College saying goodbye to ODEI

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By Mackenzie Clark

This semester, the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (ODEI) will host its final event before closing its doors to make room for new diversity initiatives.

The 2011-2012 academic year has served as a transitory period for ODEI, after which the office will no longer exist. This decision follows the office being disbanded earlier this year. Instead of a central office, new plans aim for more widespread diversity efforts.

Carmaletta Williams, professor of English and head of ODEI, said she is concerned for students who come to her in need of assistance.

“These students know the Student Success Center is over there, they know that,” Williams said. “They know the counselors are there, they know the dean of students is there, but they don’t go there, they come here. If they’re going to disband this office, then those people need to figure out what it’s going to take for them to be the place students go to.”

Judy Korb, executive vice president of human resources, said that is part of the goal of disbanding the office.

“We do have places for people to go,” she said. “We have processes that are already in place and were in place prior to ODEI ever being in existence. Why do people not feel comfortable using the places and processes that are in place? To me that gets to the very essence of what we want to get at with decentralization of diversity efforts.”

Korb said that if we have a Student Success Center, it shouldn’t be a success center “just for some people.”

“We want there to be processes in place so that there are places that people can go that they feel comfortable with, without having to segregate out a specific location,” she said.

Danny Alexander, professor of English, said he has concerns about the college’s plan for diversity efforts.

“I am skeptical that without anyone at the helm of the job, being committed to that aspect of the job, that it will be successful,” he said. “It often felt as if we were in opposition to other people in the college when we weren’t necessarily trying to be, and that tells me that we have a system here that does not want to look at some of the hard questions that need to be looked at in terms of diversity.”

ODEI will sponsor its final event on campus on April 6: a conference to honor organ and tissue donors, their families, and healthcare professionals involved in transplant cases.

“Everybody knows somebody who’s either been there or needs to be there,” Williams said. “That’s what this office does well.”

The Multicultural Center will still exist in some capacity. It will either be moved to the Regnier Center or to the third level of COM. The Honors classroom will take its place in GEB 238 following construction over the summer.

Williams will return to teaching full-time, and administrative assistant Susan McGarvey will be moved to a different part of campus.

“I think until the students let Dr. Calaway and the Board know that they think it’s a shame [that the office is closing], then nothing’s going to happen,” Williams said. “If it’s just us protesting, then they think it’s just us who are affected.”

Alexander agrees.

“Students might find that they’re not met with as much resistance as they might think in trying to change things,” he said. “Many, many teachers and administrators will welcome those efforts if they’re coming from the student population.”

 

Contact Mackenzie Clark, editor-in-chief, at mclark68@jccc.edu.

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