Ohio University hosted an open forum for students to voice opinions about the search process for the next vice president for diversity and inclusion.
All of the seats in Baker Center room 240 were filled during the forum. Jason Pina is the current interim Chief Diversity Officer. During his October inaugural address, OU President Duane Nellis announced that the position of chief diversity officer would be elevated to a vice presidency.
Charlene Aguilar and Christine Pendleton, representatives from the executive search firm Witt/Kieffer, led the discussion.
Xan Spalding, a senior studying music management and social media relations, said she wants the new vice president for diversity and inclusion to expand use of gender -neutral pronouns.
“We had a discussion in residence and housing during our spring training about how people of the majority don’t want to have the conversations because they don’t want to seem racist,” Spalding said. “If the VP could open up about these conversations, I think this could be beneficial to our campus.”
Several students said they would want the person chosen for the position to be a member of a minority group. Spalding, however, said she believes that person can be someone who does not look a “certain way.”
“I think everyone’s thoughts and opinions are valued here,” Spalding said. “Not everyone’s opinions and experiences are seen. Not everyone who is queer looks queer. Not everyone who is a person of color looks like a person of color.”
Grace Kent, a multicultural ambassador, said she wants the person to understand the experience of international students. She wants the person chosen for the role to not only challenge themselves but also the university.
“I respect the idea of diversity in a physical aspect but also a mental aspect,” Kent, a freshman studying pre-social work, said. “I would like to the next person to not only challenge themselves but the university, as well.”
McKenzie Rader, a sophomore studying special education, said she would like the university to host workshops about diversity.
“I think it would be really beneficial if the VP would work with admissions,” Rader said. “If we become more known for catering for accessibility services ... we could up our retention for those with disabilities … and thrive in Athens.”
She also said she would like the next administrator to live in Athens.
“The way they get the thirst is to live here and use the houses here,” Rader said. “I want them to invest in Athens and live here.”
Matthew Kinlow, a senior studying chemistry pre-medicine, said the person must be comfortable and conversational to students.
“They’re not afraid to have those conversations with us or be afraid to know what we really think,” Kinlow said. “They’ve got to be able to sit there and talk to students whether they’re doing work or not.”
Yazzie Agyekum, a sophomore studying broadcast journalism, is a LINKS peer mentor and an executive board member of the Black Student Cultural Programming Board. She said she would like more multicultural students to receive multicultural scholarships because she knows multicultural scholarship recipients who are not multicultural.
Other students said they would like to see more inclusion in university departments and better understanding of minority groups. Students also discussed the idea of offering internships, course credit or certificates to students who would be willing to learn more about diversity and inclusion.
Additional comments or questions about the next vice president for inclusion and diversity can be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org