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Old March 11th, 2006 #28
biocultural Realpolitik
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Revised diversity plan encourages diverse approaches


Associated Press

A new draft of the University of Oregon's five-year diversity plan eliminates language that would have made "cultural competency" an issue in hiring and promotion.

The new document, presented to the UO Senate this week, also substitutes specific diversity requirements with broader language and gives individual campus divisions the flexibility to draft their own diversity plans.

Diversity has been a campus topic for years, with some saying the issue gets too much attention and others saying it doesn't get enough.

The first draft of the diversity plan got plenty of publicity last May, when its focus on cultural competency the ability to successfully work with people from all backgrounds made national news and spread widely among conservative pundits. The plan called for hiring up to 40 faculty members by 2012 to teach courses in a "cluster" of diversity-related topics, including race, gender, gay and disability studies as well as setting aside more financial aid for students from "underrepresented" backgrounds.

Psychology professor Gordon Hall, co-chair of the committee that developed the revision, said the latest blueprint recognizes that different departments need different approaches to achieve diversity.

"In other words, one size doesn't fit all," he said. "This new draft allows more tailoring and flexibility in particular units and colleges with respect to these issues."

But that flexibility is likely to concern those who saw the original draft as a stronger tool for meeting the administration's pledge of creating a "caring, supportive atmosphere on campus."

UO President Dave Frohnmayer, in a letter accompanying the draft plan, acknowledges the difficulty of finding consensus: "I acknowledge that virtually every reader is likely to have some disagreement with the final proposal."

The revision keeps the six major themes of the old plan: developing a culturally responsive community, improving campus climate, building a critical mass, expanding and filling the pipeline, developing and strengthening community linkages and developing and reinforcing diversity infrastructure.

The plan also makes a number of suggestions, such as training programs, hiring efforts and adapting course content and student evaluations.

Though most professors haven't had time to digest the document, early comments suggest it won't be as controversial as the last one.

But UO chemistry professor Michael Kellman said it's still centered on different treatment for particular groups.

"This plan is still obsessed with group identity; it's still full of group preferences in scholarships and faculty hiring," he said. "I think those things are bad public policy so I object to the plan on those grounds."

Some students see it another way. Adam Walsh, the UO student body president, said there is concern about the time line for developing plans and the fact that no money was allocated for the effort.

"A lot of the students were not thrilled with everything they saw," Walsh said. "It's somewhat wait and see how the administration will respond to some of these concerns."