The Chronicle’s View: Open panel is a start for improving diversity at the U

According to Dhiraj Chand, director of the ASUU Diversity Board, the U’s administrators create diversity positions “just so they don’t have to think about it.”

That’s what makes it so promising that the administration has announced an open panel for students to help decide between their final three candidates to replace current Associate Vice President for Diversity, Karen Dace. Finally, the U appears to be addressing the diversity issue with an iota of transparency, rather than concealing its negligence behind a veil of halfhearted measures aimed at allaying accusations.

In case you missed it, Dace’s decision to resign came after the administration snatched the U’s Opportunity Scholarship from under her watch (a virtual vote of no confidence for the current Office of Diversity). While this move drew the ire of affected students who then prevailed upon headline-conscientious administrators to restore Dace’s supervision, the vice president nonetheless opted for greener pastures.

Now, scurrying to disarm the perception that the U doesn’t treat diversity seriously, administrators have at last decided to make the handling of diversity both more accessible and accountable to students.

The open panel is a good start. Still, the hiring of a new program head presents the U with a prime opportunity to rebuild its entire approach to diversity–from scratch.

The existing policy holds that the Associated Students of the University of Utah president and vice president appoint directors to the Diversity Board, which receives a meager $5,000 funding per annum. If those ASUU executives fail to appoint sound leaders–or those leaders run out of money–the Diversity Board joins myriad other ASUU boards as entities that accomplish more through their flashy titles than their feeble actions.

The diversity program should remain student-run, but it should be guided the new associate vice president–who should have a complete, far-reaching vision as to how he or she will enact serious change in the U’s acceptance of students and cultures from all backgrounds.

If the current structure must remain intact, members of the board should at least look into using more of their limited funds toward recruiting efforts. Both in local high schools and at the U, attracting proactive students who care about the issue will help the program survive on its own accord, without ASUU’s insufficient assistance.

Whatever the administration decides to do, it’s up to U students to attend this panel if they can, and not just those who feel particularly affected by diversity at the U–unless you like being called “homogenous,” in which case perhaps you should apply to BYU next semester.

Otherwise, get involved! Only the voices of students themselves can encourage the administration to continue to change its approach.