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AA&P Students Meet with Dean Kleinman

10/22/2010

On Wednesday evening, Dean Kent Kleinman held a public meeting in Sibley Hall to address a letter delivered to his office that outlined a number of grievances regarding diversity and advising. The letter provided a detailed description of the problems that have been created as a result of the college’s seemingly lackluster interest in diversity. The letter was signed by over 75 students.

During the meeting, students asked the Dean to provide a rationale for demoting the previous position of Associate Director of Diversity & Inclusiveness to Assistant Director of Diversity & Inclusiveness. The Dean explained how the position was crafted to fit into a newly developed advising unit that was created in response to a number of complaints over the years, as well as urging from the Dean’s Student Council. This sparked a number of questions about why this particular structure was chosen and how both undergraduate and graduate students would be better served by this system.

Diversifying faculty was also a topic of discussion. There were many concerns about how many professors have been unreceptive to discussing race relations in particular courses. Many students were concerned that there were no faculty that “look like them” teaching these courses. Diversity of thought was also discussed. This raised questions about the faculty hiring process, which was explained by Professor John Forrester as well as the Dean. They described hiring professors as a university wide competition that the college has been fortunate enough to win a few times.

Many students expressed the necessity of defining diversity and establishing an agreement between the administration and students to continue to discuss the issue. The Dean was hesitant to agree to drafting a “pointless document” but did agree that there should be a mission statement. The Dean also expressed the desire to allow the new system a few months of testing in order to see what the results of the changes are, if any. Students expressed some willingness to give it time, but readily expressed the imperfections of the system in terms of addressing diversity.

My sentiments are as follows: By the numbers, the college is the most “diverse” college at Cornell. However, the categories that are used are quite limited. The first priority of the college needs to be to establish a working definition of diversity. It seemed that there is a lot of focus on race. Diversity includes so much more–like religion, socioeconomic status, sexual orientation, etc.  It is clear from the discussion that diversifying the faculty needs to be a priority of the college. It should be understood that diversity and advising are intertwined. Faculty members are responsible for providing one-on-one advisory services to students. If students do not feel welcomed in the classroom, they are not likely to actively pursue relationships with faculty. It is not enough to merely say that the college is the most diverse. There needs to be adequate advising and support services for all students, not just “underrepresented minorities.” The proposed Associate Dean of Diversity & Inclusiveness that has been proposed by the students, seems to incorporate many of the characteristics that are desired by both administration and students. The position establishes a leader that can assemble a team to efficiently carry out the necessary tasks. This person could lead a committee comprised of students and faculty that has diversity and support services as its focus. Still, the discussion is not over. Students will follow up with administration within the next few weeks.

You can read the Front-Page article about this issue in the Daily Sun at the link below:

http://cornellsun.com/section/news/content/2010/10/21/students-discuss-diversity-concerns-aap-administrators

Below are the many points that were outlined by the students:

Concerns with the Director of Diversity Position

1. The current job posting concerns us for several reasons:

– The job is listed as terminal, ending after the completion of the academic year (7/31/2011 to be exact). What is the rationale behind this?

– The name of the position also shows a demotion of the issue of diversity within the college by the administration (Leon Lawrence was “Director of Diversity and Inclusiveness”, Trey Waller was “Associate Director of Diversity and Advising”, potential new person would be “Assistant Director of Diversity and Inclusiveness.”)

– The qualifications describe the job as an entry-level position (Bachelor’s with a minimum of 2-3 years experience). We are not comfortable with someone who is fresh out of college. We want someone with a Master’s degree with at least 3-5 years of experience.

2. We request that someone be hired by January to serve as the interim Director of Diversity for the Spring 2011 semester:

– An advisor is needed for the Minority Organization of Architecture, Art, and Planning (MOAPP) as well as the Cornell chapter of the National Organization of Minority Architecture Students (NOMAS)

– The challenges facing the college require someone who can focus specifically on diversity.

3. Clustering of advising, careers, and diversity:

– The clustering of the issue of diversity within the college with advising and career services worries us because of the high potential for this crucial issue to be drowned out and lost under the weight of these other programs. Placing diversity under advising and career services also shows a focus of diversity on grades, jobs, and retention but does not address the environmental issues within the college. Simply put, this position does not sound adequate enough to create any real change and address the issues of how diversity is actually viewed within the college.

4. We request that the college administration create an Associate Dean of Diversity position within AAP:

– As students of the college, we want an Associate Dean of Diversity and Inclusiveness for the College of Architecture, Art, and Planning, not just an Assistant Director. We ask that Dean Kleinman immediately begin working with the new Provost Fellow Prof. Zellman Warhaft on filling this position and addressing the need to increase the diversity of our college’s faculty.

– Diversity should be valued as a mission-critical concern in the success and longevity of AAP.

– Diversity in AAP can’t just be left to a staff person and it can’t just be one staff person that students feel comfortable talking to

– We need more diverse faculty and staff

– Graduate students also need support. They are often left to fend for themselves.

– We believe creating an Associate Dean of Diversity position can begin to address these issues.

– We suggest referring to the model established by the College of Engineering

– We want direct collaboration between the Associate Dean of Diversity and the Dean

– We want the new position to have a board composed of faculty and professors who are dedicated to confronting diversity head on in the college (hiring of new faculty and recruitment and retention of a diverse student body)

5. We want transparency and student involvement in the decision-making process:

– Any decision being made about the hiring of personnel who deal with diversity (such as Director of Diversity or an Associate Dean of Diversity) should be made clear to students

– We want student representation on any search committee (undergraduate and graduate)

– We want to be able to choose the students who are on any search committee

– Decisions regarding diversity and hiring should be made during the academic year when students are on campus and can give input

Concerns with Overall Diversity in AAP

– Environment is not conducive to the retention of students, faculty, and staff from multicultural backgrounds. We are pushing for a diversity model in the college so that the incoming hire for the position would understand the high priority of diversity in AAP.

– This is not just an issue of advising and job placement, but includes the retention and recruitment of students, faculty, and staff

– Multicultural students in AAP need a more diverse faculty and staff, not just a single point person for the college to place the large burden of addressing students’ well being in the college. We have one of the most diverse student bodies, but this diversity shrinks as you get to faculty and professors.

-Within the department of City and Regional Planning alone, two professors of color who had joint

appointments in ethnic studies department are leaving after this academic year. Who will teach classes like “Race, Space, and Place” and “Immigrant Entrepreneralship”? Can we get temporary hires to teach these classes?

– We  want to see people who look like us and who share a different perspective than what is currently being taught, teaching classes.

-Intellectual diversity is of high concern to us. We are not just referring to diversity of ethnicity; we want diversity of thought and the only way to foster that diversity of thought across the college is to incorporate diversity of background.

-There are several examples of students from the college dropping out, transferring, and taking extended leaves of absence because of the unwelcoming and at times hostile environment that they experience within the college, sometimes because of their political beliefs.

–  CRP has the only functioning diversity committee within the college. The supposed college-wide diversity committee has not even met recently. Diversity is no joking matter; it is something that is going to constantly have to be addressed by the college, which is why a diversity model/department is of the utmost importance.

-The diversity of design changes everyday; how can we expect to keep up with that change if we do not make diversity our priority?

-There seems to be a culture of insensitivity within the college.

If you have any questions, please contact Ulysses Smith at ujs3@cornell.edu

Ulysses Smith

Architecture, Art & Planning Representative

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