This afternoon I attended an informational meeting hosted by some of our students regarding the soon to be vacant Chief Diversity Officer position currently occupied by Jilma Meneses. For those that may have missed it, it was announced on September 22nd that Jilma has accepted a position with Concordia University (congratulations to Jilma!).
There were approximately 15 students in attendance including our ASPSU President, Eric Noll. The conversation was a productive one. The students were concerned that they had not directly received the announcement of Jilma’s pending departure. They wondered, was President Wiewel’s decision to not immediately call for a search committee an indication of big changes? Would the Chief Diversity Officer position be eliminated? Would there no longer be someone or an office to conduct investigations? Would PSU scale back on our engagement with diverse communities—both internal and external?
I was glad that our students were asking these important questions. I interpreted their concerns to imply that they thought the university might be backing away from our commitment to ensure an inclusive campus environment. Our conversation lasted close to 2 hours. During that time I was able to listen to their ideas. I was also able to tell those present that President Wiewel has not waivered one bit from the commitment to support access, diversity and inclusion that he has shown since his arrival at PSU. He made a decision early in his presidency to change the Diversity Directorship from a half to a full-time position and expand the department to become the Office of Global Diversity and Inclusion (OGDI). He elevated its leadership by hiring Jilma, PSU’s first Chief Diversity Officer, with a seat on the President’s Executive Committee.
Although we should celebrate the successes achieved at PSU since President Wiewel’s arrival in terms of the 10 percentage point increase in the number of minority faculty and staff; the over 40% increase in minority student enrollment; and the attention paid to our Latina/o, Native American, Multi-Cultural, International, Women’s, Veteran, and LGBTQ student experience– we all know there is still much work to do. I know for a fact that President Wiewel and the entire leadership team are as committed as ever to continue to make progress on PSU’s diversity efforts.
It is only natural that Jilma’s departure has our students (and I am guessing others) wondering what changes will be made. Times of transition not only generate healthy concerns that need attention, but also force us to assess where we are and how we can improve the future. I thank our students for engaging in this important dialog as to how the university can continue these important efforts and initiatives.
I hope you will see this blog as a space for this conversation.