Panel directed to evaluate diversity on campus
THE SANTA CLARA
April 7, 2016
Missouri’s football team walked away from the field and students at Yale protested vociferously in response to race relations on their campuses. Santa Clara has avoided national headlines like these, but the students of our campus have struggled with racial issues since the leaders of Unity 4 have brought problems of diversity and inclusion to the attention of students, faculty and administrators.
The university is taking yet another step to address these concerns.
In his State of the University Address in February, Fr. Michael Engh, S.J. announced that Santa Clara will be convening a Blue Ribbon Commission on Diversity and Inclusion. The Commission includes twelve campus representatives, alumni and community leaders that will work together to develop strategies to make Santa Clara a more diverse, compassionate and just university.
In the address, Engh acknowledged Unity 4’s work on raising awareness to the issues of race on campus.
Since May, the university has been working in varying degrees with students and faculty to discuss and formulate stronger guidelines to address these concerns.
“New issues and tensions on campus were brought to Father Engh’s attention through Unity 4, and this has inspired him to do more,” said Alana Hinkston, a student leader of the Unity 4 movement. “He realizes students only have so much time and limitations, and this commission will put some of the pressure on community members.”
The commission will meet throughout this year, and will present a formal report with recommendations to the President and the appropriate governance committees by September of 2016.
The committee has not met yet, so it is difficult to discern exactly which points it will discuss. However, in his address, Engh said it will look at two specific objectives: increasing the enrollment, retention and graduation rates of students from underrepresented or underserved populations; and recruit and retain outstanding faculty members whose teaching, research and life experience enrich the diversity of Santa Clara’s academic community with respect to race, ethnicity and gender.
Elsa Chen, interim associate provost for faculty development and associate professor of political science, is a faculty member on the commission.
“I accepted Father Engh’s invitation to participate as a member of this Commission because I believe in the goals of recruiting and retaining a student body and faculty who are more representative of the rich diversity in our society and specifically here in the Bay Area,” Chen said.
Another faculty member on the commission, Aldo Billingslea, associate provost for diversity and inclusion and professor of theatre arts, weighed in on his expectations for the commission’s outcome.
“My hope is that the recommendations provide options for President Engh to make a significant shift in our demographics and also improve the cultural competency of our community, thereby increasing the viability of our graduates,” Billingslea said.
The commission also includes former undergraduate students.
Isabel Duron, who graduated from Santa Clara in 2011 and is now pursuing her Ph.D. at UCLA, is serving on the commission and feels that this is an opportunity to effectuate substantial change.
“I have decided to be involved with the commission because I remember what it’s like to be a student of color on Santa Clara’s campus,” she said. “I understand that there are still racial incidents that make students feel unsafe within the campus community. I hope that as a part of this commission, I can contribute towards creating a better university environment for future students.”
Hinkston and the Unity 4 group hopes that the work of the commission will lead to substantial changes on campus.
“(We hope to see) larger changes on the campus community to be more inclusive and more points from the Unity 4 document be accomplished,” she said. “In addition, (we hope to) gain more support from the Board who in turn can help the goals of Unity 4.”
Contact Krista Clawson at email@example.com or call (408) 554-4852.