UM System will soon appoint chief diversity, equity and inclusion officer

The position will oversee a diversity, equity and inclusion task force and develop training programs for system leadership.

Members of the UM System want its first chief diversity, equity and inclusion officer to answer some tough questions left in the wake of last fall’s protests on MU’s campus.

The UM System held open forums during the last couple of weeks for the public to ask the final three candidates about how they would handle key issues related to diversity, equity and inclusion. The final choice is expected to be announced Feb. 28, according to the UM System website.

Questions revolved around how the UM System planned to move forward from last semester’s events, and attendees frequently requested concrete examples of candidates’ ability to lead what one woman called “transformative change.” Members of Concerned Student 1950 were also in attendance to ask questions related to their demands released last fall.

“Despite negative pushback from state legislators who would rather preserve white supremacy than work to dismantle institutional racism that lives within the capitol, UM System and at Mizzou, what are your plans to make sure that our demands, which were released in October, are met?” Concerned Student 1950 member Maxwell Little said at an open forum last week.

In addition to the open forums, the three finalists for the position visited MU to meet with a series of UM System and campus leaders and engage in online meetings with each campus. They also met with UM System Board of Curators Chairwoman Pam Henrickson and interim President Mike Middleton.

The new position comes from the Board of Curators’ series of diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives established after campus protests and administrative resignations at MU in November.

UM System spokesman John Fougere called the creation of the position “probably the most prominent” initiative on that list. The chief diversity, equity and inclusion officer will report directly to the president of the UM System and will oversee the diversity, equity and inclusion officers at the four UM System campuses.

“The specific responsibilities will include meeting all of the campus diversity officers in collaboral projects to ensure our entire institution can achieve inclusion in many facets,” Fougere said.

The chief diversity, equity and inclusion officer will also oversee a task force appointed by the president, which is already at work to develop a short and long term strategic plans and metrics for the UM System in terms of diversity, equity and inclusion, Fougere said.

Additionally, Fougere added that the officer will put together a training program for leadership in the system, including board members, the UM System president, vice presidents and chancellors.

The three finalists are Paulette Granberry Russell, Kevin McDonald and G. Christine Taylor.

Granberry Russell currently serves as the University of Michigan’s affirmative action officer and a committee member for the university president’s Advisory Committee on Disability Issues.

According to the UM System website, Russell’s office is “responsible for facilitating efforts and collaborating with the various colleges and campus units to develop effective strategies to advance a diverse and inclusive university environment and for assessing the effectiveness of such efforts.”

McDonald is the vice president and associate provost for diversity and inclusion at Rochester Institute of Technology. He previously served as vice president for equity and inclusion at Virginia Tech University from 2005 to 2010.

McDonald’s diversity and inclusion experience includes the “implementation of an academic support structure which has improved the cumulative grade point averages of historically underrepresented students” and “overseeing gap funding which has increased the compositional diversity of RIT faculty,” among other initiatives.

Taylor recently served as the inaugural vice provost for diversity and inclusion and chief diversity officer at Purdue University and has over 20 years of experience in higher education, according to her page on the UM System website.

“After the events that occurred on the MU campus last fall, the Board of Curators established a series of diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives to ensure ... we’re a university system that other campuses and universities across the country will eventually look to as a national model in how we address these issues and how we promote such things,” Fougere said.

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