Feb. 25-March 2, 2000
"Charting Diversity" conference speakers encourage inclusiveness
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"Charting Diversity" conference speakers encourage inclusiveness

By Anne Bromley and Dan Heuchert

Debates about affirmative action often escalate into extreme rhetoric, pushing people into a corner they really don't want to occupy, President John T. Casteen III observed in his remarks opening the two-day "Charting Diversity" conference at U.Va. Feb. 18. The University's year-long study of diversity issues, which began with the conference, should be a more analytic than emotional exercise, he said.

"If we're going to survive as a democracy, we're going to have to find ways to understand each other better."

Sylvia Hurtado University of Michigan

"During this year of reflection, we seek to understand our community" and the legal issues, Casteen said, with the goal of mapping a plan of action aimed at inclusiveness.

On Friday, eight diversity experts from other universities provided a national context for considering the issues and discussed approaches taken at their schools.

In his summation of the first day, Darden School Dean Edward A. Snyder urged conference participants to look for easily achieved steps to make an immediate impact, in addition to longer-term plans.

He also suggested that they spend their time looking forward, not backward. "I don't think we should spend a lot of energy trying to decide how good we are, how mediocre we are or how bad we are," he said. "The issue is progress."

On Saturday, eight roundtable groups comprising U.Va. students, faculty and administrators each discussed one of the following topics: community; curriculum and pedagogy; faculty and staff recruitment, hiring, retention and promotion; governance and leadership; physical space and environmental assessment; policy and procedure; student development; and student recruitment, enrollment, retention and graduation.

The next step will be for the roundtable leaders to meet with the conference organizers: Curry School professor Linda K. Bunker, Glenna C. Chang, assistant dean of students, and Karen Holt, director of Equal Opportunity Programs. They'll compare notes and figure out how they're going to tackle each of the issues, Holt said.

"We've gotten really good feedback from some of those who attended Friday's sessions," she said. Every speaker has been mentioned as someone's favorite, which shows the importance of having many viewpoints, Holt added.


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