Formation of HR Group and Diversity Task Force, July 6, 2009
As we’ve dealt with the budget challenges of the last several months — particularly their impacts on personnel — we’ve seen the need for a well-coordinated, fully integrated employee resources operation to provide the best possible support to faculty and staff. We have good teams working in employee-support roles through various departments, but the overall structure we’ve had hasn’t lent itself to effective collaboration and resource sharing. For that reason, Senior Vice President for Administrative Services Tom Gorell has agreed to create, within his division, a new Human Resources Group that will include our Human Resources Services Department, Training and Development, the Office of Equal Opportunity and Diversity, the Assistive Technology Resource Center, and a reconfigured Employee Assistance/Ombudsman position.
Perhaps most notably, this change moves the Office of Equal Opportunity and Diversity out of a direct report to the president and aligns it more closely with our employee hiring, training, counseling, and assistance functions. While we agreed to move forward with this reporting line change as of July 1, I’m still in the process of considering the appropriate long-term leadership structure for our institutional diversity programs in light of Dana Hiatt’s recent retirement. OEO serves the campus with critical oversight responsibilities. At the same time, our commitment to diversity and equity must remain central, and our expectations in this arena will only continue to grow.
As an institution of higher learning, we have a responsibility to ensure that our academic community welcomes and encourages diversity of thought, scholarship, and viewpoints — including views that are in contrast or opposition to those of the majority. Just as significantly, as a land-grant university, we have an obligation to create access and opportunity to all the resources and privileges of higher learning. This includes a commitment to the educational success of students from all backgrounds, races, and walks of life — as well as a commitment to building a representative faculty and staff with full confidence in our commitment to equity, fairness, and a safe and collegial environment for all. Since the creation of the University’s first Diversity Plan in the early 1990s, we have seen some important advances in support of institutional diversity, thanks to the hard work and commitment of many. Now we’ve reached a point at which the choices we make as an institution will have a significant impact on whether we are able to sustain and accelerate this progress or lose ground. One of the most critical choices before us is how we structure and align institutional responsibilities in this area for greatest long-term impact.
For that reason, Interim Provost Miranda and I are charging a task force to research, debate, and advise us on the best structure to ensure that diversity is central to our University operations and planning. Membership on this task force will include a representative from each academic college, to be nominated by the Dean; the Chair of Faculty Council or his representative; the Interim Director of the Office of Equal Opportunity and Diversity; a representative from the Office of General Counsel; the chair or a representative from the President’s Commission on Women & Gender Equity; a representative from the Division of Enrollment and Access; the chair or a representative from the Administrative Professional Council; the chair or a representative from the Classified Personnel Council; and the president or his designee from ASCSU. Blanche Hughes, Vice President for Student Affairs, will serve as task force chair. I have asked that the task force report back to me with specific recommendations on structure no later than October 15. Until then, diversity oversight responsibilities will continue to reside with the Office of Equal Opportunity and Diversity and Interim Director Roselyn Cutler will continue to serve on the President’s Cabinet.
As always, your thoughts on the question of organizational structure are very welcome. In the meantime, the creation of the HR Group should help to promote enhanced service and support for faculty and staff across the institution, while also enabling the affected departments to work more effectively together. We hope this is a positive move for all involved.
Dr. Tony Frank