused on how Mount Pleasant is a hostile place for minority students and faculty.
When Central Michigan Life reported on her study, she cited numerous examples from students she interviewed. Students shared stories of trucks driving down Mission Street with Confederate flags, shop owners give them dirty looks and minority students claimed to be hassled by the Mount Pleasant Police Department.
The Barthwell Group’s study reinforces her study and our observations. Its report found 81 percent of interviewees had concerns related to living in Mount Pleasant, stating, “Several interviewees and focus group participants identified specific examples of mistreatment in the town. ”
This unpleasant reality must be a priority for the CDO. This is of vital importance to CMU students and faculty.
If the administration is committed to the well-being and education of CMU’s students and faculty, these are two things that must be addressed by the CDO.
The creation of a CDO has real potential to add to the learning experience at CMU and improve some of the problems facing campus and students.
During this process, we hope the administration continues to have conversations with students and faculty to create a CDO who will truly work in their best interests.
We hope this is a real force for change on our campus.