Group seeks diversity

Joe Lord

For those searching for greater diversity on the Hill, a forum exists. For minority groups in need of support, help exists.

The University Diversity Advisory Committee was created in December 1998 to help guide Western’s march into the ever- increasing world of cultural and ethnic diversity.

Since it was established, the committee has sponsored workshops and awards promoting diversity to Western’s students, faculty and staff, said John Hardin, assistant to the provost for diversity planning and committee co-chair.

“What we’re trying to do is make diversity something that is campus wide,” Hardin said.

While the committee is given $50,000 by Western to host such activities, its main purpose is to advise President Gary Ransdell on diversity matters, Hardin said.

The committee focuses on the Kentucky Plan for Equal Opportunities, an eight point mandate requiring state universities to increase their number of minorities.

Hardin said Ransdell usually listens to the committee and has provided it with support.

“So far, I think he’s really been responsive to our concerns,” he said.

Howard Bailey, dean of Student Life, said the committee is meant to improve the climate for minorities at Western.

“It is to assist the university in improving its state of diversity,” said Bailey, the committee’s co-chairman until 2000.

Monica Burke, associate director of Diversity Programs, said the committee also brings all diversity forums on the Hill together in one place.

“We don’t need a whole bunch of spoons in the pot for stirring,” she said. “We only need one.”

The committee is not a decision-making body.

“We do not have the sort of authority to tell people what to do,” Hardin said.

At Friday’s diversity committee meeting, Hardin presented the committee with a draft of a “comprehensive diversity plan.”

The plan included proposed goals, objectives and performance indicators to accomplish diversity.

“The whole plan was really just a talking point,” Hardin said.

The committee decided to wait on forming a diversity plan until after the state legislature decides to revise or end the Kentucky Plan in March, Hardin said. Instead, the committee is working on a diversity checklist to see what Western is already doing to address diversity issues.

The committee has 18 members, Hardin said. Members come from areas such as the Student Government Association, the Office of Equal Opportunity and the Bowling Green Human Rights Commission.

Bailey said the group also functions as Western’s campus climate committee, a body the Council on Post-Secondary Education requires of state universities.

In 1998, a task force recommended 21 ways Western could improve diversity relations on the Hill, Hardin said. Creating the diversity committee was No. 1 on the list.

The diversity committee’s task will never end, Bailey said.

“Since the makeup of the campus changes constantly, the task of the committee will be ongoing,” he said.

Reach Joseph Lord at [email protected]