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Diversity office holds fourth open forum

first_imgThe Office for Diversity and Strategic Initiatives held its fourth campus climate open forum of the semester, focusing on diversity in USC faculty, hiring and retention.The forum was moderated by Associate Professor at the School of Cinematic Arts Tara McPherson and featured a panel including George Sanchez, professor and vice dean for diversity at the Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences; Jody David Armour, professor at the Gould School of Law; Moira Turner, director of diversity affairs for the Undergraduate Student Government; and Cristina Gutierrez, vice president of the Graduate Student Government.The event provided attendees with copies of a memorandum on diversity and statistics on diversity at USC, particularly numbers from Dornsife.Sanchez opened with a discussion on how to adjust the hiring process for faculty at USC. He believes that making the statistics on faculty diversity internally transparent and hiring diverse assistant professors and young faculty members are the most important steps in improving future diversity.“Whatever diversity we’re coming in the door with, if those folks stay, that’s what the future is going to look like,” Sanchez said. “We know what the current mismatch looks like, but my assumptions are that as the U.S. population diversifies further and further every year, we’re going to be at further of a mismatch when it comes to 2040.”Currently, the administrative guidelines for hiring diverse faculty rest on one phrase — “cast a wide net.” Sanchez explained that because there isn’t a Target of Opportunity program, outlining specific goals, it is difficult for administrators and faculty members to make diverse hires.He suggested setting goals through three specific types of programs — setting explicit goals of the number of underrepresented applicants to hire, committing to provost funding of the hiring of underrepresented applicants who make it to the final rounds of faculty hiring, or creating intellectual initiatives with the direct purpose of attracting underrepresented applicants.After Sanchez concluded his part of the panel discussion, Armour continued on the topic of faculty inclusion. Instead of focusing on hiring, however, he spoke about the ways in which professors and faculty members of color are viewed in an academic setting.Armour shared a story of a flyer that was released by the Gould School of Law that highlighted professors of merit in the school. Not a single professor of color was selected for the flyer. When this fact was pointed out, the faculty was surprised at their mistake.“There wasn’t any ill will there,” Armour said. “It’s just we don’t really think about black folks or people of color as worthy of sitting on a finance committee and making these very nuanced judgements about intellectual merit.”For this reason, Armour believes that there needs to be an active move to redefine the standard of excellence in academic settings at USC. He pointed out that women and people of color are often criticized much more harshly in course evaluations, and that the research of faculty members in these minorities is often slighted. Armour shared his own documentary, titled N-gga Theory, which he said was not accepted by non-minority peers for a long time.“I’m teaching and writing with my head in the lion’s mouth,” Armour said. “And I know that. A lot of what I was doing was not recognized as scholarship. It took a long ride to get here.”After both faculty members spoke, the panel discussion turned to its student members. Turner, a junior anthropology major, thanked the faculty for supporting open forums. She shared that it wasn’t until this year that she took a class from a professor of color, and the opportunity to learn and gain mentorship from a woman of color has helped her feel safer and more confident in her academic pursuits.“My mentor has been not only quintessential to my development as a fledgling scholar,” Turner said. “She’s also been my refuge when being a black woman on campus is too difficult to handle.”Turner explained that the lack of professors of color at USC makes it difficult for students of color to feel comfortable and accepted in academic settings. Although most of her peers who are also minorities have interacted with one or two professors of color, she said that it is often difficult for students to find a mentor who shares their identity. That is even more true for students in STEM fields, where faculty members rarely represent diverse backgrounds.Gutierrez, a graduate student, finished out the panel discussion. She began by pointing out the lack of administration presence at the event — with only two deans and one associate provost present — and called for more administrative attention to be applied to the issue of diversity.The panel discussion was followed by the open forum section of the event, which allowed the students and faculty assembled to discuss the issue in depth. The forum is part of a series of campus climate discussions which have taken place this semester, hosted by the Office for Diversity and Strategic Initiatives.There will be one more open forum this semester on April 20. This forum will discuss financial aid and admissions, and will take place in the Mudd Hall of Philosophy.last_img read more