ODEI has closed its doors

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Reasoning behind sudden move

By Mackenzie Clark

The Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (ODEI) has officially closed its doors, leaving many students, faculty and staff members to wonder why and what is to become of diversity on campus.

Rather than one central office, diversity efforts on campus will be divided into student and faculty initiatives. Student diversity initiatives will be handled through the Student Life and Leadership program; faculty initiatives will be handled by Human Resources and Staff Development.

“We’re trying to spread the responsibility of diversity throughout the campus, and again, concentrate on the student initiatives and the student concentration of diversity programming and activities within the Student Life and Leadership area, and make it a more holistic approach to diversity,” said Dennis Day, vice president of Student Success and Engagement.

The basic goal is to expand diversity efforts so that they affect all students.

“We need to look across the spectrum of students and make sure that we have strategies in place to help them all be successful, and we can do that,” said Carmaletta Williams, professor of English and former head of ODEI.

These changes come in part after review of Williams’ benchmarking project, which argues that “we cannot remain among the top community colleges in this nation or in the world without an effective diversity, equity, and inclusion program.” The project evaluated the college’s progress in diversity efforts since the ODEI’s inception in 2008 by comparing Campus Climate Surveys, investigating diversity programs at 9 other schools, and making recommendations based on further internal and external research.

The Multicultural Center will also be closing, and will instead become a part of the Center for Student Involvement.

“The Multicultural Center concept will be enveloped into [the Center for Student Involvement], where we can get all of the students involved with it,” Day said.

Some students are concerned that they will not fit in to this new center.

“I think that’s going to happen,” Day said. “I think you reverse that, some people weren’t welcomed into what was the Multicultural Center. So it kind of goes both ways. What we’re going to try to do is include more of the diversity of the cultures rather than just one or two groups, and that’s what it was tending to do. It was just getting concentrated by one or two groups.”

Williams disagrees.

“We understand that there was an impression last year that it was the ‘black’ room, or just the black students went in there, which was not true, but apparently people including administration felt the same way so we were kind of focused this year on making sure that each and every student knew that they were welcome and were to be included and it was a room for all,” she said.

Those involved in diversity efforts on campus hope that in time, all students will feel accepted in the new atmosphere of the Center for Student Involvement. Some students feel this may not be possible.

“They put together a mentor group where you felt like you had someplace where you actually belonged,” said student Ferrin Caldwell. “Having a space where different cultures could actually combine into one placement and not feel so ostracized out there in Johnson County, and now they take that away?”

Contact Mackenzie Clark at mclark68@jccc.edu.

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