Campus Diversity and Inclusion (CDI) is in a period of transition, caused by the resignation of 2 out of its 3 faculty members. Before hiring replacements of the departed Associate Dean of CDI Leela MadhavaRau and Associate Director of CDI Reggie Robles, the University of Redlands will bring an interim consultant to campus to evaluate the department, and offer recommendations as to how the university can best proceed.
The consultant’s hiring committee brought a candidate of interest to campus on Thursday to give a “listening tour,” where more than 40 students, staff and faculty members were invited to get to know the candidate in order to evaluate his fit and capacity for the position. By interacting with members of the community, the candidate had an opportunity to get a sense of the pressing concerns both about the status of CDI as well as issues of diversity and inclusivity on campus. The listening tour was a closed meeting, composed of staff and faculty that work closely with CDI, CDI employees, and representatives from diversity and inclusivity oriented clubs and organizations.
Junior Faith Cleaver represented Brilliant Leaders Advocating Color Consciousness (BLACC) at the listening tour and said that the candidate seems like a great fit.
“He opened the floor to questions and all the groups pretty much put forward what their biggest concerns in CDI are and … on campus,” Cleaver said. “Everyone said different things but you could tell it was all coming from the same place. Everything that we brought up, he kind of had that sad, knowing look, like ‘yeah, that’s definitely an issue.’”
Those who met with the candidate will be offered an opportunity to give feedback on the candidate via an online survey. The hiring candidate will meet next week to review feedback and make a decision on his candidacy. Their decision will be announced to the university once it has been made.
Dean of Student Life Donna Eddleman prefers the identity and qualifications of the candidate to remain in the hands of those who were involved in the listening tour until the hiring committee meets and feedback has been evaluated.
The hiring committee, which is composed of Dean of College of Arts and Sciences Kendrick Brown, Dean of Student Life Donna Eddleman, Chief of Staff and Liaison to the Board of Trustees Michelle Rodgers, Social Media Manager and member of the University Council on Inclusiveness and Community (UCIC) Monique Stennis, ACE Fellow Nancy Wayne and Junior and CDI Student Worker Javier Garcia. Demeturie Gogue, the First Generation Student Programs Coordinator and CDI’s sole faculty member was not asked to be on the hiring committee. The committee has interviewed three candidates for the position but has only asked one of the three to give a listening tour to a wider cross-section of the community, as that candidate was deemed of high interest.
“He seemed super passionate,” Cleaver said. “He has a really good resume like he’s done diversity work on campuses for a long time. He seems like a perfect person to try and help us get our feet back under us.”
This all comes after a contentious CDI Community Conversation, where the campus was invited to come together to ask questions and express concerns about what’s to come. The turnout of the conversation was well beyond what was expected. CDI’s space, the first floor of Hunsaker, was completely filled with students, staff and faculty, with many attendees standing or taking to the floor. The conversation lasted for hours, as many students expressed frustration surrounding how the process has been handled and concerns for the fate of the department. Students said they wished they had been asked to be more involved in the conversation about how to proceed and advocated for the formation of a student board with equal standing to the hired consultant.
Although Eddleman resisted the idea of a student board during the conversation, she agreed to its formation after the fact, which she announced in an email update sent to the school. The student board has not yet been formed, but more information is forthcoming. In her email, she also addressed the tone of the Community Conversation, which was at times frustrated.
“I began the evening asking that our conversation be AIR—articulate, informed, and respectful,” Eddleman said in her email. “The exchange did not go as I expected. I found myself on the defensive, and therefore not always as respectful as I should have been. For that, I am sorry. It was not my intention to offend—it was my intention to answer questions, to listen, and to learn. I do hope to elevate the tone of our ongoing discussion and to continue to engage students in strengthening CDI. Your investment and your voice are important to the process.”
The Redlands Bulldog will continue to provide the community with CDI status updates as they arise. When the consultant position is filled, we hope to profile the individual before their arrival in order to give the community an idea of what to expect.
Photo contributed by Redlands Bulldog photographer Donovan Smith