David Kassabian, The Daily Texan, Aug. 30
The University of Texas will soon hire a new vice provost in charge of diversity, UT President Larry Faulkner announced Friday.
Curriculum review and increasing faculty diversity are some of the first things Faulkner hopes the new vice provost for inclusion and cross-cultural effectiveness will address, he said. Other responsibilities of the position will include presenting an annual report on progress and developing new diversity programs, he said.
A task force on racial respect and fairness in January recommended the officer be a vice president. In his May response to the task force’s recommendations, Faulkner recognized the need for such an officer, but waited until Friday to define the specifics.
A vice president reports directly to Faulkner, whereas a vice provost is under the authority of Executive Vice President and Provost Sheldon Ekland-Olson.
One benefit of making the officer a vice provost is the individual would be more involved in relevant decision making, such as faculty hiring and student recruitment, Faulkner wrote in his May response.
“This officer clearly must be a hands-on facilitator, actively involved with the individual officers and units who carry on the day-to-day business of the University, so proximity to the most critical business is important,” Faulkner said in his statement.
But the president acted as his own devil’s advocate in the same letter, saying the new vice provost might have trouble working across different departments.
Establishing a campus diversity officer was one of several suggestions made by the diversity task force. It was formed in 2003 after several racially-charged incidents, including the egging of the Martin Luther King Jr. statue in 2003 and the withdrawal of a fraternity from the Inter-Fraternity Council for throwing a racially insensitive party.
“During the weeks since my response to the report of the Task Force on Racial Respect and Fairness, my belief that we need full-time leadership has been confirmed,” Faulkner said in Friday’s statement.
Richard Garcia, a recent UT law school graduate and member of the task force, said administrative politics might have influenced the appointment of the new official. He said the title of the new diversity officer is not as important as that person’s ability to enact change.
“Unless the individual hired has the direct ear of the president, all change efforts will be filtered through other’s agendas,” Garcia said. “The fact is that in a highly politicized environment, no one within a position of power will want to give up any of their control. So, it doesn’t surprise me that a strong convergence of the administration has formed against having a vice president who could then hire a hands-on facilitator to work with the individual officers and unity.”
The main challenge to the University is whether it can demonstrate measurable progress in recruiting the best and most racially diverse potential students, Garcia said.
The new vice provost will oversee the use of $500,000 for the 2004-05 fiscal year to fund incentives aimed at furthering these goals.
“The main message I wanted to give is that there are existing programs to promote diversity. We are also providing resources to try new things, and it is up to this officer’s imagination and consultation with others to develop these programs,” Faulkner said.
He said he hopes the new officer will be appointed by the end of the fall semester.
Some of the additional issues recommended by the diversity task force will, in part, be decided by the new vice provost, Faulkner said. The development of mandatory diversity coursework will be decided by University faculty members, but the new vice provost will be involved, he said. The officer will also assist Faulkner in reviewing the movement of Confederate statues on the South Mall, he said.