Center for Diversity Resources receives new facility

By Linda Luk

The NIU Center for Diversity Resources and the Affirmative Action and Diversity Resources program, recently located in a new facility, offers a different view on diversity.

The newly constructed facility built adjacent to the Human Resources Service facility on Lincoln Highway, serves as the home for the Center for Diversity Resources along with the AADR. The center, one of the first comprehensive programs of its nature in Illinois, was designed on the premise that diversity is a fundamental part of the university.

The idea is to improve the campus climate by creating an environment in which the faculty and staff understands and responds to the needs of the diverse student population and workforce.

“The key is the diversity among the students,” said Steven Cunningham, associate vice president of administration and human resources. “Creating a faculty and staff that understands them is part of the program.”

The Center for Diversity Resources will hold a dedication ceremony at 11 a.m. on Feb 19 at their new facility in the Human Resource Service Building, 1515 W. Lincoln Highway. The event will consist of speeches by state, community and campus leaders, a ribbon cutting ceremony and refreshments. A campus-wide open house for the center will be held later in the spring.

The university launched the affirmative action program early in 1999.

Its mission is to ensure that equal opportunities and diversity exist throughout the university community. Its services include affirmative action compliance and investigation, recruitment and retention of a diverse faculty and staff and employee development and training.

The new center includes a diversity resource library which includes video series on “Learning to Value Diversity,” training facility and a conference room.

“Most universities have traditional approaches regarding diversity,” Cunningham said. “We are viewing diversity as a fundamental, not separate or independent. We are taking a strategic approach, going beyond compliance to a more progressive system.”

One of the services of the program is recruitment and retention of a diverse faculty and staff. Currently there is about 18 percent diverse representation in the faculty compared to the 27 percent diverse representation in the undergraduate student population.

“The percentage to the faculty should definitely be higher, no question asked,” Cunningham said. “There is about 25 percent turnover rate in the student population reflecting diversity every four years. It is a challenge for higher education to keep in pace with diversity.”

There is also a program advisory committee composed of different resources on campus that will advise the director. Representatives from all the diverse groups on campus are included as well as a faculty personnel advisor, Ombudsman Tim Griffin and President John Peters or his representative.

The center serves the entire university. Diversity training and workshops have been presented in UNIV 101 classes, as well as the community, regional and national conferences.

Other services include performances like “Faces of America,” a one-person show written and directed by Colin Cox. It addressed the questions of multi-culturalism in today’s society through the eyes of Generation X. Sponsored by the VALE Conference, Unity and Diversity and the Affirmative Action and Diversity Advisory Committee, the free show will take place from 3 to 5 p.m. Feb 24 in the Carl Sandburg Auditorium at the Holmes Student Center, said Elizabeth Ortiz, director of affirmative action and diversity resources.

“We must learn to rejoice in our uniqueness, celebrate our commonalities as well as our differences,” Ortiz said.