OUR VIEW: Diversity is essential

OUR+VIEW%3A+Diversity+is+essential

CW / Kylie Cowden

CW Editorial Board

As the SGA nears the end of its “Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Week,” the University is in its final stages of hiring a Chief Diversity Officer, a long overdue step that brings our University in line with the rest of the SEC. Even this never would have happened without consistent coverage from campus and national media, student activism and faculty pressure.

It is concerning that our administration waited until it was absolutely necessary to make this move, especially given the changes our University has undergone in the past five years that would have been much better addressed by a professional solely dedicated to diversity and inclusion. One can imagine a Chief Diversity Officer warning against a photo-op with Bill Cosby as a public relations remedy for a racism scandal.

Still, this step is an important one. In spite of our politics, the world will continue to globalize, and a student population that is inexperienced in working with those different from them will be completely unprepared to enter the workforce.

That is not to say that there aren’t students on this campus constantly working to globalize our community here in Tuscaloosa. The efforts put forth by multiple student organizations, some even by their mere existence, cannot be overlooked. However, as with most of the problems our student population faces, there’s only so much students can do without the explicit and enthusiastic support of the administrators at this University.

The next of many steps for improving our campus climate and supporting students from marginalized communities must be a relocation of the Intercultural Diversity Center to a more centralized area, possibly in the Ferguson Center. The current IDC is underfunded, understaffed and located in the Riverside Residential Community, which is far from accessible for the vast majority of students who live off campus. The University has done little to publicize the IDC or any of its programming since its opening, and many of the students it is supposed to serve are totally unaware of its existence. We are confident that the next Chief Diversity Officer, to be selected from the four outstanding candidates who are now finalists, will prioritize the IDC moving forward.

This week, the four finalists have or will be presenting themselves in a public forum. The CW Editorial Board urges students, faculty and staff to attend these forums and learn about the finalists, as one of them will have a major impact on this University in the coming years.

When most of the members of this Editorial Board first stepped on campus, we had an entirely racially segregated Greek system. Nearly 40 years had passed since the lone black SGA President in our university’s history took office. There was no Intercultural Diversity Center, nor was there even a dream of a full time Chief Diversity Officer. Thanks to the tireless work of student and faculty activists and the (sometimes grudging) compliance of our administration, none of these things are true.

These changes were a long time coming, and regardless of how we got here or how long it took, we’re happy to be here. This campus is a more welcoming place than we found it, and we are grateful for that. We implore the administration to ensure that current freshmen can make the same statement three years from now.

Our View is the consensus of The Crimson White Editorial Board.