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Niehoff and Diversity Task Force introduce Diversity Steering Committee at JCU

April 14th, 2011

On April 7, John Carroll President the Rev. Robert Niehoff, S.J. officially announced the formation of the new John Carroll Diversity Steering Committee. This committee was formed through a recommendation of the Diversity Task Force. The Diversity Task Force consisted of a group of JCU faculty and staff that worked together during the 2008-2009 school year studying the University and its attitude toward issues dealing with diversity.

They then compiled a final report in October 2009 of several recommendations on how JCU can continue to make progress on diversity-related issues. After presenting the Task Force report to the JCU community in Fall 2010 at the Diversity Town Hall event, the decision was made to go ahead and form the Diversity Steering Committee.

John Day, the academic vice president at John Carroll, was asked by Niehoff to assist in organizing the membership of the new Diversity Steering Committee. He will also take over the everyday responsibilities of the committee.

Day commented that he accepted this new position because he shares Niehoff’s commitment to working toward diversity at John Carroll. There are already ideas for the committee’s first actions.

“We will review the task force report and engage the campus in following up on the task force recommendations,” said Day.

He added that the Diversity Task Force had hoped that the steering committee would not change their goals but would instead continue the work the task force had already started.

The committee will begin to look at the courses of action the task force laid out and determine what is and is not viable. The committee will also look over the report to ascertain any areas that were overlooked and need to be brought to attention. Lauren Bowen, associate academic vice president, is a co-chair of the Diversity Steering Committee and previously worked on the Diversity Task Force as well. She feels the new committee is important. “[The committee is] central to our vitality, without a committee it is too easy to make [diversity] not a part of what we do.” Bowen explained the Diversity Steering Committee’s goals have been broken into four areas, including diversity in curriculum, access and equity, campus culture and climate, and structure and organization.

The area of curriculum includes evaluating classes to ensure they include diverse elements as well as assessing the core. Access and equity involves assuring all individuals would be able to attend school or work at the University and monitors who would be hired. Campus culture and climate deals with ensuring correct protocols in the classroom and workplace, while structure and organization deals with making sure campus groups are organized in order to be diverse and inclusive. The committee also hopes to create the position of chief diversity officer on campus and to transition the current Office of Multicultural Affairs into the Office of Diversity and Inclusion. This new position and office will be able to more specifically focus on diversity at John Carroll. The Diversity Steering Committee plans to meet twice a month.

In addition to being composed of many faculty and staff members, the Diversity Steering Committee also has a student member. Sophomore Curtis Walker was asked to be on the committee in order to provide a student perspective on diversity issues as well as to provide his own personal experience on campus and in classes. Walker has been involved with cultural organizations on campus before, including being a member of F.A.C.E.S (Faith, Action, Culture, Entertainment, Service) and was formerly the president of JCU’s African American Alliance.

As the only student member, Walker initially thought that being a part of the committee would be intimidating, but after attending the first meeting on April 12, he said that the committee members were very open to hearing outside opinions. “[I] want others to learn and accept diversity; we should be aware of each other’s backgrounds and embrace the cultural differences that we have.”