In a Nov. 9 email, University of Connecticut President Susan Herbst officially announced an opening for the Chief Diversity Officer position, as recommended by the Diversity Task Force. A Feb. 19 article by Sten Spinella of The Daily Campus covered the first public presentation from a CDO candidate, Dr. Lisa McBride. These public presentations show a continued commitment to transparency from the university and Pres. Herbst. Beyond comments at these forums, students and faculty must be able to have tangible input in the eventual choice.
An email from Dan Weiner and Dana Wilder, co-chairs of the search committee in charge of finding a CDO, argued “public participation is essential to the interview process.” Using a public forum for interviews provides students and faculty with access to candidates, unseen in standard university hiring practices. The role of the CDO is not entirely clear to even the most informed members of the UConn community, so providing a chance for each candidate to demonstrate their planned course of action once hired helps to clarify the exact powers vested in the office.
According to Pres. Herbst’s Nov. 9 email, the CDO will “serve as the university's main strategist responsible for guiding efforts and creating substantive programs to define, assess, and promote diversity and inclusion, educational and employment opportunity, and cultural proficiency.” The emails from Pres. Herbst and the co-chairs of the search committee, as well as Dr. McBride’s presentation exist to define the position and show a dedication to transparency. While the university has done a good job promoting transparency, the emails and presentation have done little to clarify the role of the CDO. Going forward, this should be a priority, especially as most students will not attend the presentations.
In her email, Pres. Herbst said the CDO will “oversee efforts to review and assess the impact and effectiveness of a wide range of diversity and inclusion programs.” If students and faculty are to entrust the CDO with such a broad and poorly defined duty, then there must be a way for students to provide input in the hiring process. While the university should be lauded for the current commitments to transparency with candidate presentations, the open forum is meaningless unless student input is somehow considered in the actual decision.Presumably, the search committee has vetted these three final candidates to such a degree that each would qualify for the position. Therefore, weighing student responses to each candidate at these presentations is required. The student body requires a CDO that has the ability to clarify and communicate transparently, especially when concerns arise in the future. The students themselves are the best judge of this quality, and thus, their view should be accounted.