April 11-24, 2003
Back Issues
Gifts benefit arena, South Lawn projects
Diversity theme threads through board’s talks
Headlines @ U.Va.
Horrors of War

Nurse ready for deployment

Rainey 37th rector
Farrell first vice rector
Members of the Board
Board has roots in Jefferson’s vision
Faculty Senate seeks seat on board
Graduate programs hold steady
Mellon grant helps library’s preservation plan
Bill T. Jones leaps to Culbreth stage
Reiss brings Simpsons mania to U.Va.
Pavilion III Garden gets facelift
Diversity theme threads through board’s talks
Outgoing student board member H. Timothy Lovelace Jr. (seated) was honored for his work on diversity and other issues.
Photo by Peggy Harrison
Outgoing student board member H. Timothy Lovelace Jr. (seated) was honored for his work on diversity and other issues.

By Carol Wood

Last week at its quarterly meeting, the University’s Board of Visitors found itself facilitating an unplanned three-day discussion on diversity issues.

It was a theme that first unfolded in President John T. Casteen III’s opening remarks Thursday afternoon, and one that threaded throughout several key committee reports until it reached a finale Saturday morning in a thoughtful, and sometimes tense, debate.

Board members and U.Va. administrators clearly were troubled by recent events – including the reported racially motivated assault of Student Council candidate Daisy Lundy as well as an earlier “blackface” incident – their impact on the University community and what more needs to be done in response.

Groups Work in Tandem

The Board of Visitors’ special committee on diversity and President John T. Casteen III’s Commission on Diversity and Equity are intended to work in concert, but each has a specific function.

The board’s special committee, which will be chaired by Warren M. Thompson, will include evaluating efforts to promote diversity among students, faculty and administrators as well as with residents of Charlottesville and Albemarle County. The committee will meet with representatives of these groups and others and make an initial report at the board's July retreat.
Among the first areas the board’s group is expected to address are:

• The scope of efforts to promote diversity among members of the student body, faculty of all schools, staff and administrators;

• The scope of efforts to promote diversity in external relations of the University, including relations with surrounding communities and all aspects of procurement of goods and services;

• Efforts to promote understanding among all elements of the University community; and

• The appropriate role of the board in continuing oversight of diversity issues.

While the board’s committee is set to report this summer, Casteen’s commission will conduct its work over a one-year period, with a final report due May 1, 2004.

Part of the charge of the commission is to identify gaps in programs and suggest remedies for filling them, to review previous University studies on diversity and equity, to examine comparable programs elsewhere for recommendations that should be implemented and to develop a best practices model. The commission also will recommend board-level policy changes to the board's special committee.

While the board’s diversity committee and a presidential commission were launched on Day One of the meeting, and talk of additional diversity initiatives took place regarding curriculum and student life, one pointed question about suspected racism and hate crimes at the University heightened the tone Saturday morning.

Board member Terence P. Ross asked Patricia M. Lampkin, vice president for student affairs, if U.Va. wasn’t “sugarcoating” the present problem. “This is about hate crimes and hatred,” Ross said. “Part of our job is to educate students … to go to the core of what happened instead of patching it up.”

Lampkin acknowledged that over the past months she and many others at the University – including students, faculty and administrators – had similar discussions. She noted that they struggled over the definitions, as well as the scope of the problems, but concluded that the issue went well beyond race.

“There certainly are serious racial concerns,” Lampkin said, “but we are a dealing with a complex situation that must address all facets for our efforts to succeed.”

Later, Lampkin elaborated. “Diversity is the term our current students use,” she said. “Another term, multiculturalism, also incorporates race, ethnicity and religion. These are all difficult issues, and each needs to be addressed in a different manner.” Because of U.Va.’s history and recent events, she added, special attention is being paid to critical issues related to African Americans.
Over the past five months, Lampkin and others have looked at a series of long-term strategies for change, and she believes that substantial progress has been made with the help of many voices.

The board discussion leapt back and forth across the boardroom table, with Warren M. Thompson, chairman of the board’s special committee on diversity, entering in to commend students for their maturity in dealing with recent events. Outgoing student member H. Timothy Lovelace Jr. meanwhile encouraged the University to focus on declining African-American enrollment and noted that there is a perception among students that the board has a history of being inattentive to diversity issues

Gordon F. Rainey Jr., the newly elected rector whose first official act was to create the special diversity committee, stepped in to answer a question that Thompson originally posed to Lovelace and John Rodney, incoming student board member.
How, Thompson had asked, would you grade the board on diversity?

While Lovelace and Rodney offered some constructive criticism, they declined to give a letter grade.

Rainey called them “kind,” then said he ventured the board was a “C minus at best.”

Rainey said, for the second time in as many weeks, “diversity is a priority of this board … but we need to put some meat on that declaration.”

Thompson took Rainey’s comments and commitment a step further. “As a leading university in this country, we should be setting the standard, not settling for middle of the pack. … We must hold each other accountable and set goals as to where we’d like to see this institution three years from now,” he said. “I should resign if I’m not able to effect change. And if each of us takes the responsibility to set goals, we’ll see change a lot quicker.’


© Copyright 2003 by the Rector and Visitors
of the University of Virginia

UVa Home Page UVa Events Calendar Top News UVa Home Page