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UA ramps up efforts to address diversity concerns with Diversity Task Force

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Jesús Treviño, UA’s senior diversity officer, started working on inclusive excellence in August 2016. Now, not even a year later, he said the UA is moving the fastest he’s ever seen.

So far, 20 diversity committees have been created across colleges and vice presidential administrative areas, though Treviño said a few were in place previously and a few colleges didn’t get the email about putting together a committee, placing them behind.

The committees are part of Treviño’s strategy. Eventually, there will be committees for every part of campus. They’ll make diversity plans to post online over summer, to be implemented next fall.

“We’re not starting at point zero,” Treviño said. “Diversity work was being done on this campus before I arrived as a result of the student protests last spring. I came in with this concept, which fits in really nicely, and it’s amazing. I use the metaphor of a train that’s left the station. I came in and I’m sort of chasing it with inclusive excellence, but I’m catching up.”

Being an inclusive excellence university means holding the entire campus responsible for diversity and inclusiveness, as opposed to just hiring a diversity officer and giving everyone else a pass, Treviño said.

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“We’re using a broad definition of diversity that goes beyond race and ethnicity and includes gender, sexual orientation, disability and many others,” Treviño said. “Ultimately, it’s about embedding diversity and inclusiveness into everything we do.”

Treviño is looking at marketing, tenure, fundraising, hiring and even traditions. Friday, Treviño and his office started a new tradition: an Inclusive Excellence Symposium they hope will become annual. This year, registration was only open three days before it filled completely.

Tannya Gaxiola, co-chair of the Diversity Task Force and assistant vice president for community relations and chair of the Diversity Coordinating Council, said the response to Treviño’s work has been overwhelmingly positive.

“Judging by the opening event of the Diversity Symposium this morning where the room was completely packed, there’s a lot of energy and excitement,” Gaxiola said. “That response is making me feel really confident about the long-term success.”

However, she said she realizes most progress will be very long-term.

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“It’s really about systemic change,” Gaxiola said. “That takes time. It won’t happen in a month or a semester. We can make progress in the short term, but we have to stay focused on it. We have to get used to embedding inclusive excellence in everything we do.”

Lynn Nadel, regents’ professor and faculty chair, also said true progress will require sustained action, focus and tough choices by senior leadership, as change is uncomfortable and can elicit unthinking reactions.

“I hope for the long-term that we as a community will stay focused on the important goals that were set out at the outset and not get bogged down in momentary delays, setbacks or misunderstandings,” Nadel said. “We are trying to make certain that at the UA diversity is supported and valued, and that all members of the UA community are treated with respect at all times, by everyone. Making this happen isn’t easy.”

While it will be difficult, Treviño said the UA has what it takes.

“I haven’t encountered any resistance at all,” Treviño said. “Part of it is because both the provost and the president, when I was hired, liked the concept of inclusive excellence. There’s a lot of willingness on the campus, and I sensed that when I applied for the job. You cannot put a value on that.”

Treviño said he believes the new president will be just as supportive and is also working on inclusive excellence with the school of medicine, Phoenix and UA South.


Follow Marissa Heffernan on Twitter.



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