President’s Task Force on Equity and Inclusion completes report

by Russell Yost MBA’05,

Last spring President Steve Thorsett convened the President’s Task Force on Equity and Inclusion to evaluate the Willamette community’s desire to hire a chief diversity officer (CDO, or equivalent position) — as well as to outline the goals and scope of such a position at Willamette.

Over the past 10 months, the task force — which included students, staff and faculty from across the university and was led by Associate Professor of Sociology Jade Aguilar, Title IX Coordinator Jackie Balzer and Associate Vice president for Human Resources Shana Sechrist — conducted a literature review on CDO best practices and held discussions with units across campus. The task force also invited CDOs from other private institutions to speak about their experiences.

Willamette community members were invited to offer input through a variety of venues: staff and faculty forums and town hall discussions, as well as an ASWU senate meeting and a university convocation. An online form also provided for feedback and comments.

Ultimately, the task force determined that the addition of a “Vice President for Equity, Diversity and Inclusion” (VP EDI) would benefit the campus community by focusing and aligning efforts around diversity, equity and inclusion.

The report outlines a suggested timeline to incorporate the VP EDI position, first looking internally to identify a candidate to build the position and its scope for a few years, followed by a national search for a permanent hire.

During last Thursday’s meeting, the task force presented its final report and recommendations to Thorsett.

“I’m very grateful for the time and energy the task force put into evaluating the need for a VP EDI at Willamette,” said Thorsett. “All members of the committee worked hard to ensure many voices were heard throughout the process, and they combined this critical feedback with best practices from their literature review and CDO visits to make a thoughtful recommendation focused on meeting the needs of our community. I think they’ve produced a terrific report.”

In the next few weeks, Thorsett plans to hold discussions with faculty and staff members to review the report and the task force’s recommendations and determine how to best move forward. Members of the task force will also revisit a number of groups across campus to summarize the results.

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