Administration announces creation of school's first chief diversity officer

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After years of pressure from student and faculty groups, Occidental administrators are currently in the process of developing a position for the school’s first chief diversity officer (CDO).

The hiring of the campus’s first CDO, which Dean of the College Jorge Gonzalez hopes will happen by the end of the academic year, will add Occidental to a growing list of colleges and universities with diversity officers. In the past five years alone, more than 30 schools have created CDO positions, according to a national study by researchers at the University of Connecticut and University of Michigan.

The administration first acknowledged the idea of hiring a CDO in an email from Gonzalez to the Occidental community in March. President Jonathan Veitch followed up in June with a campus-wide email to delineate the process of creating the position and finding a suitable candidate.

But members of Coalition at Oxy for Diversity and Equity (CODE), a group that has vocally advocated for a chief diversity officer for several years, expressed concerns over Veitch’s email. CODE member Kerry Sakimoto (senior) feels that Veitch’s initial letter failed to properly credit CODE for bringing the idea of a CDO to the administration’s attention.

“CODE was the origin of this information, CODE was the origin of creating this position on campus,” Sakimoto said. “I think this was something that the letter did not really address. The letter that Veitch sent out did not even mention CODE itself.”

Gonzalez, when asked, was quick to acknowledge CODE’s contributions.

“My hope is that [CODE faculty] will be a part of the committee; we are going to invite them to join the committee,” Gonzalez said. “Obviously, at the end of the day they can choose to be there or not.”

The process of hiring a CDO will involve the creation of two committees: one to develop a job description and budget framework for the position, and one to conduct a formal search once these goals have been fulfilled.

“I think we are very close to doing something that would be really good for Occidental, and I just want to guarantee that we get there,” Gonzalez said.

Gonzalez believes that the CDO will be more than just an orator. He sees the officer as someone who can coordinate different diversity initiatives across campus and lend guidance to individual efforts. Veitch, meanwhile, wants the CDO to help give students equal opportunity to engage in high-impact activities like going overseas, working at internships or conducting summer research. He hopes that planning the committee will help to identify strategies so that all Occidental students can have equal access to civic engagement.

Sakimoto hopes that the creation of this position will help CODE achieve more of its list of action items, which also includes the creation of a detailed plan to improve racial diversity and equity on campus, according to the group’s website. Sakimoto also hopes that it will push the administration to weigh diversity more heavily in its admissions techniques and faculty hiring procedures.

“I want this just to be the start of a longer conversation on diversity that will tackle a lot of the other issues that are facing this campus,” Sakimoto said.

CODE faculty members Reedy and Ford did not respond to requests for comment.