President Creates Task Force for Diversity
Issue   |   Tue, 02/09/2016 - 23:52

The Presidential Task Force on Diversity and Inclusion held its inaugural meeting on Friday, Feb. 5. President Biddy Martin created the task force to review and help implement the diversity initiatives recommended by the strategic plan, Amherst Uprising and other sources.

The group’s goals include coordinating efforts in diversity and inclusion across academic and administrative lines and increasing communication among those organizations, Martin said in an email interview. She said that the idea came to her last summer as the administration geared up to implement the strategic plan published in June.

The task force currently has 15 members: six professors, four students, one coach, interim director of the Multicultural Resource Center Adrianna Turner ’14, director of financial planning and analysis Katie Edwards ’87, Dean of the Faculty Catherine Epstein and Chief Student Affairs Officer Suzanne Coffey.

Martin said a special characteristic of the task force is that “it is composed of representatives not only from key administrative offices, but also from major governance groups, staff groups and students active in promoting inclusion.”

Members of the task force are responsible for relaying information to the groups they represent. The task force plans to meet on a weekly basis throughout the rest of the academic year.

“I am hopeful that the task force will bring more attention and action towards building an integrated and positive community at Amherst for all members,” said Edwards, who represents the college’s Managers Council, a staff organization comprised of heads of administrative departments.

The written charge of the task force encourages keeping the membership capped at 13, but that number has proven flexible in the past week. Members were appointed by various means, including direct appointment by the president and dean of the faculty and independent selection by the on-campus organizations and constituencies.

The charge of the task force also requires that it be led by the college’s chief diversity officer. However, because that position has been vacant since the resignation of Mariana Cruz on Oct. 6, Martin plans to lead the task force until a new chief diversity officer is appointed. Currently, Turner, the interim director of the Multicultural Resource Center, sits on the task force.

At the first meeting on Friday, members discussed ways to maintain regular communication between the task force and the college community.

“It was a very helpful meeting that focused on people’s hopes for what the task force will achieve and on the importance of communications between the task force and the campus as a whole,” Martin said.