Diversity plan to expand focus

Diversity may no longer be measured in shades of black and white at WKU.

In fact, it may no longer be measured by color alone.

The Committee on Equal Opportunity, a subcommittee of the Council on Postsecondary Education, has recommended that the CPE approve a new plan that would allow public four-year colleges and universities the ability to create and implement their own plans to increase diversity on campus.

Richard Miller, associate vice president for Academic Affairs and Chief Diversity Officer, said he hopes the CPE will approve the plan, which he said will present WKU with “an exciting opportunity.”

“This new policy sets the framework for each of the institutions to use in developing their institutional plans,” Miller said.

The previous guidelines outlined by the CPE, called the Kentucky Plan, only focused on black students from Kentucky, Miller said.

Schools had to meet six of eight objectives including student enrollment, retention and graduation or they couldn’t add new degree programs, Miller said.

Last year, WKU met all eight, he said.

Monica Burke, a member of the Diversity Enhancement Committee and an assistant professor in the counseling and student affairs department, said the new plan will have several goals.

It will prepare students to be socially engaged, to embrace all dimensions of diversity, and to promote more interaction between races, she said.

Miller said the new plan will still set objectives on enrollment and retention, but it will also focus on faculty, other races in the student body, and under-represented populations in certain areas of study.

For example, the engineering department is largely male-dominated but the new plan will set guidelines for recruiting females into such areas, Miller said.

Students, faculty and staff will be included in the development of the plan, but the DEC will be the chief architects, he said.

Louisville junior Chassidy Coffey said she thinks it’s important to have diversity on a college campus so students can meet different people, which enhances the college experience.

Although WKU is predominantly white, it is still diverse enough to give everyone a place to fit in, Coffey said.

Coffey would like WKU to host a Challenge Day similar to “If You Really Knew Me” on MTV.

According to www.challengeday.org, the program aims to “provide youth and their communities with experiential programs that demonstrate the possibility of love and connection through the celebration of diversity, truth and full expression.”

By challenging students to talk to one another, students can bond over shared experiences despite having differences, Coffey said.

Katie Spears, a freshman from Springfield, Tenn., said she has students from different ethnicities in all of her classes, which she likes because it allows her to hear other people’s beliefs.

“College isn’t just about being with people that you’re used to,” Spears said. “College is more about getting out of your comfort zone.”