University of Rochester

Embracing Multiculturalism: Affinity Groups Formed at the University of Rochester

by Stan Byrd and Dr. Karen Mustian

This past summer, interested members of the University of Rochester community, in consultation with the HR Office of Multicultural Affairs and Inclusion, created three Affinity Groups: the African-American Network at UR, the Pride (LGBT) Alliance at UR, and the Latino Professional Alliance at UR.

In 1978 Justice Lewis Powell offered the legal opinion that cultural diversity is vital to the research, teaching and service missions of universities in order to promote the very atmosphere of speculation, experimentation and creation that is essential to their institutional identities. Many universities have worked diligently to increase and market the cultural diversity of their faculty and staff; however few have fully embraced the spirit with which Justice Lewis Powell argued his opinion

Given the spirit of Justice Lewis Powell's argument, in 2006 he would likely substitute the term "multiculturalism" for cultural diversity. Why? Webster's dictionary defines "multiculturalism" as relating to, reflecting, or adapting to diverse cultures. This implies transcendence over ethnocentrism as it is exemplified through the enjoyment and celebration of the unique talents and contributions of culturally diverse individuals.

Therefore, the concept of a multicultural university environment extends beyond the simple coexistence of diverse persons to the purposeful fostering of a workplace culture where the synergistic whole is truly greater than the sum of the individuals. The existence of affinity groups is one of the underpinnings of the University's efforts to recognize and foster multiculturalism and inclusion in the workplace.

Affinity Groups are voluntary associations of people who have common interests. Affinity Groups are open to all University of Rochester employees (staff and faculty) and retirees. Such groups provide opportunities for employees to directly contribute to the University of Rochester's efforts to effectively support and manage diversity and inclusion. These groups serve as a resource to provide mentoring and professional development opportunities as well as opening additional communication lines between individuals, the greater Rochester community, and University management.

Affinity Groups do not represent individuals or groups in their relationship with the institution. Individual concerns about specific issues (including wages, hours, and conditions of employment) are addressed through formal communications processes available to staff and faculty. Employees will not be advantaged or disadvantaged in their relationship with the University because of their choice to participate or not participate in an Affinity Group.

These newly formed Affinity Groups are an example of how the University is continuing its historical focus on cultural diversity, aimed primarily at including a larger number of diverse individuals among our institutional work force. The University is now moving toward a more contemporary focus on multiculturalism and inclusivity, aimed at enjoying and celebrating the many unrecognized contributions of diverse faculty and staff to the University environment.

Please feel welcome to become a member of one of these exciting groups. To find out more about an Affinity Group, call (585) 276-3259.

In December the Affinity Groups will host a Holiday Open House. Flyers will be coming out soon.

Last modified: Monday, 12-Jul-2010 15:18:56 EDT