John Carroll University is getting serious about increasing and promoting diversity on campus. In its biggest development in the push for diversity yet, JCU is implementing a permanent administration position, the assistant provost for diversity.
Murmurs of the creation of this position date as far back as 2008, when the Rev. Robert Niehoff, S.J., president of the University, commissioned the Institutional Task Force on Diversity. The task force recommended the formation of the Diversity Steering Committee in April 2011 and, since then, Niehoff has worked with John Day, provost and academic vice president, and the members of the steering committee and determined that administration needs “another pair of hands” to engage in the area of on-campus diversity full-time, according to Day.
It was not until last spring, however, that the concept began to take shape, and the University began accepting applications. The applications were reviewed over the summer, and semi-finalists were interviewed off-site in early September. Three finalists were chosen from this pool, and the finalists will be interviewed on campus beginning Monday, Oct. 14.
The provost’s duties will be far-reaching. The job description includes setting institutional goals for diversity and inclusion, engaging in assessment activities related to diversity learning goals, leading the University’s Equal Employment Opportunity efforts and regularly teaching at least one course per semester, among other things.
“It has to do with increasing the diversity of the student body, increasing the diversity of the faculty and increasing the attention to diversity in the curriculum, which we think will happen in the new core curriculum,” Day said. He also said the position will focus on intercultural sensitivities in the community at large.
The assistant provost for diversity will work closely with Niehoff and the vice presidents and provosts of the University.
“The provost position is in academic affairs, but [will work] collaboratively with student affairs and also enrollment, admission and identity,” Day said.
Lauren Bowen, associate vice president for student learning initiatives and diversity, said that the change will not put all responsibility for increasing inclusiveness in the hands of the new provost alone.
“The worry always is that if you tag one person with it, it absolves everybody else of responsibility,” Bowen said. “The chief diversity officer is the focal point, but if you’re going to have a fully inclusive campus, then everybody is responsible for diversity.”
The location of the new provost’s office has yet to be determined, but Day said it will be somewhere on the first floor of the Administration building.
A question Day addressedin the process is whether the Center for Student Diversity and Inclusion will remain at JCU. He said that he anticipates the Diversity Task Force committee will evolve into an advisory committee, and the CSDI will continue to work within student affairs in a collaborative way.
“That’s part of what the assistant provost responsibility will be – not that all these people report to him or her, but the spirit of what we’re trying to do in the provost office is engaging people in collaborative and cooperative activities,” said Day.
Day said an ideal candidate for the position has a doctorate degree and considerable experience in the area of cultivating diversity in higher education. All three of the finalists fulfill these criteria.
The last interview will be conducted at the end of October, and the final decision will be made by the end of the semester, Day said.
The interview process isn’t a simple one. In a day-long process lasting from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., each candidate will meet first with Niehoff, then with Day, followed by each of the associate academic vice presidents, vice presidents and deans. Then, they will lunch with a group of students (chosen through recommendations from the dean of students office), meet with the Diversity and Inclusion Steering Committee, then with the Faculty of Color Organization, the Women’s Caucus and the Gender Diversity Committee. After a short break, the candidate will make a final presentation and end the day with a meeting with the search committee.
Junior Tim Ficke, who serves as executive vice president of Student Union, is one of the students who was chosen as a student representative on the interviewing committee. He said he applauds the University for taking this step.
“It’s going to help bring welcome change,” said Ficke. “I think it will make diversity a thought in more divisions than just CSDI.”
Niehoff has made improving on-campus diversity and inclusion a priority since his presidential inauguration address in 2005, and has made sweeping changes and improvements in that area. However, JCU will not be the first school in the area to implement this kind of position. Case Western Reserve University has a vice president for inclusion, diversity and equal opportunity; Baldwin Wallace University employs a director for campus diversity affairs; and Cleveland State University has a chief diversity officer.