Diversity office restructures

Taylor Harrison

The Office of Diversity Programs is changing a lot, including its name, in order to be more productive this year.

Starting Jan. 1, the office will be called the Office of Diversity Inclusion and Outreach.

Richard Miller, vice provost and chief diversity officer, said the new name reflects a plan for the office to focus more on outreach and a broader definition of diversity.

“I think we owe that to our students more so than anything else because they’re the ones that are the primary stakeholders here and they’re the reasons why we’re here,” Miller said.

At a diversity enhancement committee meeting Miller led, the group discussed the many planned  changes.

Miller began the meeting stating diversity is more than just race.

“The conversation has really shifted from an exclusive focus on race,” he said. “It is now a broader conversation which is, I think, something that is reflected in our diversity plan.”

Miller also said he feels the diversity office has been marginalized in the past. 

“There are some things that it should be doing that it hasn’t been able to do for a variety of reasons — not the least of which are the resource limitations,” he said.

Another change is the Minority Hiring Plan. This academic year is the first time the office has been able to secure recurring funds for the plan. 

Miller said all minorities are eligible, even women in a male dominated profession or vice versa.

“So we’re looking at diversity not only from the standpoint of race, but also an individual that is underrepresented in their discipline,” he said.

If a department is able to identify and hire a qualified minority applicant, the diversity plan will pay 50 percent of the person’s salary and benefits for the first three years and 25 percent of the person’s benefits and salary for the next three years.

Another issue discussed was the lack of a diversity presence on South Campus.

The office used to be represented there, turned into a place to send unruly students rather than its intended purpose, Michelle Hollis, interim director for the office, said.

Hollis said  South Campus adds diversity to the university because a lot of African-American students attend South Campus.

“I think that if you take away the students from South Campus, WKU as a whole loses some of its diversity,” Hollis said.

Aaron Hughey, professor in Counseling and Student Affairs and member of the committee, said he believes diversity is important for students.

“I was raised in a small rural community in Tennessee with very little diversity and a great deal of racism, and I think if we’re ever going to overcome racist views that are held by a lot of folks, then discrimination education is going to be the key to that,” Hughey said.