The University of Utah's Independent Student Voice

The Daily Utah Chronicle

The University of Utah's Independent Student Voice

The Daily Utah Chronicle

The University of Utah's Independent Student Voice

The Daily Utah Chronicle

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Diversity programs need to unite

The time is now for a change in the U’s approach to diversity.

Karen Dace will step down as associate vice president for diversity in February after serving the U for more than seven years to accept a position as deputy chancellor with the University of Missouri at Kansas City.

Dace was instrumental in the creation of the Utah Opportunity Scholars Program and fought hard to keep the program under the control of her office earlier this year, and administrative figures are bemoaning her departure.

Meanwhile, Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs David Pershing is in the process of creating a committee to hire a replacement for Dace. And, though Dace’s commitment to the U was unquestioned, the recent controversy surrounding the Opportunity Scholars Program and the pending change of office may present the administration with the chance to effect rare progress in the handling of diversity on campus.

The U’s previous efforts toward embracing diversity have fallen well short, a fact that Dace acknowledged during her tenure and often attributed to funding. In addition to the administration’s inability to put its wallet where its priorities allegedly lie, the U has failed to help Dace find anything more enriching to sponsor than Women’s Week and Martin Luther King Awareness Week.

These events are reinventing the wheel every year. We are at a university, and we should be doing more to truly expand our understanding of students at the U. For instance, there are different issues facing the African-American community today than there were in the 1960s during King’s era.

There’s also little outreach directed at college-aged students. Much of the U’s diversity efforts are geared toward those who might come here someday, not the students who are here now. The focus should be on the students themselves, or else it seems like the only concern is fashioning an image conducive to recruiting students.

It’s time to embrace those conversations that are important to students, raise tough issues and stop perpetuating stereotypes with bland, predictable events.

That’s easier said than done, obviously, but some degree of organization seems like a sound start. Why not establish a diversity department? All students have to take diversity credits to graduate anyway, and many of those classes have questionable relationships to diversity.

At the very least, the U ought to create a broad-based diversity heading-with committed and qualified leadership-which would coordinate pre-existing internal support networks like the Center for Ethnic Student Affairs, the International Center, the Women’s Resource Center, the LGBT Resource Center, the Black Student Union and ASUU’s Diversity board.

These diversity programs are not visible enough on campus today. Maybe they could get more funding as a united block, and maybe it might also make sense for a couple of the programs to relocate so that they are all in the same vicinity, thus creating a community of diversity at the U.

At any rate, their impact is sure to be more strongly felt if they’re together. That should be the first concern for Dace’s successor.

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