UI begins search for diversity chancellor


Ashley Fu

Finalist Karen Jones, chief diversity officer from Buffalo State College, presented her speech at the Spurlock Museum.

By Ashley Fu, Staff Writer

Public presentations by candidates are underway as the University begins the hiring process for vice chancellor for diversity, equity and inclusion, a new position created at the University.

The vice chancellor’s responsibilities will include conducting Title IX investigations, making accommodations for people with disabilities, developing the University’s affirmative action program and responding to reports of discrimination and harassment.

James Anderson, dean of Education, and Danita Brown Young, vice chancellor for student affairs, are co-chairing the search committee.

“I was a student on this campus over some 50 years ago, and I think about things that have changed,” Anderson said. “When I was a student here, there was not a single student from mainland China on this campus.”

When Anderson went to graduate school, there were international students.

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    “It never occurred to me to interact with them,” he said. “It’s just like ships passing in the night; they were here. I was here. We went in separate ways.”

    The candidates’ public presentations are ongoing. Students who cannot attend the events in person can watch livestreams of their presentations.

    The candidates for the position are giving presentations on the problems universities face in terms of diversity, such as unequal access to higher education and what their goals would be if selected for the position.

    Students can share their opinions of each candidate. They can submit their opinions online or email them directly to the members of the search committee.

    Many of the candidates’ speeches and articles are published online, and students can learn more about what candidates think about issues of diversity and inclusion, Anderson said.

    Robin Kaler, associate chancellor of public affairs, said student feedback will be taken into consideration when choosing the vice chancellor.

    “We have such diversity on our campus, and my experience tells me it’s so easy for us to pass each other by and never really learn from each other,” Anderson said. “And it takes a considerate effort, thoughtful planning and a vision to change that so that we do take advantage of what is a very enriched environment.”

    Karen Jones, chief diversity officer at Buffalo State College in New York and one of the candidates, spoke at the Spurlock Museum on Nov. 8. She said she grew up in a diverse community and realized her experience was unique.

    “Some of the things I bring is a passion for this work,” Jones said. “Some of the work I hope to address in making certain that diversity isn’t just a check-the-box or a one-time fix, but is something that is sustainable and is going to take time.”

    The search for the candidates is ongoing. The newly chosen vice chancellor will likely not start in the spring semester, though he or she will be hired at the end of this semester.

    Denise O’Neil Green, vice president for equity and community inclusion at Ryerson University in Toronto, is another candidate for the position and will be presenting Thursday at 4 p.m. in the Knight Auditorium of the Spurlock Museum.

    “I’ve been a faculty here for over 40 some years. I think about my student and faculty experiences at the University of Illinois,” Anderson said. “What do we want the Illinois experience to be around these issues of inclusion?”

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