Diversity forums continue as UT gathers campus, community input

February 3, 2016 | UToday
By Jon Strunk

After a half-dozen open forums and focus groups attended by hundreds of UT students, employees and community members designed at generating conversations about diversity at The University of Toledo, Dr. Willie McKether is beginning to see a picture of the path before him.

Tapped by UT President Sharon L. Gaber in November to serve as special assistant to the president for diversity and to coordinate the development of a University-wide diversity strategic plan, McKether will conclude his initial, qualitative outreach that will be added to formal surveys sent to the campus community in the weeks ahead.

“We’ve heard clearly that members of the UT and Toledo communities look to The University of Toledo to play a leadership role in educating its students and graduates to see the world through a lens that recognizes diverse perspectives,” McKether said.

“This is a role we embrace,” he said. “As we speak to our constituents, it is clear this institution is doing important work to enhance a culture that embraces diversity and inclusion. But it is also clear that we’ve fallen behind in some areas, and we need to ensure no one feels left behind or excluded because they are unique.”

The University’s commitment to the process goes all the way to the top of the organization.

“A diversity of views and opinions at the leadership level is essential to this University’s ability to navigate the opportunities and challenges facing UT and all of higher education,” Gaber said.

“That is why trustees and I see this strategic diversity planning process as so critical. It will inform and strengthen everything from hiring practices to the enrollment of minority students and the recruitment of minority faculty, staff and researchers,” Gaber said.

UT Board Chair Sharon Speyer shares Gaber’s perspective that the entire institution should be engaged in this endeavor. As a result, Speyer has asked that Trustee Gary Thieman be appointed to McKether’s Diversity Plan Advisory Committee, which includes students, faculty, staff and community members, to provide regular two-way communication between the board and the committee. Speyer will serve as an alternate to ensure that there is consistent representation from the board.

“I’ve also asked Dr. McKether to present an update on the process and his findings in the weeks ahead,” Speyer said. “Diversity and inclusion are at the very core of UT’s values, and this board recognizes the institutional strength that can be created through that commitment.”

Speyer also reiterated the board’s belief that diverse representation on the Board of Trustees is important as it brings perspective and strength to that governing body. She expressed hope that the governor’s office will fill the two vacancies with qualified candidates that expand the representation of the UT campus community.

Additional Campus Conversations on Diversity for students and staff will be held: 

• For students on Wednesday, Feb. 3, from 6 to 8 p.m. in Health Education Building Room 100 on Health Science Campus; and

• For staff on Thursday, Feb. 4, from noon to 2 p.m. in Health Education Building Room 103 on Health Science Campus.

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