Currents


University starts diversity initiatives

T he new academic year begins with a renewed commitment on the River Campus to understanding the perspectives of individuals from diverse cultures and backgrounds.

Paul Burgett, vice president and University dean of students, Richard Miller, Jr., senior vice president and chief operating officer, and other University administrators have begun examining ways to encourage a more inclusive community among students, faculty, and staff.

Within that context, the discussion of such issues among University staff is being reviewed. As an early priority, work is under way with University security staff for additional training programs to provide support amidst a culturally and ethnically diverse student population. A similar in-service training module will be made available to all service staff later on.

The new initiatives were spurred, in part, by an April 30 incident at Rush Rhees Library involving minority students and security staff. The event escalated to the point where city police were called and four students were arrested.

Immediately after the event, a task group to examine the incident was convened by President Thomas Jackson. In addition to Burgett and Miller, the group included Director of the Office of Minority Affairs Norman Burnett and senior Sean Vereen. On May 11, Jackson wrote a letter to the University community to report that the security officers' initial reaction unintentionally resulted in increased disorder rather than the restoration of an orderly environment. While it was not believed that the officers' actions were purposely racially based, minority students involved in this incident felt they were being dealt with in such a manner.

Jackson offered an apology to the students involved, and the University immediately began working with local officials to have the charges against the four students dropped.

"Individuals of all backgrounds are welcome here as full members of our community," Jackson said in his letter to the community. "Actions by any University community member that make another member or group feel unwelcome for reasons of ethnicity or culture are not acceptable."

These recent actions are among several steps taken in recent months. In February, Jackson met with minority student leaders during a peaceful "sit-in" at Wallis Hall. At that time, he agreed to intensify efforts to increase diversity and promote awareness of cultural issues. Also, Jackson has directed his own senior administrative staff to exercise greater initiative in attracting a more diverse work force among new staff who are hired. Success in doing so will be taken into account in annual performance reviews of the vice presidents.

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Copyright 1999, University of Rochester
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Last updated 7-30-1999
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