Oxy United for Black Liberation Official Statement

Yesterday revealed the ongoing and continuing pain of black students on our campus. By no standards was this the first demonstration of such pain. Under President Veitch’s authority, black students have held town halls, organized for a VP of Diversity, protested countless racial incidents such as the ISIS-Ebola-Malaysian-Airlines Halloween party, and have filed multiple reports through appropriate administrative channels that have gone unanswered. What President Veitch has identified as a memorable day has been and continues to be a process of rage and humiliation on this campus. 

If in your eyes this was truly a conversation, President Veitch would not have walked away from students as they spoke on their experiences at Oxy. He was unable to face the realities of campus life. Moreover, his comments do not address structures, are not directed at those that wield power, and do not address those that inflict violence. His comments are aimed at soothing those who grieve.

President Veitch does not need a Chief Diversity Officer to tell him what to do; he has already been given lists of demands. A pledge of commitment means nothing if he cannot recognize the extent to which black students have articulated unmet demands–since 1968.

Veitch has shown for the past 7 years that he is incapable of dealing with any issues concerning the wellbeing of marginalized students. This incapability revealed that Veitch in not able to identify culture at Oxy, let alone change it. In an ideal world, Veitch would have addressed each demand with leadership and conviction, identifying the exact channels and processes necessary to help students and committing to do so. Instead, he has not only failed to guide students in their journey for justice, but has failed to provide a coherent vision of unity amongst the Oxy community.

CODE Faculty Response to Student Protest

As faculty in CODE, we are incredibly proud of the students who participated in the demonstration yesterday. Courageously, they spoke truth to power about the lack of support and hostility they face on a daily basis in and outside the classroom. The actions of our students lucidly demonstrated their resilience and ability to maintain critical hope for a more equitable, just, and supportive community that Oxy should and needs to be. The students risked a great deal on behalf of that hope. At the rally many broke down experiencing raw pain and emotion with sexual assault being particularly triggering, pointing out how inadequately the campus has dealt with the confluence of race and sexual violence. As our students continue to process all that came up, many are experiencing angst and confusion, while there are inadequate campus resources to help them. Unfortunately, as we learned earlier today, several students have endured violent threats in response to their action. We cannot stand by hoping all is ok.

For national commentators and undoubtedly some here at Oxy who question this generation’s fortitude in the face of more covert and subtle attacks and degradation, yesterday’s display of strength and resilience loudly proclaims the opposite. On top of their daily lives as students, they have to challenge and educate their peers and us. And for every brave student who spoke out yesterday, there are countless others who forge ahead, internalizing the frustration, confusion, and pain.

While we appreciate the support shown to students by the cancellation of the faculty meeting and the attendance of some at their rally, we must pay attention to their analysis and leadership. The power of the students’ statements and the specific issues they raise clearly show that this is not simply about uncivil discourse or mere complaints. And as one of our students said yesterday, this is not a moment to look at them with pity as though they are “kicked puppies.” It is unacceptable that our students have to display such pain for others to begin to understand the deep problems of the institution.

The President and Dean of the College continue to state that Oxy is more diverse than most of our peers, and that we do more with our resources than institutions with larger endowments. We may appear better than many schools in terms of numbers of diverse students and faculty. But such self-congratulatory back-slapping is felt as back-turning by those who experience the daily injustices our students recounted. The behaviors and climate they described are unacceptable in any amount or measure and show that the issues go far beyond access to the College. Additionally, the accumulation of such microaggressions have been linked with very real psychological and physiological harm. The real comparison to be drawn here at Oxy is between those who never have to question whether they belong and those who are constantly questioned about their belonging.

We need to respond to the students’ demands (pasted below). Many will find the first demand troubling and divisive. However, this should not distract us from our responsibility to give due weight and consideration to the entire set of issues. We should encourage each area of the campus to address the demands that lie within its purview and as faculty, we should focus on demands that lie within our control. These include reorienting the Cultural Studies Program to its original intent grounded in the Mission of the College, establishing diversity training for ourselves and the rest of our community, and creating a vigorous and sustainable Black Studies program.

Many other students on campus are engaged in a process of discerning how best to be in solidarity with their Black peers who are coping with anti-blackness within and beyond campus. White students are also seeking out and trying effective allied actions. Some of these students stood in strategic positions during the demonstration at the request of their Peers of Color who felt vulnerable. Other white students wandered into the quad during the protest and attempted to responsibly map their own actions and inactions regarding anti-black racism. Amidst the heightened fear of white violence, several white students spoke with their white peers about the reality of white supremacy here on campus. Perhaps we as faculty might be able to learn from these intentional and spontaneous microaffirmations and utilize them to guide our own approach during this time.

The candidates for our CDO search will be on campus in the coming week and we should all participate, but we cannot and should not wait for a CDO who will have limited resources to address an incredibly large list of responsibilities. We sincerely ask you all to step up, to confront these issues, and to actively engage in discussions that address the campus climate and questions of inclusion and marginalization. We urge you to take responsibility and leadership in coming up with creative solutions. We strongly encourage you to commit to working for a just, equal, and compassionate community that nurtures all. These tasks are not exclusive to faculty of color; everybody has to play their role. We are all complicit in creating the hostile environment and climate that permeates our campus.

What are you going to do?

Safety on Campus

Dear Friends and Colleagues,

We write this letter for several reasons: First, to support our students in their protests and actions to make Campus Safety accountable to the Occidental Community; second, to provide an account of the incident that triggered this action; and third to reiterate students’  calls for Campus Safety to operate in tandem with the mission of our college.

On September 5th an incident at the Green Bean led to the arrest of a community member. Given the circumstances surrounding this and the fact that the individual involved was by several accounts differently-abled, the actions taken by Campus Safety sparked an outcry. Besides protesting the seeming lack of inclusivity and compassion on the part of Campus Safety, students have also taken the lead in offering concrete solutions and calling for broader policy discussions regarding the role and tactics of Campus Safety.

Fully recognizing that Campus Safety does not ‘make’ policy, we echo students’ calls to have the Administration provide greater coherency and transparency regarding relevant policy. As a community, we need greater information about officer training (especially with respect to how incidents among students and campus guests are handled), and how that training encourages cognizance of the many manifestations of diversity in our community. Moreover, we wonder what specific mechanisms are in place to facilitate oversight and accountability of Campus Safety by administrators and, in turn, what training the same administrators receive to prepare them for such oversight.

These are not new issues, many of us recall similar incidents in the past. However, given the palpable shift in the “tone” of how our campus is policed, amid the national concerns and issues around biased policing, now is the time for us to act. Consider that our campus officers wear flak jackets and carry visible policing equipment. Campus Safety gives the appearance of a ready-response unit geared towards surveillance and control rather than a community safety/service unit. To boot, there is the more visible presence of the LAPD in the campus vicinity, including the presence of unmarked police cars. We believe every member of the College community, particularly Campus Safety, needs to have clear and transparent guidelines about when to call the LAPD. Judging from the actions taken in the most recent incident, and the (un)predictability with which police use deadly force, we believe our policies and practices should prioritize de-escalation over zealous action.

Some will undoubtedly point to the campus tragedies and associated violence that have taken place (e.g., Virginia Tech) to justify a fortifying of a more aggressive type of campus police force. No one would argue with the need for preparation and training for such an event, but to put forth such a defensive stance as the baseline for everyday campus policing breeds fear and paranoia. We don’t want Virginia Tech, nor do we want the University of Cincinnati. We’ve been better — we know how to be better — and that should be our baseline.

As Occidental works to develop our relationship to our surrounding community, the College needs to pay attention to the attitudes embedded in our policies and practices around issues of safety and security. This incident and the subsequent reactions make visible the need for open conversations about philosophies and approaches between Campus Safety, the administrators who oversee this sector, and the rest of the campus community. Is Oxy’s model more similar to community-based policing in which officers work with the community to increase safety and trust — consider Campus Safety’s broad success under Joe Cunje — or is it a model that focuses on surveillance and control? How might this latter model work against community policing that intentionally builds trust? How has Oxy interrogated notions of how unconscious biases based on markers such as race, gender, sexuality, class, and ability shape policing?

Following our students, we call on Campus Safety and the administration to make a public commitment to evaluating and engaging in discourse with the rest of the community about policies regarding surveillance, protocols, and mental mindsets. We invite friends and colleagues across campus to join this call.


– CODE Faculty


A Strong & Effective Chief Diversity Officer

August 31, 2015

“[T]he numbers by themselves reflect only part of the picture. Minority students and faculty do not report substantial improvements in the quality of their lives on the Occidental campus. In fact, many of them seriously question the College’s commitment to the hopes and intentions expressed in previous years. If we wish to continue to project the image of Occidental as a multicultural educational community, we must take steps now to realize that vision, before the declining indices we have noted become irreversible.”
Report of the Ad Hoc Committee on Minority Issues, April 1983

Dear President Veitch:

Thank you for the updates on the search and information about the Chief Diversity Officer position and search process. The appointment of the dedicated and thoughtful search committee members and your commitment to “spend whatever it takes to get the right person” will help the College to attract and hire a strong candidate. Salary is important; it must be matched with a host of human and material resources as well. As members of the Occidental community who have been working on issues of equity and diversity for many years, we are glad that the College has created this position, as recommendations for a similar position have been made over the years, including the 1983 Report of the Ad Hoc Committee on Minority Issues and the 2006 Report and Recommendations by the Mission Initiatives Advisory Group. We must, however, express our disappointment that this position is not at the Vice Presidential level, with a fully staffed office, recommendations that were proposed by CODE, the CDO Working Group, and the faculty. As Oxy faculty, staff, students, and administrators have made such calls for over thirty years, other schools have developed knowledge and expertise about what makes such positions and offices effective through scholarship and practice. We believe that learning from such expertise would be in Occidental’s best interests as we create a new position. We express our concerns not simply to complain but to point out the urgent need to shift our culture in addition to accomplishing discrete and narrow goals. This requires connecting discrete goals through an intellectually-informed understanding of the comprehensiveness of the work to change the institution itself.

As our current students continue to point out to us, as eloquently expressed at the recent Thorne Hall meeting with the search committee, the ability for everyone to succeed and thrive both academically and personally at the College is hampered by issues in the College’s culture and climate. Students not only experience both significant forms of racism, microaggressions, and broader inequities in access and treatment; they express that their presence on campus is desired more to provide a diverse experience for others than for them to be full community members in an intellectual and social environment that is geared equally for them. They experience Occidental as “guests” at the table, or worse, as beings in a zoo. If we are firmly committed to changing this, we must do more than what scholar Sara Ahmed names as simply “checking the box”–picking diversity items that are easily accomplished in order for leaders of the institution to say that they’ve done something.

These experiences are replicated at the faculty and staff levels. Inequities in terms of workload in an environment that is defined by “traditional” academic standards (by a male and white dominated academy), have had negative implications for minoritized faculty. There have been serious consequences for faculty of color, female faculty who have supported students in sexual assault cases, and faculty who have shouldered a disproportionate load in terms of advising and mentoring of students of color and queer students. Ranging from overt “punishment” to more covert marginalization, these faculty likewise provide the diversity that is celebrated publicly by our institution, but privately endure the microaggressions and hostility that prevail. There have also been similar incidents among staff that were made public; there are surely many more that we never hear about but which adversely affect morale and well-being–and the ability to work effectively with all students.

Occidental needs a CDO who can both accomplish important tasks and lead the broader, difficult process of changing our institutional culture and core assumptions about the nature of our work. This requires a deep, intellectually informed understanding of the comprehensiveness of the work beyond adding some programs or protecting the institution through compliance or using diversity as a marketing device. While compliance with legal requirements to protect the institution is important and necessary, if we focus on that without attending to the deeper work of changing the institutional culture, we will fall into the “checking the box” trap. If we simply see diversity as a marketing story, we contribute to students’ experience of having their presence sought primarily for someone else’s benefit. Compliance, using diversity to tell our story differently, and adding a few programs cannot get to core issues of centering institutional work on all of our diverse students: their education, their experiences, and their ability to thrive.

Our recommendations are corroborated by interviews with leaders from the Liberal Arts Diversity Officers organization (LADO) and extensive scholarly research. We agree with the experts that it is imperative that the office for a Chief Diversity Officer is at the highest administrative level and that it includes staff and financial resources to substantiate structures that elevate and sustain the College’s mission for diversity and equity.

As members of the community dedicated to contributing to the work on equity and diversity that will support the success of all members of the College, we call on you to elevate this position to the level of Vice President to ensure that we attract high level candidates, demonstrate institutional commitment for the position and the work, and institutionalize a structure necessary to make long lasting institutional change. We also call on you to ensure that the Search Committee has the best chance of finding and recruiting the strongest candidate by showing in specific and concrete ways the staffing and financial resources you will commit to the office in order for the office to grow to what is necessary for the scope of work to be done. This support is crucial, given the urgency of our circumstances. As we see events taking place across the nation that demonstrate abiding divisions around intersecting issues of race, sexuality, gender, and class, even as we commemorate significant and similar events from fifty years ago, we understand the deep differences in experience and perception at our College that the CDO will need to work to reconcile. We would welcome the opportunity to work with a strong Chief Diversity Officer who oversees a robust office with full resources–and a concrete plan for growth from the President’s Office.



Chief Diversity Officer Strategic Plan Working Group

Chief Diversity Officer Strategic Plan Working Group

Final Report

February 2015


Executive Summary
The Mission objectives of Occidental College should permeate all levels of college life. Attracting gifted and diverse students, faculty, staff, and administrators to our residential college is what we desire, and providing a campus climate where diversity, equity, and excellence thrive at all levels is what we promise. To full-fill this promise requires conscientious, sustained, and skilled efforts. It has become obvious that this enormous responsibility should not be the exclusive burden of a passionate few, but rather, it must be institutionalized and distributed across the entire campus. In the last few years, it has become increasingly common for colleges large and small, to achieve diversity and equity goals similar to our own, by creating the position of a chief diversity officer (CDO) for their campuses. To answer the call of the strategic plan of Occidental College, the CDO Strategic Plan working group was composed to develop a framework for the position of a Chief Diversity Officer. This Final Report contains products of the work of that group that culminated in a proposal to be submitted to the president of the college.

The proposal materials submitted (enclosed) contain three main documents: 1) A job description that would be posted to solicit candidates, 2) A document that identifies a desired “Scope of Work” for the candidate, their office and officers, and 3) A document that describes predicted relationships within the structure of Occidental College. Two other relevant documents were generated and are also enclosed: 1) a relevant budget and 2) an executive summary. It is important to note that the documents that were generated were informed by, and often derived from, the work of multiple committees and task forces that preceded our body. Development also included an initial meeting with President Veitch, followed by meetings with General Counsel- Leora Freedman, Dean of Students- Erica O’Neal Howard, and Shelby Radcliffe from Institutional Advancement. Discussions at meetings included, but were not limited to, review of relevant literature, comparisons to other institutions, and notes from personal interviews of persons that hold, or have held, CDO-type positions.

A unifying characteristic of the three documents developed by the CDO Strategic Plan Working Group is that they demonstrate the breadth of the needs of our college in this area. The job description is written to be sufficiently broad to attract a large pool of candidates with the appropriate skill set and qualifications to achieve many of our goals, but it was constructed with the knowledge that no one candidate will satisfy all of its elements. The Scope of Work and Structural documents too, have a breadth that would not be expected from any one candidate. The search committee would be tasked with finding a candidate that represented the “best fit” over many selection criteria domains. Because no one person can satisfy all of the college’s needs, the Working Group strongly feels that the CDO must represent an office, and have appropriate resources in terms of space and personnel as requisite support. The enclosed budget reflects some of those dimensions.

Occidental College has historically provided leadership in matters related to the realization of institutional diversity and equity. The mission statement reflects the assumption that we desire to be leaders again in this dimension. The enclosed proposal allows the college to assume a new leadership role by constructing an institutional office to be led by a high-level administrator that can take the college in the direction mandated by our Strategic Plan.


The Working Group met over the course of four months in the Fall 2014 and Spring 2015 semesters. During this time, the Working Group compiled materials, did work in small groups and used the meetings to discuss findings and make decisions.

Highlights of the Working Group’s process includes:

  • A total number of 8 meetings with the entire committee (co-chaired by a faculty member and an administrator)
  • Creation of three subcommittees:
    • Job Description
    • Structure
    • Scope of Work
  • Numerous meetings held by subcommittees
  • A core document produced by each subcommittee, all of which are in sync with the larger goals of the CDO Working Group
  • Meetings with the following administrators:
    • Jonathan Veitch – President
    • Leora Freedman – General Counsel
    • Erica O’Neil Howard – Senior Associate Dean, Student Affairs
    • Shelby Radcliffe – VP for Institutional Advancement
  • Review of various documents:
    •  Job descriptions from other colleges and universities including peer institutions
    • College Diverse Learning Environments Survey results
    • Articles relating to CDOs
    • Interviews with members of National Association of Diversity Officers in Higher Education (NADOHE)
    • CODE documents
    • College diversity task force and working group document
  • Interviews with members of Liberal Arts Diversity Officers (LADO) organization

Search Committee Recommendations

As the College considers the composition of the search committee, we would ask that the following things are considered.

  • We suggest that at least two members of the CDO Task Force form part of the search committee, ideally the co-chairs, Ella Turenne and Kerry Thompson
  • Given that this is a leadership position, we suggest that the committee be as expansive as possible while maintaining a size that is manageable, as we want to have someone in place by summer/start of the fall semester.
  • Committee membership:
    • 2 members of CDO committee (preferably co-chairs)
    • One member of the Leadership Team
    • 1-2 additional faculty, with an eye to covering the academic divisions as much as possible (for example, if Kerry is on the committee, the other faculty should not be scientists)
    • Another administrator (possibly Legal Counsel)
    • 2-3 students–we recognize student schedules often make this very challenging to accommodate, but we should try. We suggest a balance of students who have been involved in leadership positions such as ICC, CODE, Student Govt., Cultural Clubs, Center for Gender Equity, First Generation, etc.

NOTE: We know there are people the candidates should meet with who will, likely, not be on the search committee (e.g. Ruth Jones, Student Affairs leadership/ICC, etc.)

Ideal Timeline:
February 23: Job Posted, Committee Named
April 1: First Round Resume Cut
April 6-10: Phone Interviews to cut to 3 candidates April 20-May 1: On campus interviews
May 15: CDO offer made
On/Before August 15: CDO starts


The Working Group believes that it has put together a comprehensive and strong proposal for consideration to the president of the college. At the beginning of the process, the Working Group was tasked with:

With the goal of creating an innovative and sustainable organizational approach that is effective in advancing the mission of the College and our strategic priorities, the CDO strategic plan working group will:

  • create a job description for a CDO and outline the responsibilities of such a position
  • develop a budget framework, including development of a timeline for a search and for implementation of any other recommendations
  • identify programmatic and organizational options

The Working Group has completed each of these items with an eye towards the strategic objective of Inclusive Excellence as outlined in the college’s strategic plan:

Inclusive Excellence

Advance a commitment of inclusive excellence that will continue to attract and develop accomplished students, faculty and staff who evidence diversity in thought, socio-economic status, gender, race, ethnicity and nationality.

As we move forward, we hope that this work will propel the college to a place where it is once again at the national forefront of strategic thinking and action on higher education and diversity.

Respectfully Submitted by:
Barbara Avery
Ron Buckmire
Regina Freer
Jorge Gonzalez
Donna Maeda
Maricela Limas Martinez
Carey Sargent
Brett Schraeder
Kerry Thompson (Co-Chair)
Ella Turenne (Co-Chair)
Links for:

Office of Diversity and Equity and its Chief Officer: Coalition at Oxy for Diversity and Equity (CODE)


According to the statement of its charge, the CDO Strategic Plan Working Group is “to provide an initial draft report to senior staff, Budget and Strategic Advisory Committee and Faculty Council on/or before November 15, with final recommendations due on/or before January 15, 2015.” The first meeting of this Working Group is October 30, 2014. Because the Working Group must accomplish a great deal in a short amount of time, this document presents a summary of research to provide a framework and starting point. The document draws from reports by experts (i.e., scholar practitioners whose research focuses on diversity and equity in institutions of higher education), interviews with Chief Diversity Officers who provide leadership in the Liberal Arts Diversity Officers (LADO) organization, and years of research, reports, and recommendations by members of the Occidental College community. It is not an accident that this document goes beyond a Chief Diversity Officer (CDO) to include equity and imagine a more robust structure in the form of an Office.

In the introduction to On Being Included: Racism and Diversity in Institutional Life, Sara Ahmed writes,

It is certainly the case that responsibility for diversity and equality is unevenly distributed. It is also the case that the distribution of this work is political: if diversity and equality work is less valued by organizations, then to become responsible for this work can mean to inhabit institutional spaces that are also less valued (4).

Noting the challenges of doing institutional work around diversity and equality that can have lasting effects, she writes, “I began to appreciate the importance of focusing not so much on what documents say but what they do: how they circulate and move around” (6), identifying the problem of having such documents praised and then put aside. She raises the important issue of “where diversity goes (and where it does not), as well as in whom and in what diversity is deposited (as well as in whom or in what it is not)” (12). Further, she comments on the problem that “an equality regime [structural attempts to institutionalize equality] can be an inequality regime given a new form, a set of processes that maintain what is supposedly being addressed” (8); she looks specifically at the “question of commitment as that which is. . . missing when diversity and equality become ‘paper trails.’ . . . [S]tatements of commitment are non-performatives: they do not bring about the effects they name” (17).

In particular, diversity as “a form of public relations” (17) makes impossible the difficult work of undoing the often un-named racism that is at the core of the “diversity” problem. Commitment from the top of institutional leadership is needed to build an Office of Diversity and Equity that is able to enact changes that have been continually recommended over many years by numerous committees and to move the work forward in new ways. Otherwise, the current efforts to establish a chief diversity officer are in danger of reproducing a regime of continued inequality–in experiences, in opportunities, and in workloads–under the name of “diversity.”

Introduction: Oxy’s Institutional Challenge

Occidental has a long history of actively engaging in the pursuit of democratization of higher education to make it more inclusive. In 1912, young men on campus joined protests against the idea of Occidental becoming a men’s college. After World War II, a student organization questioned why no Black students had yet joined the college, asking whether Occidental has a race problem. In the 1980s, the College adopted a new institutional mission centered on excellence and equity; Occidental was a leader in taking up these issues at an institutional level from the late 1980s into the 1990s. However, while Oxy’s institutional attention waned, as other issues were given priority, other institutions forged ahead. Oxy was named number one in the U.S. News and World Report’s first diversity ranking in 1998, but it has now sunk to number 12. Despite the fact that Oxy provided leadership in moving to equity and excellence beyond demographics by working to transform the curriculum and connecting this to diversifying faculty, developing programs that centered on multiculturalism and using the new institutional mission to re-think most aspects of the institution, the college failed to institutionalize these efforts to ensure that they remained part of the fabric of the college.

Yet, Occidental’s Strategic Plan 2012-2017 highlights “Inclusive Excellence” as a key objective for the institution. While all members of our community must engage the strategic plan, it is imperative that the College establish an office with a high-level position to provide leadership and innovative ideas to energize our re-commitment to our institutional mission.

Colleges and universities that have more recently adopted diversity as a core value, have built on foundations forged by institutions like Occidental. Moreover, many of them have begun to put in place structures that shape policies and practices for building equity and diversity into all aspects of the institution. This reflects the recognition that the excellence of the institution draws from diversity as diversity serves as an educational resource. To this end, an increasing number of colleges and universities have established offices of diversity and equity, with leadership that sits at the highest level of administrative structures (such as the President’s cabinet) in order for diversity and equity to be built into all levels and aspects of the institution. The formation of two new national organizations illustrate the increasing relevance of this approach: the National Association of Diversity Officers in Higher Education (NADOHE), which consists primarily of chief diversity officers in large universities, and Liberal Arts Diversity Officers (LADO). Given Occidental’s long history and experience with diversity, members of LADO have expressed interest in Occidental becoming the first west Coast member. Because of the depth of experience that exists at Occidental, it is not impossible for the institution to once again become a leader in this area.

The leaders of LADO are experts in institutionalizing equity and diversity in ways that not only deepen efforts but at the same time increase the excellence of the institution. Their work is research-based; Occidental would benefit greatly by learning from these experts and drawing from this knowledge base. In addition, Occidental would benefit by connecting to new funding opportunities as the organization is also dedicated to developing proposals to foundations and others for collaborative efforts, such as the $4.7 million grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation for the Creating Connections Consortium (C3) to “develop, disseminate, and promote new strategies for building academic settings that enable the full participation of diverse students and faculty. Simply put, C3 is intended to serve as an incubator of innovation for institutional diversity, creating adaptable programs in which participants are key stakeholders in their success” (http://c3transformhighered.org/partners/#sthash.bXaJ98Ro.dpuf).

Role and Authority of the Office of Diversity and Equity and its Chief Officer

The Office of Diversity and Equity should provide the space for reinvigorating the commitment and attention to the institutional mission. In the past, we counted on individuals to integrate the mission into their/our own work. This placed a high level of responsibility on the commitment and dedication of individuals, thereby undermining the capacity of the institution to sustain these efforts when these individuals left the college or others were burnt out. Continuing inequities indicate that at the institutional level a specified location is required to centralize attention to diversity and equity and to provide vision and leadership. The CDEO and her/his office would not be responsible for doing all work around the mission. Rather, the office and officer would:

  • provide expertise and innovation to assist departments, offices, and leadership in integrating diversity and equity into all aspects of the basic educational functions of the College
  • invigorate and make the work more intentional
  • serve as a thought leader and change agent who brings experience and vision to re-energize the mission
  • use the Office as a position of influence to help everyone at the institution to re-think how their work contributes and how their work benefits by integrating diversity and equity
  • bring together Occidental’s human and material resources for the work
  • draw from our history of successes to continually move the work forward
  • establish relationships and networks that will connect the College to other resources
  • communicate with the campus and external communities about work around the mission

Leadership for integrating this work would entail having the “responsibility to conceptualize, define, assess, nurture, and cultivate diversity as an institutional and educational resource” (What is a Chief Diversity Officer? 2). For example, while the Office of Diversity and Equity needs its own budget, it should work with all units to consider how to build diversity and equity into their budgets. This will enable the College to build diversity and equity as educational resources throughout the institution rather than as discrete tasks.

In order to integrate diversity and equity throughout the institution, the following list provides a starting point for areas of work for the Office of Diversity and Equity:

  • development of a Strategic Plan for Diversity and Equity at Occidental
  • professional development, training, and support for faculty, staff, and administrators
  • affirmative action and equal employment opportunity
  • search committees: faculty, staff, and administrative search committees must work with this office/person
  • target of opportunity processes and practices
  • assessment and institutional research/planning
  • budget and priorities processes
  • connecting to Title IX, EEO, and affirmative action functions and issues
  • student support structures in academic and student affairs
  • communications and planning around diversity and equity programming
  • admissions
  • academic departments and divisional structures
  • specialized and focused work to increase access to all majors and programs
  • research best practices at other institutions

As Damon Williams and Katrina Wade-Golden write in “What is a Chief Diversity Officer?,” their summarized version of their book, The Chief Diversity Officer: Strategy, Structure, and Change Management:

“[C]hange is a fundamental aspect of the chief diversity officer role leading campus-wide diversity planning and implementation efforts, seeding new diversity initiatives to create bubble-up energy and involve others in change projects, developing diversity training and educational strategies for executives, faculty, staff, and students to shift their mental models and skills regarding diversity, developing high profile and symbolic campus diversity events to suggest diversity’s relationship to institutional excellence, and creating new systems to insure that faculty and staff search committees cast a broad hiring net. Although diversity is the targeted domain area, each of these initiatives and projects is intended to affect some type of intentional change in the systems, structure, and culture of the institution” (4, emphasis added).

Structure and “Positional Capital”

The Office of Diversity and Equity is not a novel idea; it has been instituted in a number of universities and more recently, has been a strategic addition in many liberal arts institutions on the East Coast. Judging from the experiences of Occidental College, it is clear that despite a historical dedication to a mission of diversity and equity, it has been difficult to sustain and develop these efforts. Individually based and heavily reliant on personal commitments, the trajectory of successes regarding diversity and equity have fluctuated wildly. It is therefore imperative to create an office with a high level leader not only to ensure that the mission permeates the very fabric of the College, but that it is also part of the objective and structural core of the College. Given our long history and contemporary reliance on the mission for the recruitment of students and faculty, and the outcomes that have not been highly successful, it is obvious that the College needs to institute a more concerted and structural effort to institutionalize and develop its commitment to diversity and equity.

The responsibilities and the depth of the portfolio of the Office of Diversity and Equity, as outlined above, require a leader who sits at a high level in order to participate in conversations and processes as well as decision-making in matters that lie at the heart of the College. Interviews with leaders within the Liberal Arts Diversity Officers (LADO) organization stress the importance of having the chief diversity officer report to the President, sit on the President’s cabinet, and be at the table equally with other Vice Presidents. They point out that this level of position is necessary in order to:

  • integrate equity and diversity into mainline functions of the institution● have an institutional purview rather than one located in any one division
  • have access to information
  • bring equity and diversity into conversations at the decision-making table
  • build relationships with and provide resources for those who make important decisions for entire divisions
  • influence resource allocation

One LADO CDO noted that the planning committee that designed the position on her campus regretted having agreed to a structure that placed their CDO at a lower level because of the scope of the work and realization that her effectiveness was hampered from the beginning.

The LADO leaders’ insights are reinforced in “What is A Chief Diversity Officer?” Williams and Wade-Golden write,

[A] primary source of power for these officers is their location at the presidential or provost level of formal administrative hierarchy. Participation in the executive cabinet of the institution insures that the position has visibility, access, and symbolic impact. For that reason, chief diversity officers can infuse diversity into highly politicized discussions about budget allocations, new initiatives, and future priorities of the institution. If these officers were not present, these issues may not be mentioned, nor [understood] in a manner consistent with diversity goals so often mentioned in institutional academic plans, websites, and marketing materials. (3)

A LADO CDO asserts that the high-level position is important not only around decision-making but also the “optics of being at the table.” The high level position serves as an important symbol that equity and diversity are of key importance to the workings of the institution. The high level position and title also give the officer the “positional capital” to make things happen. Williams and Wade-Golden write that with a high level position,

a powerful symbolic message is sent to the entire campus community regarding the important role of the CDO and diversity on campus…. [the title] in combination with a portfolio of units and responsibilities [that combine academic affairs and diversity functions often placed elsewhere] signals that the officer is “more than simply a resource on matters of diversity and suggests a fundamental connection between diversity and academic excellence” (What is a Chief Diversity Officer? 4).

Dimensions of the Work

In their longer work, The Chief Diversity Officer: Strategy, Structure, and Change Management, Williams and Wade-Golden outline five dimensions of the work of the CDO. These dimensions show both the breadth and depth of efforts that are needed for effective institutional work.

Chart: The Chief Diversity Officer: Strategy, Structure, and Change Management, by Damon A. Williams and Katrina C. Wade-Golden, Stylus Publishing, 2013.

Attributes for the Office of Diversity and Equity Leader

In addition, Williams and Wade-Golden identify seven key attributes for chief diversity officers (What is a Chief Diversity Officer? 5-6):

  • Technical mastery of diversity issues
  • Political savvy
  • Ability to cultivate a common vision
  • In-depth perspective on organizational change
  • Sophisticated relational abilities
  • Understanding the culture of higher education
  • Results orientation

It is the combination of the position of the Office of Diversity and Equity and the qualities of the Officer that will enable the work to be effective; neither the attributes or position alone are enough to ensure success.

Institutional Resources

An organization’s priorities are reflected in its budget; a budget should be the financial expression of the organization’s mission. With this in mind, the level of resources allocated for the Office of Diversity and Equity must reflect the centrality of this work to the Mission of the college. Likewise, resources must be requisite with the broad list of duties and responsibilities required of the office and its staff. Effectiveness demands adequate resources. Since the Office of Diversity and Equity requires institution-wide work, it must have a budget and resources commensurate with that of the Office of the Vice President for Finance and Planning.

LADO CDO interviewees stressed the importance of an office that has staffing and resources available to ensure that the functions of the office can be performed to ensure institution-wide impact. As the Chief Diversity and Equity Officer at Occidental needs to work at the cabinet-level and be a resource for re-invigorating work in all areas of the College, a single person cannot do it all. It is crucial at this point in Occidental’s history of work on equity and diversity that the position and office be positioned to have the capacity for the range and depth of work that faces us.

Historically, external funding played a key role in fostering Oxy’s growth and development in the arena of diversity and equity. As an example, the three-year, $2 million grant from the Irvine Foundation in 2001 supported diversity and equity work in the Intercultural Community Center, the Core Program, the International Programs Office, and the Minority Scholars in Residence Program. Mellon Foundation funding similarly added depth and vibrancy to the work. The stagnation and in some cases decline in our efforts coincided with the disappearance of this “soft” money, offering two important lessons going forward: 1) resources are an important driver of structural change and 2) while external funding is an important component in jump starting structural change, maintenance and growth of said change requires on-going, “hard” resources.

Resources must be conceived of broadly to include funding and staffing in order to ensure the sustainability of the work. The innovative program for student success in the sciences, the Scientific Scholars Achievement Program (SSAP) provides an example of this. In Fall 2005, SSAP began operating as a student-initiated, student-led, workshop-oriented tutoring program to increase the success of underrepresented students in the sciences. Four Occidental students researched issues in STEM fields nationally after polling other students in the sciences on campus. They modeled their program on the Biology Scholars Program at UC Berkeley, a nationally-recognized program centered on community-building rather than individual tutoring. Although the SSAP still exists on campus, it has never lived up to its potential in supporting student success because of uncertain structural and institutional support. The SSAP serves as an important illustration of why good ideas and good intentions are not enough to sustain this work. Without funding and staffing, this innovative and potentially impactful STEM program has withered on the vine.

The Office of Diversity and Equity must have resources to incentivize change, spark innovation, create and sustain programming, provide training, and maintain connections to local and national networks doing this work. This Office and the staff leading it must be able to offer incentives for positive change and support professional development. The Dean’s funds for course innovation, the CORE office’s stipends for participation in CSP workshops at the beginning of the school year, and CCBL’s stipends for participation in the CBL summer workshop all serve as important precedents that indicate the effectiveness of such incentives. Such incentives are especially important for the development of the new Office of Diversity and Equity in order to bring more people to the table to do the work and to start pilot programs that can re-energize efforts around the College mission.


Oxy’s commitment to diversity and equity can be realized through the establishment of a well-resourced Office of Diversity and Equity led by the visionary leadership of a Vice President of Diversity and Equity empowered by the President to do this work. We need someone who will challenge us, inspire us, lead us, and push us beyond our comfort levels in order to make us a better institution.


Ahmed, Sara. “Introduction: On Arrival.” On Being Included: Racism and Diversity in Institutional Life. Duke University Press, 2012.

Occidental College Mission Initiatives Advisory Group. Briefing Report and Recommendations Submitted to Susan Prager. Summer 2006.

Teraguchi, Daniel Hiroyuki. “Frameworks for Inclusive Excellence: Diversity, Inclusion, and Institutional Renewal.” Association of American Colleges & Universities, 2004.

Williams, Damon A., Joseph. B. Berger, and Shederick A. McClendon. Toward a Model of Inclusive Excellence and Change in Postsecondary Institutions. Making Excellence Inclusive Initiative: Preparing Students and Campuses for an Era of Greater Expectations, Association of American Colleges & Universities, 2005.

Williams, Damon A. and Katrina C. Wade-Golden. The Chief Diversity Officer: Strategy, Structure, and Change Management. Stylus Publishing, 2013.

Williams, Damon A. and Katrina C. Wade-Golden. “What is a Chief Diversity Officer?”

To the Occidental Community

Dear Occidental Community,

The recent attempt by members of Phi Kappa Psi fraternity to host an off-campus party themed “End of the World Party: ISIS, Ebola & Malaysian Airlines” is an atrocious display of racism, anti-Blackness, and the dehumanization of people of color. These tragedies have impacted people of many racial and ethnic backgrounds. While the party made a mockery of the loss of human life generally, there is a persistent racialized undertone in this event that deeply harms people of color specifically. Costumes of victims of Ebola, the Malaysian Airlines crashes, or the terrorist organization ISIS perpetuate repulsive stereotypes of the predominantly black and brown victims and perpetrators of these tragedies. It is a disgusting lack of awareness to think that this is something that can be made light of. By parodying and sexualizing these deaths, the organizers and would-be attendees of this party are devaluing the lives of people of color on campus and on a global level. It is clear that Oxy still has a major problem with racism when students plan to host, to attend, or to accept this type of event.

Let’s move past ideas about Oxy being “PC” or “too sensitive about race” and realize racism and ignorance thrive on our campus and we must organize to combat it.

While Phi Kappa Psi issued an apology to the campus, the organization can and must do more to address the deeply problematic actions of two of its members. These individuals are representatives of their organization regardless of whether this party was organized officially as a Phi Psi event. CODE suggests that Phi Psi consider the following possible courses of action:
1. Work to change the culture and practices of your organization in order to challenge systemic racism;
2. Take disciplinary action against the members of your organization who have caused harm to the Occidental community; namely remove these individuals from the organization or accept that their actions and ideology continue to represent and reflect the organization as a whole;
3. Positively contribute to rectifying the horrific events this party sought to trivialize (We suggest fundraising for organizations working to eradicate Ebola as one possible action).

Our goal here is not to demonize Phi Psi, but rather to recognize that the issues that their members brought up are ones that face the Occidental community more broadly. We implore the College to take a stand on this issue. While the party has been canceled and an apology was forwarded to the student body this time,we have yet to see the institution address the underlying ideology and practices of the College that allow such dehumanization to go unchecked. Beyond devaluing the loss of life from Ebola, ISIS, and the Malaysian Airlines crashes, the racist actions in question have caused real harm to members of our student body who feel attacked and unsafe. We believe that the events of the last days exemplify with this College needs a Chief Diversity Office.

A Chief Diversity Office would provide a space to address institutional racism in both proactive and reactive ways. It would offer support to students in instances where they feel unsafe, attacked, or victimized and streamline the disciplinary process for bias incident reports. In addition, the office would play a critical role in changing the culture of Occidental in regard to race and diversity. It would further institutionalize our commitment to equity and excellence so that events like this “End of the World” party will no longer have a place in our community. Let us not strive to be mediocre, but excellent in our leadership on issues of diversity.

The Coalition at Occidental for Diversity and Equity