New committee to promote campus diversity

President Gordon “Mike” Michalson recently established the Advisory Committee on Diversity (ACD) to advise him on matters relating to campus diversity. Discrete activities occurring across campus and discussions with last year’s ad-hoc Faculty Committee on Diversity prompted Michalson to establish the ADC.

He announced his intentions to create the ACD in this year’s State of the College Report and Statement of Priorities. However, the Committee has been in the works since the 2011 spring semester. It will follow up the ad-hoc Faculty Committee on Diversity, which oversaw a program of recruiting post-doctoral fellows from underrepresented populations, working particularly through the Consortium for Faculty Diversity at DePauw University. As a result of the work of this Committee, New College welcomed visiting professor of Environmental Studies Iván Ramírez as the first post-doctoral fellow, who recently completed his Ph D. from Michigan State University.

The ACD will be a smaller version of the large Diversity Committee Michalson chaired during the college’s first several years of independence. “Experience has taught us that one large committee … cannot be responsible for all initiatives coming under the ‘diveristy’ label … [we are] better off with target efforts designed to produce a specific result,” Michalson shared in his State of the College Report.

He also urged sustaining efforts to recruit faculty and staff from diverse backgrounds despite budget cuts. New College’s goal should be “to have a campus that leaves every prospective student, faculty member, or staffer thinking that New College could be a good fit and positive setting for them,” he said. Based on feedback from admitted students who chose not to attend New College, Michalson believes “we are not there yet.”

This year’s entering class saw a 26 percent increase in students from underrepresented backgrounds. Sample issues the ACD plans to undertake include utilizing black alums in the recruitment of black students, examining prospects for raising scholarship funds for students from diverse backgrounds and student life issues. “This committee was formed to address the larger diversity problems on campus, and to look at the root causes more than at the symptomatic level,” third-year Tristan Zucker said. Zucker, one of the student representatives on the committee, is also the chair of the Pluralism Committee, which works with the diversity issues from the student side.

The Pluralism Committee is currently putting together Wear Discrimination, an event aiming to make light of discrimination that has occurred on campus. Students will submit ways they have witnessed or were a target of discrimination. The submissions will be put on shirts that will be distributed on Thursday, Oct. 27, and an Empathy Workshop will be held at 6 p.m. in the TA on the same day.

The College Prowler, a college guidebook, grades New College’s diversity with a “C-” – scoring the lowest out of 21 public and private Florida universities. It follows Florida A & M University, which earned a “C” score. Grades are based on student ratings of the diversity of the student body as well as their personal group of friends in certain areas, such as ethnic heritage, religious background and sexual orientation. Student reviews of the acceptance of the campus community to different groups of minorities are also expressed.

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