Task force to address diversity

    A newly formed task force will begin touring each UC campus to evaluate faculty diversity, marking the first step in UC President Robert C. Dynes’ plan to increase representation among the ranks of female and ethnic minority faculty.

    Headed by UCLA Associate Vice Chancellor of Faculty Diversity Rosina Becerra and composed of professors from each campus in the UC system, the 11-member task force will begin its campuswide tour at UCLA on Oct. 11. The committee will spend two days at each campus reviewing department hiring practices and possible obstacles in the promotion and retention of faculty and staff, according to the UC Diversity Task Force Web site. The committee will address topics through a variety of methods, including listening to faculty members’ opinions and suggestions.

    “[The] UC understands that in order to fulfill its mission as a steward of one of the most diverse states in the union, it must make sure its faculty can meet the educational needs of an increasingly diverse student body,” UC Office of the President spokeswoman Jennifer Ward said.

    Dynes said that in order to remain competitive, UC campuses must recruit and retain underrepresented minority and female faculty members.

    “Over the last two decades, UC has made measurable progress to improve diversity in its ladder-rank faculty,” the task force Web site quotes Dynes as saying. “However, there is much more work to be done.”

    According to Ward, over the next five to 10 years, up to one-third of current UC faculty members will reach retirement age. She said that the task force’s work is “crucial, opportune and timely,” because “the UC will have the opportunity to recruit and hire an unprecedented number of faculty.”

    The task force has no authority to create or enforce any policy decisions for the university, according to Ward, and will in no way interfere with Proposition 209. The voter-approved initiative, passed in 1996, outlaws preferential treatment on the basis of race, sex, color, ethnicity or national origin by government agencies.

    “They are just looking at who makes up our faculty,” Ward said. “From whatever way you are looking at it, no one is talking about affirmative action.”

    Although, in recent years, the university has shown an upward trend in faculty diversity, only approximately 20 percent of current full-time faculty members — including associate and assistant professors — are minorities. Similarly, women make up approximately 24 percent of university faculty, according to 2001-02 UCOP statistics.

    The task force will present a preliminary report to UC chancellors at the completion of its work, expected in early 2006. Dynes will then convene a systemwide summit looking at issues raised by the report.

    “It’s the kind of challenge that will require multiple approaches,” Becerra said in a UCLA press release. “It’s not a top-down thing — leadership can’t do it alone, and faculty can’t do it alone. It has to be seen by everyone as a goal worth achieving.”

    Becerra and other Task Force members will visit UCSD Nov. 15 and 16.

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