This year, Campus Diversity and Inclusion’s (CDI) faculty has shrunk by two thirds its size. Granted, CDI was never robustly staffed, despite its responsibility to handle all matters relating to diversity on campus. Previously, it was run and managed by three full time administrators: Associate Dean of CDI Leela MadhavaRau, Associate Director of CDI Reggie Robles and First Generation Student Programs Coordinator Demeturie Gogue. In July, MadhavaRau announced her resignation from her position and departure from the university. Last week, Robles followed suit. Their positions are currently left vacant as the university searches for a professional interim consultant. This individual, who will stay on staff until they can recommend how the university should best proceed, will be tasked with evaluating the effectiveness of CDI, while absorbing some of the unclaimed responsibilities left in the wake of MadhavaRau’s and Robles’ absence.
For now, CDI’s faculty consists wholly of Gogue, who began at the university in June of 2017.
“As the sole administrator within Campus Diversity and Inclusion (CDI), I am both anxious and excited for what is to come for this department,” Gogue wrote in an email. “I think it’s normal to feel uneasy and worried about my current situation (i.e., a department of three people now consisting of only one person), but I have found support from various campus partners who are just as committed to CDI’s success and continued growth.”
Before their departure, Gogue worked alongside MadhavaRau, who began at the university in 2002, and Robles, who began in 2014. Both MadhavaRau and Robles were active members of campus life, and garnered reputations as student advocates within the administration. MadhavaRau helped create First Generation Student Services, including Summer Bridge, Students Together Empowering Peers (STEP) and the Book Lending Program. She facilitated partnerships with faculty across departments and schools, developed the EUREKA Diversity Certificate for faculty and staff, and worked with nearly every community on campus, ranging from Johnston, Outdoor Programs, Residence Life to the Associated Students of the University of Redlands (ASUR). This is just to name a few of her numerous achievements throughout her 16 year career. Robles was also an active member of the university community, having helped coordinate CDI’s empowerment centers, including the Gender Justice Center, the Multicultural Center and Pride Center. Robles also co-founded the Dudes Understanding Diversity and Ending Stereotypes program (DUDES) and served as the Residence Fellow for the social justice and living residence community, Fairmont Hall.
But neither MadhavaRau nor Robles have said farewell to their careers in educational administration; MadhavaRau will be returning to her family in Canada, serving as the Director of Human Rights and Equity at Brock University, a position she said mirrors her dream job. Robles will be returning to his alma mater, the California State Polytechnic University-Pomona, as the Coordinator of Leadership and Student Involvement.
“I honor the legacy that both Leela and Reggie left behind, and I am excited for this time when partnerships across campus can be discovered and strengthened,” Gogue said.
Dean of Student Life Donna Eddleman, who also began at the university in 2017, says she plans to use this change in the department’s faculty as an opportunity for improvement. CDI’s evaluation will include an identification of the skills and abilities to look for in replacement candidates, as well as an examination of CDI’s organizational structure. Eddleman referenced conversations surrounding the placement of CDI, and whether it belongs in Student Affairs or if it belongs somewhere else entirely. Unlike most consultants, this person will be here for more than just three days, and will have a broad range of responsibilities. According to the Interim Consultant Proposal, the following is expected from the hired individual: “evaluation of current programs and services; engagement of campus and community stakeholders as part of a landscape analysis of peers; identification of areas of growth and/or opportunity; review of faculty, curricular, and co-curricular strengths, as well as identification of potential collaborative partnerships across the campus; consideration of the type of leader the University should seek to employ, and the role they should assume.”
The external consultant is expected to have a command of contemporary diversity and inclusion concepts, as well as an ability to evaluate administrations. The hired individual is to assemble a final assessment report of CDI by February of 2019, so the university can post a listing regarding the permanent position(s). Eddleman said that the number of candidates the university will hire will depend on the consultant’s recommendation.
“We want to spend an extended period of time on our campus and we want [the hired individual] to get embedded not just in dialogue for the purpose of assessment, but we want [them] to help shepherd the CDI initiatives leading up to our hiring of a new person,” Eddleman said. “And so the outcome of this initiative on the part of the person who comes in is a recommended strategic plan in terms of where we are and where we need to go.”
Eddleman said that it’s unrealistic to expect the consultant to absorb all of MadhavaRau’s and Roble’s prior responsibilities, although she hopes the consultant will “help fill the gap.” But in this time of transition, keeping CDI afloat will be a community effort.
“There are people who are saying ‘I’ll help you. I’ve been working with this program for a number of years. Tell me how you know how can I help,’” Eddleman said. “And so yes this person will come in and assume some of their responsibilities… But there is a group of individuals that are working together to create a collaborative. To do our very best to support all that CDI is and was to our student body and to others. But that takes time.”
The consultant’s hiring committee is interviewing candidates this week and next week, and will ideally have someone on campus before the end of October, and will stay as long as the committee thinks they are adding value. This consultant will not be eligible for a permanent position, but Eddleman hopes to have the position(s) filled by the beginning of the next academic year.
“I think it’s reasonable for people to expect that this is going to be a gap year,” Eddleman said. “And that you know we are going to do our best to be all hands on deck to support our students and those conversations will continue.”
Eddleman said she’s putting in her best efforts to ensure that CDI will be a continued resource for students, despite its recent regression in size.
“While there are two positions that are vacant, I would say that a lot of the CDI initiatives will continue,” Eddleman said. “So for example, before [MadhavaRau’s] departure she provided a list to us of all of the programs that she had identified in partnership, in many cases with faculty, to sponsor for the year. And all of those programs will continue. I’ve been talking to faculty and staff about spending time down in CDI so that when a student walks in that space, it doesn’t feel like there’s not someone who can support them. Admittedly, that’s going to take a little bit of time to identify individuals.”
“I heard conversations that you know the space is going to be taken and budgets are going to be cut,” Eddleman said. “And I unequivocally say to you that is that is not part of the plan.”
In recent years, the university community has pushed to expand the size and scope of CDI. Due to campus climate and national conversations surrounding race, students and faculty have advocated for more spaces and resources dedicated to diversity, inclusivity and multiculturalism. And although certain members of the community have prioritized the expansion of CDI, the department is experiencing a period of regression.
In the fall of 2015, in a time of serious local and national racial tension, University of Redlands students, faculty and staff assembled a forum to discuss how our campus handles issues of race. As an outcome of the forum, there was a push for increased efforts in making the campus more diverse, inclusive and safe. An outcome of the Diversity and Inclusion Forum was the creation of the University-wide Council on Inclusiveness and Community (UCIC) which President Kuncl charged to “consider, plan, and communicate actions and progress on our commitment to improve the University of Redlands’ culture and climate for all.”
“I hope the UCIC will be able to move forward more equity initiatives this coming year,” MadhavaRau said. “There have certainly been many recommendations put forward by this body. I hope that student participation will resume but I worry that seeming inaction has rendered the UCIC meaningless in the eyes of both undergraduate and graduate students.”
Photo contributed by the Redlands Bulldog photographer Alex Laner