Task force to find chief diversity officer for campus

By Shikha Duttyal

NIU has launched a search for a chief diversity officer, a new position to promote diversity on campus.

The CDO will report to the executive vice president and provost and will serve on the president’s cabinet and the Council of Deans.

“Diversity is not only a moral imperative but [a] dimension of excellence,” said Lisa Freeman, interim executive vice president and provost. “Diversity can be based on faith, national origin, sexual orientation, disability, etcetera.”

Jan. 1 to June 1, 2015, is the tentative frame of time for the selection of the CDO.

“I am very excited that we will be having … at the university administration [a person] that is focused on diversity, inclusion and excellence,” Freeman said.

NIU President Doug Baker and Freeman have appointed a team with co-chairs Sean Frazier, associate vice president of intercollegiate athletics and director of athletics, and communication professor Laura Vazquez, who are charged with having a campus dialogue regarding diversity at NIU.

Vazquez is working with Frazier during their first meeting with the task force on April 25. The task force will finalize the job description for the CDO by the end of summer, and a search committee will be constituted in the fall. Fifty to 60 people will work on the committee.

“It’s a national search, but we don’t know, we might even find the person with same qualifications [as the task force would want] on our campus,” Vazquez said.

Frazier and Vazquez will run a task force of 10 to 15 people in the summer to analyze the best practices of diversity officers at other campuses and the importance of diversity in curriculum and recruitment of staff and students and other pertinent issues.

The task force will come up with the roles and responsibilities of the CDO.

“I have been very passionate and involved in diversity programs [for] the past 10 years, and I am very happy that everyone is involved,” Vazquez said. “No matter who they are, what they believe, everyone is valuable, and all these voices need to be heard.”

The task force will be divided into committees of three to five people each having a different focus, such as creating an operational definition of diversity or diversity in residential life.

“[The] Diversity Leadership Summit report [from] September 2013 brought together 77 diversity leaders on campus,” Vazquez said. “The report showed what NIU was doing and what is needed for the future.”

NIU’s definition of diversity, a call for more diversity in the president’s cabinet and the position of CDO were the key issues of the summit.

“The conclusion of the Diversity Leadership Summit was that we will need a chief diversity officer to lead us in this effort,” Vazquez said. “President Baker and interim Provost Freeman decided to pull together a task force where everyone will be talking about the diversity and inclusion on campus.”

Renee Ward, junior art education major, said she would like to see the CDO create awareness for disabilities, a group she identifies with.

“He or she would listen to us and we could just raise our concerns directly to him or her,” Ward said.