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Diversity Task Force talks next steps in latest meeting

Kendal+Washington+White%2C+Assistant+Vice+President+student+Affairs+and+Dean+of+students%2C+speaks+about+funding+at+the+diversity+task+force+meeting+on+Monday+October+17.
Mai Naji
Kendal Washington White, Assistant Vice President student Affairs and Dean of students, speaks about funding at the diversity task force meeting on Monday October 17.

The UA Diversity Task Force held a meeting in Old Main on Monday to update their team members on the tasks at hand for the Faculty and Staff Diversity Committee and the Cultural Competency Training Committee.

The beginning of the meeting focused on Jesús Treviño, senior diversity officer on the Diversity Task Force, talking about updates on his diversity actions, which include students’ demands to increase diversity at the university.

Students have concerns about what they believe is necessary for comfortable living in or around the university, such as gender-neutral bathrooms, which has been one of most pressing issues, according to Treviño.

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“My vision is to run this like a campaign and at some point in time have an opening where we invite all the diversity committees and the deans to come in and talk about the campaign and how it is going to run,” Trevino said, “focusing on actions, and keeping track of the actions.”

The meeting continued with an update from the Faculty and Staff Diversity Committee.

Nolan Cabrera, associate professor in the College of Education, spoke on the committee’s actions and how they hope to establish a more diverse and welcoming environment for faculty.

The univerisity’s numbers are not as high as they want them to be in terms of having as much faculty diversity as possible at the UA, according to Cabrera. They think they are lagging behind.

Cabrera said there is no good way to currently assess the faculty’s needs, as some of them have been treated with hostility in their teaching environment.

“We continually express how important our diverse student body is, but at the same time the staffing continues to go down,” Cabrera said.

About 50 percent of faculty have left the university because of diversity discrimination in the workplace, according to Cabrera. This information is derived from a focus group conducted last spring in which 10 minority faculty members provided feedback on their experience working at the UA.

The resulting report from the focus group determined that discrimination is still a problem at the UA, and the university isn’t doing enough to address discrimination. The report also makes note that the campus leadership remains “overwhelmingly white” and that some of the polices at the UA hinder diversity efforts.

Mascha Gemein, assistant professor of practice, talked about how their committee is hoping to create a more culturally advanced environment for students.

The committee offered some ideas as to how they hope to try and create a more diverse environment through students and faculty at the UA campus.

One of the diversity components they are hoping to add in the future is a mandatory course or module that must be completed by all freshman or transfer students in their first year.

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They have already developed a training for instructors and teaching assistants through D2L. There are four trainings and each focuses on a different aspect of teaching diverse students.

The training focuses on how the instructor will take their own beliefs and values and implement them in the classroom, with one of the main focuses on how those values affect diverse students.

“The big takeaway is that we don’t want to throw out one or two trainings and then they run for a while and then they become outdated and that’s that,” said Gemein. “The idea is to develop an infrastructure that develops capacity on campus.”

The committee wants to find a way for a group of people to mentor others in each department, according to Gemein. 


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