Employee Forum recap

by Jennifer Johnson,

Staff offer input on potential chief diversity officer hire.

At last week’s Employee Forum, Willamette University employees discussed next year’s budget and a progress report from the university’s Task Force on Equity, Diversity and Inclusion.

Jade Aguilar, associate professor of sociology and co-chair of the task force, presented information about the goals, scope and salary of a potential chief diversity officer.

President Steve Thorsett formed the task force in March to find out if hiring a chief diversity officer — or similar position — is the most appropriate strategy to help fulfill Willamette’s goal of a more inclusive campus.

Broadly speaking, a chief diversity officer would provide a lens of equity and inclusion on all major university decisions, provide expertise on compliance to diversity laws and support campus programs and initiatives as they seek improvement on diversity-related issues.

Aguilar stressed the university has not made a decision to hire yet and is simply collecting information and feedback. Once the task force has submitted its recommendation, ideally by next spring, President Thorsett will make the final decision.

Assessing effectiveness

Staff asked several questions, including whether the university needs a chief diversity officer in light of upcoming budget cuts and if these positions are generally considered effective. They also noted the university should establish measurable goals for the position.

The presentations at the employee forums were the latest outreach efforts to engage the Willamette community in the task force’s work. Over the past several months, task force members held town hall forums with faculty and students at the College of Liberal Arts, Atkinson Graduate School of Management and the College of Law. Members also conducted interviews and public presentations with chief diversity officers from four other Pacific Northwest universities — Puget Sound University in Tacoma, Washington; Whitman College in Walla Walla, Washington; and Reed College and Lewis and Clark College in Portland.

In addition, they spoke with employees who work with those officers. Aguilar says those employees expressed satisfaction with the chief diversity officer position and the progress accomplished at those campuses.

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If you would like to provide your feedback to the Task Force, please complete the online form.