A Case for Diversity

October 22, 2001

Scott Cowen
Phone: 865-5201

The events of the past few weeks have taught us some valuable lessons about the consequences of hatred and intolerance. The tragedy of Sept. 11, which cut across lines of race, religion, age, nationality, education and income, taught us that, when stripped to the bare bones of grief, we are more alike than different.

On the flip side of the coin, it has also shown us how little we know about people of different faiths, cultural background, or skin color. As places where the open exchange of ideas is celebrated and education is the very reason for being, our universities are our country's best hope of not only putting the events of Sept. 11 into perspective, but preparing our students to be the type of educated and informed citizens that can lead us into a promising and peaceful future.

One way we do that is by creating a campus environment that encourages, values and promotes diversity of all kinds. Toward that end, last spring the University Senate Committee on Affirmative Action recommended the appointment of a special task force on institutional diversity and equity. I am pleased to report that the Special Task Force on Diversity is now in place and engaged in its task of evaluating and making recommendations on issues of diversity and equity at Tulane.

The task force will prepare a report for presentation next fall. Initially, the committee is concentrating on the faculty and staff population of the university and looking at two specific areas. First, the group is looking at our faculty and staff diversity in relation to both Department of Labor standards and comparable standards at nine other universities.

We want Tulane to be the kind of place where faculty and staff members are valued without regard to race or gender or belief system, a place where talented people of all kinds will want to come and work, and to remain. And we want to compensate them fairly.

Another charge for the diversity task force is to study salary equity by comparing similar positions in terms of race, gender and rank. People doing the same work should be paid fairly whether they are male or female, black or brown or white. An additional charge given to the task force is to survey the Tulane campus to assess the perceptions among faculty, staff and students as to the inclusiveness and tolerance within our own community.

Are there people here who feel they are treated unjustly? Does everyone feel free to express his or her opinion, to follow a personal belief system, to be themselves? These are the types of questions we must continually ask ourselves and, if we are not satisfied with the answers, we must find solutions.

Once this type of information-gathering is completed, the task force members will make recommendations and, working with me and with other administrators, will develop a plan to address inequities and increase the positive climate for diversity on our campus.

I know you'll join me in working with task force co-chairs Mary Anderson and Wendy Brown-Scott, professors of cellular and structural biology and of law, respectively, along with task force members Hank Bart, associate professor, ecology and evolutionary biology; Art Brief, professor, business; Ted Chen, professor, community health sciences; Richard Gonzalez, professor, chemical engineering; Janet Hughes, professor, biostatistics; Jeanette Magnus, clinical professor, community health sciences; Gabriel Navar, professor and chair, physiology; Ed O'Neal, professor, psychology; Jill Rovaris, associate director, Educational Resource Center; Raymond Vance, senior internal auditor; and Beth Willinger, director, Newcomb College Center for Research on Women.

Together, we can help make Tulane University a place where everyone is always treated with fairness, acceptance and equality.

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