Diversity on Campus | Teachers College Columbia University

Skip to content Skip to main navigation

Diversity on Campus

The undeniable reality is that the United States is becoming a more diverse nation-racially, ethnically, religiously and just about any other way one can imagine. As never before, we are inextricably intertwined in a global society. In terms of race, minority populations make up a majority of residents in one state.
by Authur Levine, President of Teachers College The undeniable reality is that the United States is becoming a more diverse nation-racially, ethnically, religiously and just about any other way one can imagine. As never before, we are inextricably intertwined in a global society. In terms of race, minority populations make up a majority of residents in one state. Five out of seven of the largest U.S. cities have majority-minority populations. Pundits estimate that by the year 2050 the U.S. will be a minority-majority nation. In terms of religion, there are more Muslims, Hindus, and Buddhists in the United States than Lutherans or Episcopalians. In terms of ethnicity, it is not unusual to find urban school systems in which students speak more than 70 languages. This year my report focuses on diversity and higher education. As the population of the United States changes and the position of the United States evolves as a member of a global information-based society, our colleges and universities are being faced with the imperative of educating a dramatically different student body for a world which is being transformed. Diversity in every aspect of higher education-people, programs, pedagogies, and outcomes-is challenging the very being of this nation's colleges and universities. Yet, diversity is a subject we are unable to discuss on most campuses. In fact, I can think of no more painful issue in all of higher education today, one that mirrors the angst in the larger society. Diversity is a word that summons powerful emotions and strong language, which is an anathema in an academic world, which commits itself to rational discourse. We live in an age in which the dirty words on college campuses are no longer four letters; they are at least six letters-racist, sexist, and homophobic. No one wants to be called these things or to be subjected to the harsh attacks, which so often seem to accompany disagreements over diversity. So it has frequently seemed the wiser course to ignore or at least attempt to duck the issue of diversity and hope that it will go away. This issue of diversity has become far more than just another campus concern. In point of fact, colleges and universities are intentional learning communities. If they are unable to deal with diversity successfully, what hope is there for our students and graduates to live and work in a diverse global society? What hope is there for our unintentional society to grapple with the issue constructively? The United States will surely be viewed in the world by how well we, as a nation, respond to the diversity challenge. And, of course, if colleges and universities are not successful or simply choose not to act, the vacuum will be filled by political leaders rather than the educators, as is increasingly the case today. The Meaning of Diversity The academy does not agree on what diversity means or how it should be achieved. To be more precise, over the past four decades, the term has taken on a number of different, competing, even conflicting meanings, often on the same campus. Several years ago, during a study of race relations on college campuses, I interviewed the presidents of 14 very different institutions. I asked them whether diversity was an important issue at their colleges. Most said yes. I next asked them to define the term diversity and to explain the specific goals this entailed for their campuses. In general, the president's had a hard time with the question. There was a good deal of rhetoric, circumlocution, and imprecision in language. Neither the presidents, nor their institutions had a clear sense of what they meant by diversity, but what emerged from the conversations were four rather distinct notions of diversity and associated activities. The first, very much a product of the 1960s and the civil rights movement, was the need to admit more minority students to college. While the desire to recruit more minorities was a continuing theme in the 1990s, the goals, with regard to "more," have changed since the sixties. Originally minority students meant blacks, but more recently it has come to mean any underrepresented population ranging across race, religion, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, disability, nationality, and more. The initial focus was on students, but has since expanded to include staff, faculty, administrators, and trustees. And the idea of greater minority presence on campus has shifted from just increasing numbers to achieving numbers comparable to minority populations in a defined community or society meaningful to a particular institution. A second set of diversity goals, developed in the 1970s, is support or retention of minority populations. This was described by the presidents as either a supplement to recruiting more minorities or a next step beyond. The aim was to provide the "new" populations on campus with the sustenance needed to remain in college, mechanisms for reducing minority attrition and closing the revolving door of recruitment and drop out. This translated into a cornucopia of activities including compensatory services, financial aid, counseling, support groups, extracurricular activities, special residential units, and academic programs in areas such as Afro-American and women's studies. A third diversity goal, very much a product of the late 1970s and early '80s, is integration. The aim is to incorporate historically underrepresented groups, which have become segregated, isolated or marginalized on campus, into the larger collegiate population. This has involved the creation of orientation programs for minority populations and, less frequently, majority students, the adoption of general education diversity requirements, and a variety of extracurricular activities focusing on themes like conflict resolution and tolerance training. A fourth and final notion of diversity, which emerged in the late 1980s and continues into the present, is pluralism or multiculturalism. Here the aim is to create a balance between commonalities and differences in the people who make up the college community, in essence celebrating both each and all. This extends across an entire campus embracing the intellectual, emotional and physical needs of students, faculty, and staff as well as the scholarly, curricular, extracurricular, support and service programs of the college. The goal is equity among diverse cultures and commonality across them with an ideal of a balance between pluribus and unum. These four sets of goals mark distinct periods in the histories of the United States and higher education. They entail fundamentally different notions of diversity. In the first two instances, as originally conceived, the population of minorities is small and diversity is thought of as an add-on to existing higher education. The focus is on providing opportunity to previously excluded populations. There is little or no thought of what the addition of diverse populations might mean to collegiate life. Campus life is expected to go on unchanged. In the third instance, the minority population has grown, and must be grafted into the existing college community. The aim is to be aware of differences among populations attending college, but the emphasis is still principally on maintaining unum, the previously existing commonalities the community shared. Within this context, new populations are to be recognized and made to feel at home. The fourth is rooted in further increases in minority populations and the rise of a growing number of groups defined as minority. It recognizes both commonality and difference and seeks to create a new community culture, which incorporates both. These differences remind me most of the progression of my role at the annual family Thanksgiving dinner. At first, I was told to sit at the children's table, attending the meal, but apart from the grownups. As I obtained my majority, I was invited to sit at the grownups' table as an adult member of the family. Today as my generation replaces our parents in hosting the meal I now help to determine the meal, and the invitation list. In short, our notions of diversity are contradictory and inconsistent. The nation's colleges are attempting to achieve in varying degrees all four of the diversity goals, though the presidential conversations focused largely on the first two. Over the past four decades, institutions of higher education proceeded to adopt each of the diversity agendas in turn, rarely completing any one and simply moving onto the next as demanded by the times. The result is a set of incomplete and incompatible diversity initiatives and conflicting purposes on most of America's college campuses. The issue is so controversial and the environment so heated that few campuses have sorted out the pieces or defined their goals for diversity. The most striking finding of the 14-college study was the lack of long-range systematic planning or even thinking with regard to diversity. This was not a surprise since few of the institutions were operating with clear definitions of what they meant by diversity or why they wanted to achieve diversity on campus. There was a tendency to think of diversity as a problem - a political problem - rather than an opportunity to shape an institution's future. Accordingly, the focus was generally on quick fixes. Diversity on Campus The Extracurriculum In visits to college campuses over the past decade, despite the lack of clear definitions of diversity, life outside the classroom is a feast, varying in magnitude by school size, of diversity days, weeks, lectures, meetings, exhibits, clubs, theme dormitories, resource centers, counselors, publications, events, and meals. A study of chief student affairs officers at a representative sample of 270 colleges and universities, Jeanette Cureton and I conducted in 1997 (Levine and Cureton, 1998, p.59) showed that no type of student organization is growing more quickly on campuses today than diversity groups, support and advocacy organizations focused on particular student populations. Seven out of every ten colleges and universities (69%) reported increases in membership during the 1990s. The modern roots of such organizations stretch back to the 1960s and the rise of black student associations. According to studies conducted by the Carnegie Council, by 1969 almost half of all colleges (46%) in the country had an Afro-American organization. In the 1970s, the focus shifted to gender, and students began creating women's groups. Although the number of black student groups rose slightly, the number of campuses with women's groups reached almost half (48%) by 1978. In the 1980s and 1990s, groups concerned with other races, ethnicity, sexual orientation and disabilities mushroomed. Native American clubs (27%) and Latino groups (43%) doubled. Gay and lesbian clubs more than tripled (40%). The presence of such groups on a campus was directly related to size and selectivity. The larger and more selective a campus the greater the number of such groups (p.58-59). The bottom line is that there is probably greater diversity in campus activities than ever before, but each activity in the words of the student affairs officers "appeals to smaller pockets of students." Deans of students regularly said "there is less large-group socializing," "groups have become more specialized and so have their activities," and "more people are doing things individually and in separate groups than campus wide (Levine, A. and Cureton, J. When Hope and Fear Collide, Jossey-Bass, San Francisco, 1998, p.101-102). In the extracurriculum, student differences loom far larger than their commonalities. And divisions are multiplying. Two items worthy of note are that although there were enough diversity activities in the extracurriculum to fill the typical student's days and nights, faculty were almost entirely uninvolved in this aspect of collegiate life. One chief student affairs officer described her campus as the equivalent of "Lord of the Flies-no adults after 5 p.m." Further when one student was asked what she thought of the amazing array of diversity activities, her answer was that it was "not real; If it was, it would be part of the curriculum." The Curriculum With regard to curriculum, competing claims boom loud. Some say the college curriculum has been largely impermeable to diversity: that it remains unalterably Eurocentric, offering a dead, white, male, Western curriculum and ignoring, or at best marginalizing, diversity concerns. Others say that colleges and universities have sold their souls in the name of diversity; that higher education has abandoned the western canon and rushed willy-nilly into embracing non-Western, ethnic and gender studies. In a study of a representative sample of 196 colleges, Jeanette Cureton and I found both claims to be incorrect. We learned that more than a third of all colleges (34%) had a general education diversity requirement. At least a third offered coursework in ethnic and gender studies. More than half (54%) of all institutions introduced diversity into their departmental offerings. A majority sought to increase the diversity of their faculty. Half of all colleges had advising programs targeted at diverse populations. More than a third (35%) of all colleges and universities had diversity research centers and institutes. The conclusion of the study was that the sheer quantity of activity belies the notion that the curriculum has been impermeable to diversity. On the other hand, the character of the changes, largely add-ons rather than replacements or substitutes, makes untenable the idea that the traditional canon is being abandoned. Put simply, what it adds up to is this: diversity in varying degrees, is part of the curriculum of a majority of the nation's colleges. There has been a quiet revolution in the curriculum of the nation's colleges. But like the term diversity, it has not been systematic or clearly defined. In both the curriculum and the co-curriculum, it has occurred more by accretion than by design. It has also been uneven, affecting some sectors of higher education more than others-four-year schools more than two-year colleges, research universities to a greater extent than other four year colleges, and public institutions over private. The result is a curriculum that is a grab bag of diversity initiatives in which the whole may be less than the sum of the parts. (Levine, A. and Cureton, J. "The Quiet Revolution: Eleven Facts About Multiculturalism and the Curriculum" Change, January/ February, 1992, p. 25-29). The Campus Community Students Students do not want to talk about diversity. In group interviews conducted on 28 college and university campuses between 1992 and 1997, students were more willing to talk about intimate details of their sex lives than to discuss race relations on campus. In fact, when asked about race relations at their college, the usual response in heterogeneous focus groups was silence, their body language changed, smiles vanished, and students stared at the table rather than talking to each other. What followed was either a long painful conversation with many long pauses or an attempt to gloss over the topic. In homogeneous groups, the response was very different. Minority students talked about feeling like unwelcome guests on campus. There were endless stories-a Vietnamese student being asked to help with calculus homework, but never being invited to go shopping; a Hispanic student often being asked for the Hispanic perspective in class and feeling she is only one person, not the universal Hispanic; and a black student, from one of the most affluent suburbs in the United States, being questioned about what its like to grow up in a ghetto. Minority students regularly complained that people called them by each other's names, even though one was short and thin and the other tall and fat. All they shared in common was skin color. Among whites, responses varied by 180 degrees from rejection, feeling that race or other diversity issues had already been dealt with during the civil rights movement to a wish for engagement and a sense of tremendous guilt, but the most common feelings expressed were confusion and uncertainty. There are large divisions between college students, which are exacerbated by four characteristics of current undergraduates. First, they think of themselves in terms of their differences rather than their commonalities. In a previous study of undergraduates I conducted in 1979, when students were asked to describe themselves, they focused on the commonalities their generation shared such as being materialistic or career oriented. In contrast, current students, when asked the same question, emphasized the things that made them unique. The story that stands out is of a Korean student who said he never thought about the fact that he was Asian until he came to college. He realized in his freshman year that being Asian was the most important aspect of his being. By his junior year, the fact that he was Korean became his primary self-descriptor. The second characteristic that stands out is mitosis among students. Their differences are becoming larger and more significant. For example, on one campus I visited there was a business club which divided into more than a dozen different groups-a women's business club, a Latino business club, a disabled student business club, a gay student business club and so on. What this means is that for a generation that defines itself in terms of difference, students are making finer and finer distinctions between themselves and others. This, in part, explains the proliferation of diversity groups on campus and the decline in attendance in campus-wide social events. The third characteristic is a separation between students based upon their differences. Walk into almost any college cafeteria and you find that students are sitting at tables with people of the same ethnicity, race, or difference they find important. There are two very interesting exceptions-athletes and students in theater. These are groups in which students must get past their differences if they are to work effectively. A bit of a digression here-many colleges offer students racial awareness orientation sessions. These highlight differences and, in general, got poor reviews from students in our studies. It may be better to capitalize on the experience of athletes and theater students and give new students highly interactive, interdependent activities which force them to abandon stereotypes, cross boundaries of difference, and get to know each other. The voluntary sense of segregation on campus, while real, is systematically overestimated by students. In the course of the research on contemporary students, we attended campus parties and asked white students how many black students had attended. They said, black students don't attend our events. We asked them to guess the number who attended anyway. The guess was 10; the reality was closer to 50. We did the same with campus speakers. At an event sponsored by the Asian student association, we asked how many white students attended. Again the response was white students don't attend our events. Once again the guess was a handful and the reality was that about a third of the audience was Caucasian. This speaks to a situation in which students either do not socialize even when in close proximity or they are so used to segregation on campus they do not even perceive socializing when it occurs. The fourth characteristic is a sense of victimization. That is, a belief that someone on campus is getting something I am not, and I am being made to pay the cost for providing that thing. This attitude was found only among certain groups of students - men and women, majorities and minorities, rich and poor students. Everyone thinks, I am being disadvantaged to the advantage of other people. The chief student affairs officer surveys in 1992 and 1997 showed a majority of four-year colleges (54%) experienced a rise in the feeling of victimization among students during the late 1980s and early 1990s. Another 41 percent reported an increase between 1992 and 1997. In short, current college students think of themselves more in terms of their differences than similarities. The number of differences between them are multiplying and the degree of interaction between diverse groups of students is being systematically underestimated. All of this occurs in a context in which individuals believe people unlike them are benefiting at their expense. At its best this speaks to an increasingly balkanized campus community in which the zone of tolerance or indifference to offense grows increasingly small. At its worst, the danger is a more and more Hobbesian world, a campus in which each battles against all for resources and places in the curriculum and extracurriculum. Administrators Diversity is an issue that frightens college and university administrators. Prior to coming to Teachers College, I directed a management-training program for senior higher education administrators. As part of this program, each summer I taught 95 presidents, vice presidents, and deans a case study on the politics of a student effort to get a women's studies program adopted at a small liberal arts college. I divided the class into three groups - one-third role-played the leading student advocate, another third played the key faculty opponent, and the final third played the academic dean on whose desk the problem landed. Year after year, I would turn to the group playing the administrator and ask in your heart of hearts what do you want to see happen with this issue. Regardless of the race, gender, or age of the person I asked, the answer was usually the same. "I want it to go away." The 14 college presidents I interviewed responded in much the same fashion when asked about diversity. The reason is not that they are bad people. The reason is that college presidents are hired to solve problems, not to create them. Diversity is a Pandora's box. Once opened who knows what will pop out? It is easier to keep the lid closed and handle the issues and complaints on the subject as they arise, one by one. If the Bosnian students want Bosnian food in the cafeteria, this is easily done. If the Croatian students want a wing in a residence hall, theme dorms are certainly an option. If the Slovenian students want a Slovenian studies program, a committee can be created to study the subject. The problem is this. At one campus, there was a Puerto Rican studies program. The Dominican students wanted a Dominican studies program. The president proposed a Caribbean studies program. It was flatly rejected by all quarters. The issue of diversity simply cannot be handled problem by problem, Band-Aid by Band-Aid. Institutions must know where they are going and presidents must lead. A clear definition is the yardstick for determining which new efforts are good, better, or best. A comprehensive plan is superior to piecemeal decisions. In the main, however, presidents have handed off the diversity agenda to their Chief Student Affairs Officer. The delegation goes something like this. The president calls the student affairs dean or vice president into his or her office and says, "Today I am giving you a very important assignment, our institutional diversity portfolio, but I have great confidence in you to do this critical job well. In fact, I have so much confidence in you that you never have to report back to me on this issue ever again." Seriously, the student affairs divisions have been responsible for the extraordinary number of extracurricular diversity activities, the creation of orientation and diversity training programs, and the hiring of the highest proportion of minorities in professional positions on most campuses. If student affairs had not filled the void, there is no evidence that any other group on campus would have. But student affairs cannot do the job alone. Faculty The faculty is the group least active in the diversity agenda campus-wide. There are, of course, notable exceptions. The pull and push of the diversity issue on campus is largely between students and administrators. Faculties because of their specialized and atomistic nature, increasing as campus size and research orientation rise, are difficult to engage. It is easier for diversity to fall below the individual faculty member's radar screen. One cynical commentator interviewed said it is almost as if there were an unspoken agreement between administrators and faculty to ignore the issue. The low numbers of minority faculty on most campuses also diminishes the level of concern. Colleges and universities have hired too few minority faculty and their turnover rates have been high. There are relatively few tenured minority faculty nationwide and junior minority faculty, burdened by heavy advising and committee loads, have a disappointingly low rate of obtaining tenure. The simple fact is that schools with critical masses of minority faculty make diversity a more visible campus issue, reduce the level of complacency or indifference by the community, provide models for students and everyone else on campus, and have a better record of action on diversity issues. The effect of minority faculty on the curriculum can be observed just by walking through the college bookstore. Another reason for low faculty involvement in the diversity agenda is fear. One white faculty member, a historian, told me he wanted to teach Afro-American history, which was not being offered, but he was afraid. Would minority students accept him? Would faculty colleagues view ethnic studies as a second class field? Would it hurt his chances for promotion? In the end, he found more reasons not to teach the class than to offer it. The fact is that there are few incentives for faculty involvement. However, campuses report even small incentives can make a big difference-money for faculty development seminars, curriculum design, and start-up research projects. This has produced the cornucopia of curricular developments described earlier. If targeted, the results can be far more systematic and strategic, particularly if tied to institutional comprehensive plans. Also effective has been rewarding departments which successfully recruit a minority faculty member with an additional position, which is difficult for smaller schools with more limited resources. Conclusion The situation of higher education with regard to diversity is not unique. It mirrors the way colleges and universities usually respond to the new. Take science, for example. The initial response in the eighteenth century was rejection. "Modern" science did not belong at a college. It was nonacademic, merely mechanics. Eventually Harvard and Yale, faced with the enormous success and enrollment growth of scientific schools like Union College and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, gave in and created separate scientific schools. These schools were located at the periphery of their campuses. Their students were perceived to be much less able than traditional students. And so were their faculty. These schools were thought of and treated as second rate. What then followed was a period of political correctness. Darwin published Origin of the Species and evolution was born. The problem was that American colleges were generally founded as religious institutions and evolution did not sound like seven days of creation. The answer was simple. Faculty on campuses from Yale to Vanderbilt were fired or encouraged to change their ways when found to be teaching evolution. After decades on campus, the traditional faculty and disciplines came to better know the sciences, which had professionalized and developed as a field. They borrowed from the sciences, including the methodology for conducting research. The sciences relocated physically from the periphery to the heart of the campus. And everyone lived happily ever after (in academic fashion anyway). The problem today is that we do not have the decades it has taken in the past for academe to adapt to the new. The problem is that unlike science, diversity is personal. It is about you and me and therefore urgent. Moreover, it is a heated social issue in our nation. It is the stuff we hear about everyday in the media-the police shooting of an unarmed and innocent man in New York City, the discriminatory practices of a fast food chain, the murder of a gay college student because of his sexual preferences, the dragging death of a black man because of his skin color, taxi drivers refusing to pick up black and Hispanic passengers, and the police stopping blacks randomly on highways, called racial profiling. The list goes on and on. The fact of the matter is that any issue, which is heated, is likely to boil over on campus. Today diversity is the largest cause of student unrest at colleges and universities accounting for 39 percent of student protests according to the student affairs study. Finally, the press is concerned with both the issues of diversity and what goes on in higher education. When science was crawling its way through the long, long acceptance process in higher education, the media could not have cared less because no one attended college - far less than 1 percent of the eligible population. When 65 percent of high school graduates go on to college, as is the case today, what happens on campus is big news. Put simply, we do not have the luxury of time with regard to diversity. We need to act. Our situation is this. · The meaning of diversity is poorly defined. · Goals for diversity are unclear and conflicting. · Most colleges and universities lack comprehensive and systematic plans for achieving diversity. · Presidents are not providing adequate leadership. · Students are divided and tension around diversity is high. · Faculty involvement is low. · Student affairs is inappropriately being asked to assume responsibility for the diversity agenda. · The curriculum is a grab bag of unplanned diversity initiatives. · The extracurriculum, though rich in diversity activities, lacks intellectual depth, is largely unconnected with the academic side of higher education, and is largely ignored by the faculty. · Academic culture has grown weak and fails to provide colleges and universities with a shared set of beliefs and values that go beyond the differences that divide people. · Campuses are unable to discuss the issue of diversity. Discourse is dominated by two small, but vociferous groups-one yelling that diversity has eclipsed all other aspects of college life and the other shouting that colleges remain impervious to diversity. Meanwhile, the rest of the campus community attempts to avoid the issue. In this environment, a climate of political correctness prevails. · As such, colleges and universities are unable to persuasively explain to the public their purposes, goals, plans, practices, and accomplishments with regard to diversity. This makes it easier for critics to attack practices like affirmative action and harder for institutions to defend them. An Agenda There is an agenda for every campus and an agenda for higher education collectively. For individual institutions, our needs are seven. 1. Presidents need to provide leadership on the issue of diversity. 2. The entire campus community needs to be engaged in the issue-faculty, students, staff, and trustees. 3. The campus needs to develop mechanisms for safe, candid college-wide discussions regarding diversity. 4. Colleges need to define clearly the operating definition for diversity on campus and the goals for achieving it. 5. Institutions should develop a comprehensive, long-range plan for diversity - detailing timelines, responsible parties, completion dates and resources allocated. 6. Colleges must be able to explain publicly and defend the practices in which they are engaged. 7. Institutions should carry out research on the effectiveness of the methods employed to achieve diversity and the consequences of achieving diversity on campus. For the nation, this is a time of intense debate about the future of diversity. It is also a time in which it is actually possible for colleges and universities to stop, think and plan about what we wish to accomplish with regard to diversity. This moment will be fleeting. I suspect as the rate of student unrest increases regarding the issue of diversity - and it will, given the demographics of higher education - that this moment will be replaced by having to respond instantaneously to student protests and demands. This then is a unique time that higher education needs to use well. Higher education has not been an effective actor in the social policy debate on diversity. One of the principal tools for achieving diversity in higher education has been affirmative action, a policy that is being repealed in states like California and Texas. The nation's colleges and universities have been tacitly responsible for these actions. We have been inexplicit in making clear what it is we want to achieve and why we want to achieve it with regard to diversity. This has provided an opportunity for critics to put their own construction on the events occurring on campus. I am a strong supporter of affirmative action. I believe it is the one vehicle our nation has for providing equity for disadvantaged and underrepresented populations at the college level, and college campuses that engage in affirmative action have a qualitatively richer campus life intellectually and socially despite the divides on campuses today. The problem with my opinion is that it is merely an opinion. The higher education community has done a poor job of documenting the case for affirmative action or almost anything else with regard to diversity. We are fortunate in having a comprehensive study by Derek Bok and William Bowen, which provides a strong research base for the claims I and others make for affirmative action. The point is this. It is time for the leading universities in this country to create a national think tank on diversity to study its methods, accomplishments, and consequences. It should engage in research, advocacy, and technical support to colleges and universities. The center could usefully track progress, make recommendation, and develop ideas, programs, and proposals that would provide a framework for individual campuses to set priorities and an action agenda to achieve them. This center could be lodged in a national association such as the American Association of Universities. It could be located in a prestigious organization associated with equity such as the Educational Testing Service. Or it could be freestanding. Once again, the time is short. Action is more important than words. Diversity at Teachers College Teachers College is facing the same situation as most other colleges and universities. TC, however, has the advantage of being located in New York City, which makes it easier to attract diverse students, faculty, staff, and trustees in an environment rich in diverse resources. Forty-one percent of the TC student body consists of racial minorities and foreign students. Fifteen percent of the faculty are people of color, but this proportion has not risen substantially in more than a decade. The staff is 23.9 percent racial minorities, but the distribution favors middle management, support staff, physical plant staffers, and security officers. TC has a long history of preparing students of color for careers in education, psychology, and health. In the decades before the Supreme Court mandated desegregation, Teachers College educated an army of black teachers and administrators for the segregated schools of the south. Today TC remains the largest educator of black doctorates in education of any major university in the United States. The college has a proud heritage and an excellent environment for creating a diverse community, but there remains much to do. In many respects, a lot has changed at Teachers College in recent years. In others respects, the changes have been small. In terms of broadscale change, the world around us is moving quickly-economically, demographically, technologically, and globally. Internally, we have hired many new people, redesigned the college academically, and shifted expectations to focus more on accountability in administration. And while the changes have started, they are also continuing. This kind of change necessarily brings a sense of loss, a feeling of uncertainty, and perhaps a longing for yesterday by the people going through it. The area in which there has been little change has been in the area of diversity. We are a caring institution and we talk about diversity and our desire to do more, but we have not done it. There is a danger of resting on our laurels. Last year, 1998-99, the college began a conversation on diversity and community, which we are continuing this year. It began after a faculty committee on race, culture and diversity invited a consultant to talk with us about the subject of diversity. The consultant came on a Friday and held a number of open sessions to talk with faculty about the topic. Few came. A professor, Barbara Wallace, wrote to the community and explained her disappointment at the turnout. The result was a two-week e-mail conversation involving many in the college community on the topics of community and diversity. In scale, it was unlike anything I have witnessed in my nearly six years at TC. At its conclusion, I wrote a letter to the community saying it would be a shame to lose the moment. I said the topic was difficult and there were no cookie-cutter solutions. I asked the community for counsel on what issues needed to be addressed and what the best process for addressing them would be. I was surprised at the volume of responses. I heard from 130 different people in groups and as individuals. They contacted me via e-mail, telephone, letters, office visits, reports, and impromptu conversations in the hallways and streets. There were extensive studies and recommendations from Professor Barbara Wallace and the Management Network composed of the administrative managers of the College. I wrote back to the community in April describing the concerns mentioned - atomization and isolation, lack of civility and respect, inadequate numbers of underrepresented populations, social issues transported to campus, a changing campus culture, status differences among community members, insufficient professional development and training, poor job performance by community members, fairness and equity concerns, quality of life issues, and there are no real problems. I listed the cornucopia of remedies that had been proposed. And I created a task force, chaired by security officer Dennis Chambers and Professor Peter Coleman, consisting of constituent groups from across the college-faculty, staff, and students. The committee chose to further broaden its membership. I asked the committee, based on the concerns raised and the multitude of remedies proposed, to suggest goals and an agenda for action. I requested that the committee complete its work in two months, an impossible assignment, as the group faced the same uncertainties and conflicts on this issue as all of the rest of us. They held difficult conversations, overcame their differences, and produced an important report for the TC community on diversity, community, and academic life. They proposed a lofty mission for Teachers College with regard to diversity, that I support and hope the college community will embrace. That is, "establishing Teachers College as a magnet institution that attracts, supports, and retains diverse students, faculty and staff at all levels through it demonstrated commitment to social justice, its respectful and vibrant community and it encouragement and support for each individual in the achievement of [his or her] full potential." Toward this end, the committee offered 31 recommendations-immediate, short-term and long-term, covering leadership, mission, structure, function, and outputs of the college. I do not agree with each recommendation, but I do support most. This year as a community we have been discussing the report in groups-the trustees, the faculty executive committee, the general faculty, the department chairs and academic departments, the student government, the union and support staff, the senior administrative staff, the administrative managers, and the professional staff. The aim is to bring representatives from each of the groups together in order to reach a consensus on goals and actions by the end of this academic year. In the interim, Teachers College is engaged in a series of immediate activities. The committee asked that a college officer be charged in the short run with serving as the point person for this effort. I have accepted this responsibility. We are also conducting a search, recommended by the committee, to fill a new executive position, Assistant to the President for Diversity and Community, overseeing the agenda in the longer run. The college is renewing the Institute on Urban and Minority Education (IUME), once a major force on the national policy scene. My hope is that the new IUME will focus on inner-city schools and the achievement gap between whites and blacks and Hispanics. IUME should be a research center and service center for urban schools. A college committee is currently planning the IUME mission and will then begin a search for the new director. Another initiative is producing better results from the TC Target of Opportunity program. For twelve years the college has had a recruiting initiative designed to attract excellent faculty to TC, who happen to be members of underrepresented minorities. In that time, TC has managed to recruit only one faculty member. This year Professor Emeritus Edmund Gordon has joined us to lead and help TC invigorate the program. Finally the summer task force agreed to meet two more times in spring and fall, 2000 to help me evaluate progress to date. I think it is a good start, but it is only that, a start. Results, not rhetoric, will show how successful we have been in living up to our aspirations and our history.

Published Tuesday, Sep. 18, 2001