Diversity on campus is an ever present topic

In September of 2015, a new task force was created to construct a set of recommendations on diversity and inclusion to share with President Greene by the end of the academic year. Named the co-chairs of this task force are Associate Professor of Spanish Betty Sasaki and Vice President for College and Student Advancement Dan Lugo. Sasaki and Lugo will aim to achieve the goals that Greene discussed in his email from February 2014: “The target of opportunity program will focus primarily on recruiting outstanding faculty from underrepresented groups and will allow for a very targeted recruitment effort. This program will create new faculty positions open to all departments and programs through a competitive process as a supplement to our regular hiring process.”

The task force is composed of a mixture of members of the faculty and Administration, as well as identified student leaders. The goal of the task force, in the words of Professor Sasaki in an earlier interview with the Echo, “is to find concrete things this college can do to get from where we are to where we want to be.” In other words, the purpose of the committee is to construct an educational environment that allows Colby to fully adhere to, and meet, its mission. Although there have been conversations between groups at Colby about race in the past, as well as organizations tailored to specific types of smaller communities within in the College, there was a need for a task force to observe and analyze the variety of situations regarding diversity at Colby and how the College handles them. Both Co-Chairs agreed that this task force will be an “overarching institutional position taken around diversity,” as described by Sasaki.  This task force will address “diversity broadly defined,” from socio-economic status, to race, to sexual orientation, and more. Recommendations to the President could potentially include changes in curriculum, student life, existing policies, or admissions. Every aspect of the College, from internal to external, will be looked at.

When asked, in an earlier interview with the Echo, whether this task force was created in response to certain issues of bias last spring, Lugo was adamant in saying that the task force was not created in “a reactive measure; instead this [task force is a] proactive measure President Greene had in mind before the bias instances that occurred last Spring.” Although bias incidents and issues regarding anonymous social media apps like YikYak may be looked at and questioned, the creation of the task force was already in the works previous to these instances.

Colby isn’t the only college that has recently begun an initiative to reevaluate their stance on diversity. College faculty and students across the country have been demanding more in terms of diversity and inclusion on their campuses. Common demands include a more diverse faculty and student body, mandatory diversity training, and more streamlined data collection for tracking bias incident reports. In last year’s Spring President’s Letter by Greene, some of these national demands were addressed specifically for Colby. Greene stated that the college will facilitate a program that will “focus on recruiting outstanding faculty from underrepresented groups and will allow for a very targeted recruitment effort.” Not only will the  faculty become more diverse, but the applicant pool will as well. The college will “focus our admissions outreach efforts this year on reaching a more diverse group of talented students.” Finally, Greene left the community with a few hard-to-answer questions. He states in the closing of last years Spring President’s Letter that Colby’s “commitment to diversity must also include ensuring that our institutional values, policies, and practices support the greatest diversity of viewpoints. How open are we to free inquiry, free speech, protest, and dissent?Where and when should these freedoms be limited?”

Ultimately, these questions will be challenging. The Diversity Task Force is by no means the final solution to all issues of diversity at Colby. There needs to be an ongoing conversation, which the College has recognized through assessing the best ways in which to have it.

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