As I announced in an April 8 email to the Oxy community, the College’s Vice President for Diversity and Equity and Chief Diversity Officer (CDO) Rhonda Brown will be leaving Oxy on July 1. I write today to share next steps regarding this important position.
The current CDO position emerged from the work of a multi-constituent task force in 2014 that defined and framed the CDO role. Rhonda’s tenure as Occidental’s first CDO helped bring the task force’s vision to life and helped us understand the benefits and challenges to the role as it is currently defined. As we consider the next steps for selecting a new CDO, the College has much to consider regarding the institutional and structural issues that are most salient, and how they should be addressed.
After consulting with Faculty Council, DEB, the ASOC president, and senior staff, I believe it is critical that Oxy students, faculty and staff weigh in on these important issues before we move ahead. That’s why I have decided not to hire a new CDO at this time, and to use the next academic year for the community to thoughtfully consider the definition of the role going forward. Moreover, given the importance of this position it is best for Oxy’s next president to work with the Oxy community to decide about our next CDO after she or he arrives in July 2020.
Though most of the future roles of the CDO will be considered during the coming year, there are two specific current CDO functions that we can address now. Effective immediately, Oxy’s Multicultural Summer Initiative (MSI) will be co-directed by Dean Sternberg and Dean Flot. As co-directors, Deans Sternberg and Flot will work closely with the MSI 2019 faculty (Professors Lan Chu, Carmel Levitan, Jacob Mackey, and Kelema Moses) in support of the overall MSI program. Associate Dean of the College Caro Brighouse and Assistant Dean of Students Vivian Santiago will play key roles in the day-to-day planning and delivery of MSI 2019. In addition to the MSI change, the College’s Intercultural Community Center and Center for Gender Equity will move into Student Affairs effective July 1, under the leadership of Dean Flot. This move naturally aligns the student programming and services that are provided by the ICC with programming and services that are currently provided by Student Affairs.
I am also announcing the formation of a working group to be co-chaired by Dean Flot and Dean Sternberg. This working group is being created to address, in an ongoing manner, the issues related to diversity and equity that have been raised and discussed this spring by students, faculty, and staff regarding Oxy’s past and present. In addition, the working group will assess the College’s diversity and equity needs with respect to the CDO position. The process of determining the group’s membership -- which will include students, faculty, and staff -- will unfold early in the fall semester, at which point the full working group will commence its work. The working group will consult regularly with Faculty Council next year as it assesses and considers the College's needs regarding the next CDO.
I am pleased that Dean Flot has agreed to serve in a leadership role regarding these initiatives. Dean Flot was the director of an intercultural relations office for five years and performed many of the typical functions of the CDO at his previous institution. I feel confident that Dean Flot, in close consultation with the new working group, will be effective in addressing time-sensitive emerging and critical issues that may arise during this interim period.
Although we are not naming an interim CDO, in addition to the working group’s efforts, there are a couple of responsibilities of the office of the CDO that need to continue without interruption. Thus, beginning in July, and until a new CDO is named, we will distribute those responsibilities as follows:
- Faculty hiring and other diversity initiatives within academics: This function will continue to be managed by the Faculty Affirmative Action Committee.
- Equity and Diversity Strategic Planning: This function will be incorporated into the working group’s review of the College’s needs vis-a-vis a CDO, as noted earlier in this email.
I want to thank Dean Sternberg and Dean Flot for taking on these important responsibilities and also acknowledge the input that the community has provided regarding our path forward.