Why have so many liberal arts colleges established offices headed by Chief Diversity Officers (CDOs) in the last five years? How did Amherst, Pomona, Swarthmore, Vassar, and Williams become the new leaders in diversity initiatives? Why are Bates, Connecticut, Hamilton, Dickinson, Middlebury, Providence, Reed, Smith, Trinity, and Wellesley following their lead? Why is Oxy not part of the 26 member-schools of the Liberal Arts Diversity Officers Organization (LADO)? Is Oxy as committed as these colleges to the institutionalization of diversity values?
A major national study by Damon Williams and Katrina Wade-Golden found that in the last five years, over 30 colleges and universities have created posts for CDOs. The emergence of these posts in higher education has historical precedence as some institutions hired VPs or Deans of Minority Affairs in the 1970s to promote universal access and the ideal of student diversity. What distinguishes the current national trend for offices with CDOs from its precursor, according to Williams and Wade-Golden, “is the functional definition of diversity as a resource than can be leveraged to enhance the learning of all students and is fundamental to institutional excellence, in addition to its historic definition as the presence of individuals that differ by race, gender, or some other social identity characteristic.” The shifting paradigm has led to corresponding institutional transformation at many colleges that are informed by and committed to the Inclusive Excellence Change Model conceptualized by the Association of American Colleges and Universities.
The role of offices of CDOs in the Inclusive Excellence model is to provide overarching strategic leadership and accountability in the resolution of systemic inequities, expansion of pathways for access and success, and promotion of a healthy campus climate. The Inclusive Excellence model does not presume that the CDO alone is responsible for these efforts. To the contrary, the model demands that the office of the CDO serve as an integrating force for diversity issues by collaborating, coordinating, and working through the lateral networks of an institution. Consultative relationships are essential, but the office of the CDO is ultimately accountable for building consensus, assessing progress, and achieving results. In essence, the CDO’s leadership provides both symbolic and tangible resources that represent the priority placed in diversifying a campus.
Will we sit on the sidelines and watch these dynamic changes taking place at our peer institutions or join the movement and regain our position as a leader for diversity, equity and inclusion? A Diversity and Equity Office headed by a Chief Diversity Officer could build on the foundational work that has already been done at Oxy since the 1980s and help us move forward in building our diversity infrastructure and advancing our diversity goals.
We encourage you to become familiar with some of the key scholarship on Inclusive Excellence as well as strategic diversity initiatives at other liberal arts colleges, so that we can hold a rigorous discussion about CODE’s demand for the an Office of Diversity and Equity and the hiring of a VP of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in the spring semester.
What is a Chief Diversity Officer?
Toward a Model of Inclusive Excellence and Change in Postsecondary Institutions
C3 Creating Consortiums Connections
Dean Strives to Recruit Minority Scholars to Liberal Arts Colleges