graphicUniversity of Virginia
UVa Top News Daily
U.Va. News Services

Carol Wood,
(434) 924-6189

For Additional Information:
Please contact University News Services at (434) 924-7116.

Television reporters should contact the TV News Office at (434) 924-7550.

2003 News Releases
2002 News Releases
2001 News Releases

2000 News Releases
1999 News Releases

Casteen Delivers Charge to Diversity Commission
President John T. Casteen III
Photo by Ian Bradshaw

September 9, 2003

By Carol Wood

Just before Spring Break, an assault -- which included a racial element -- on a candidate for Student Council president was reported to University Police. That incident set off a chain of events that last Friday led to the first meeting of the President’s Commission on Diversity and Equity.

President John T. Casteen III delivered his charge to commission members, a diverse group of students, staff, faculty and community members, advising them "neither to fear controversy nor to compromise a single inch" when it comes to equity and fairness for every member of the student body at the University of Virginia. He asked the group to assess the quality of the student experience in all its aspects.

Casteen said that he and the Board of Visitors wants the group’s primary focus to be on students because that is where the racial hostilities have been felt strongest over the past year, and where the hardest work needs to be done. "We hope you will be able to find common ground and areas of difference . . . to study the populations from which we draw our students, and to review the rules of equity and fairness to see if they work for everyone."

In reviewing the history of the University – noting that the broader acceptance of African-American students and women came at about the same time in the early 1970s -- Casteen said the commission should give special attention to those two groups.

He acknowledged that the commission was being handed a complex task as he asked it to look not only at social environment and culture at the University, but the academic environment and culture as well. Casteen said there is more than one definition of student experience, and that the commission should be interested in knowing how different groups define it.

President John T. Casteen III’s Charge to the Commission on Diversity and Equity

The Commission on Diversity and Equity is charged with assessing the quality of the student experience within the University in all of its aspects, with special attention to experiences unique or generally germane to women and minority students. The commission will need to gauge and analyze the condition of equity within the larger community; to appraise the academic and social cultures as experienced by the University's various populations, with careful attention to matters of special concern to women and minority students; and to suggest means of identifying and addressing academic and social problems. The commission should provide models for continuous improvement in all institutions and entities that support student life, with special concern for minority populations and women. To this end, I am charging the commission with studying practices here and elsewhere, and proposing best practices (policies and strategies) to improve academic and employment opportunities for under-represented populations here--this element of the charge involves admission and retention of students as well as employment and retention of faculty members. Staff will assist the Commission in coordinating its work with that of the Board of Visitors' Committee on Diversity, in order to provide information and policy advice for the Board's committee whenever needed. The commission's eventual report should be sent in draft form to the University's General Counsel, who will review the document for legal sufficiency, and as appropriate may be able to advise the commission on alternative strategies to address concerns that may lie outside the Board of Visitors' legal authority.

Sept. 5, 2003

Creation of the President’s Commission was announced in April, at the same time the University Board announced its Special Committee on Diversity. While the work of the Board’s committee also includes efforts to promote diversity among faculty, administrators and community residents, the intention is for the groups to work closely to meet a May reporting deadline.

"The Board will be looking for a report card from you," Casteen said Friday, as he laid out his own expectations for the group. He asked commission members to look within the University for diversity programs that are working well and to build on them. At the same time, he asked that they scour the nation for examples the University might emulate, targeting models for continuous improvement in all entities that support student life.

In addition, Casteen asked the commission to review employment and retention of under-represented populations within the University’s faculty ranks. To that end, he asked the commission to study practices at the University and elsewhere, and to propose ways to improve employment opportunities.

Angela M. Davis, an associate dean and director of Residence Life, and Michael J. Smith, an associate professor of politics, will lead the commission. Both have a strong commitment to building a diverse and welcoming community at the University.

"We have not had a more important commission created at the University in some time," Casteen said, challenging the 34-member commission to create a model of excellence in higher education. "You have a rare opportunity to make real change, and you have superb and committed leadership in Angela and Michael. I have enormous confidence in both of them -- and in you."

Warren M. Thompson, chairman of the Board’s special diversity committee, attended Friday’s meeting via teleconference and said he believes the group will be able to broaden the University’s culture so that "inclusion becomes as much a part of its fabric as honor and ethics."


  Index of Archives
  Top News site edited by Dan Heuchert; maintained by Karen Asher; releases posted by Sally Barbour.
Last Modified: Wednesday January 18, 2017
© 2003 by the Rector and Visitors of the University of Virginia