College Begins Search for New Chief Diversity Officer
Issue   |   Wed, 11/11/2015 - 01:42

Students and staff convened in the Multicultural Resource Center in Keefe Campus Center on Nov. 2 to discuss the ongoing search for a new chief diversity officer for the college. Bud Moseley, a search consultant with the firm Isaacson, Miller, facilitated the discussion. Moseley said the purpose of the meeting was to give him a better sense of the needs of the Amherst College community.

The search began when Mariana Cruz resigned as interim chief diversity officer in early October. Since then, Mosely has been working with the college to find someone to fill the position. In addition to the school-wide meeting, he also met privately with staff members and representatives of several student groups.

The chief diversity officer oversees the Multicultural Resource Center, the Queer Resource Center and the Women’s and Gender Center. Dean of Students Alex Vasquez said the officer will also work on recruitment of faculty and staff, student support and diversity-related programming. Other responsibilities will be defined once a new chief diversity is hired.

At the meeting on Nov. 2, Mosely asked students about their expectations for a chief diversity officer. Students voiced concerns about a wide range of issues on campus relating to mental health, race, ethnicity, class and gender, among other topics.

Ruth Manazares ‘18 expressed concern with the place of first-generation students on campus.

“First-gen students are at a disadvantage in not only the fact that they are some of the first people in their family to go to college, but by the fact that they are the first to come to a school of the rigorous and stressful nature of Amherst College. Additionally, professors are not understanding of work-study and other class and economic issues,” Manazares said. “How does the CDO plan to support them, especially as the first-generation population is growing?”

Rosie Rohling ’18 spoke about the need for better mental health services, particularly for students, staff and faculty of color. Rohling identified the small number of people of color working in the counseling department and the high attrition rate of faculty of color as possible issues for the chief diversity oficer to address.

Iris Garcia ’18 said the officer should be willing to reach out to those who are not currently engaged in important conversations and have the ability to talk to a diverse range of people.

“I think it’s important to have a chief diversity officer who appreciates and values the immense intersectionality of our campus and knows how to communicate that intersectionality,” Garcia said.

Joe Prive ’16 said he hoped the concerns of veterans and transfer students would be considered in conversations about diversity. He said Amherst should follow the efforts of peers like Wesleyan and Vassar in trying to admit more veteran students.

“I know admissions has taken steps, but clearly sufficient resources aren’t being allocated,” he said.

Also at the meeting were Vasquez, Angie Tissie and Adriana Turner ’14. Tissi currently leads the Queer Resource Center and Women’s and Gender Center, and Turner is the interim director for the Multicultural Resource Center.

“A good CDO will need to be a great listener and someone who can very quickly and systematically get to know our community, our students, and our culture,” Vasquez said in an interview.

Tissi said she could not speak on behalf of the Queer Resource Center and Women’s and Gender Center, but she did discuss her own views about the new officer in an interview.

“I would like to see a new CDO that provides educational opportunities that increases awareness, understanding, and action around how different systems of oppression operate on campus,” Tissi wrote in an email. She said she hoped the diversity officer could bring awareness to microaggressions and to how privilege operates on campus.

Vasquez said students will continue to play an active role in the search process. Some students have been appointed to a search committee, and more students will participate in on-campus interviews with finalists in the spring.

Vasquez expects the position to be filled by early summer 2016.