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A Holistic View of Diversity

November 9, 2004

Nick Marinello
Phone: (504) 865-5714

mr4@tulane.edu

I'm looking forward to getting to know the university, the city and the people," says Deborah Love, Tulane's new vice president for equal opportunity.

loveLove, who began work on Oct. 1, comes to Tulane from the University of South Florida in Tampa, where she was associate vice president for diversity and equal opportunity.

She says she will run an office that not only oversees equal access to opportunity but the full panoply of issues regarding diversity. In doing so, the office will embrace the contemporary sensibility of "equal opportunity."

"Many of the affirmative action and equal opportunity offices emerged as a result of the Civil Rights Act of '64 and other civil rights legislation, and dealing with lawsuits from employees who had little choice but to pursue their claims in court, many employers had to respond with compliance reporting to the government," she says.

"Today's equal opportunity offices include not only duties of investigation and compliance reporting, but strategic diversity planning and improving human relations in the workplace."

Love, who holds a law degree from the University of Mississippi, uses the term "diversity management" to address an array of responsibilities that include the development of awareness programs; community outreach; employee outreach and recruitment, providing information, consultation, training and resources to the Tulane community; resolution of complaints and disputes proactively rather than having to resort to investigations and lawsuits.

Love envisions her office as a partner that extends a supporting hand not only to employees but also to the institution's strategic planning process. "For an office to be successful there has to be strong support of leadership, clear communication by leadership that diversity and equal opportunity are important, and resources must be provided for this work."

Judging by the university's strategic plan and a report released last year by the President's Special Task Force on Diversity, Love says she believes Tulane is committed to equal opportunity and diversity. The task force, says Love, "looked at compensation issues, conducted a campus climate survey and made recommendations related to equal opportunity and diversity. My understanding is that the president would like to move forward on the basis of the work in that report."

A priority of Love's is to work with Tulane's administrators, faculty, staff and students and provide leadership in colleges and divisions to identify issues and develop action plans that actually get implemented. All too often, says Love, reports are created within colleges and administrative units and then sit on shelves as "inert data."

Love wants to be able to help each unit use that valuable--if overlooked-- information in order to improve hiring practices and complaint procedures, and be more responsive to a changing, diverse community. Her overarching philosophy is that diversity issues ought not be compartmentalized and seen as separate from the overall life of an institution.

"It is important to look at diversity as a significant and interrelated component to the whole rather than seeing it as a static snapshot."

Diversity initiatives fail, however, when they are regarded as separate components and not seen as connected to the whole; this means diversity is not taken seriously. In giving an example, Love offers a hypothetical situation in which students are concerned about diversity on campus.

"You can look at that situation as a snapshot and never get to understand the whole picture," she says. "As an institution you would need to look at the students, student recruitment, retention and graduation, but also the student government association and other student activities, multicultural student programming, staffing, faculty, alumni support, the environment, etc...."

Rather than finding a quick fix for a problem, Love advocates fostering systemic remedies that are pervasive and persistent. "How well are you communicating policies of nondiscrimination and equal access and opportunity? What actions are being taken that indicate commitment? Until you look at what is going on, what has happened, you are just being reactive."

Love arrives at Tulane with impressive credentials. She's been working in the field for more than a decade. Before her appointment at the University of South Florida, she was the director of the Center for Human Rights at Washington State University for six years. Before that she was director of the Equal Opportunity and Regulatory Compliance Office at the University of Mississippi in the early 1990s.
Working at Ole Miss, the campus that was the epicenter for the '60s Civil Rights movement, was an interesting experience. Part of her job, she says, was to produce federal compliance reports that would languish on a shelf, waiting to be audited.

"It wasn't as tolerant of diversity," she says. "At that time it was an institution that had a lot of work to do. Today it may be different."

Before attending law school, Love was a captain in the U.S. Army for six years, where she served as a military police officer and chief administrative officer. As for the challenges and opportunities that await her, Love says she's developed an ear for success. "When managers and supervisors are talking about diversity, taking on leadership roles, taking action and committing resources, then representation improves," she says.

Citation information:

Page accessed: Monday, September 22, 2014
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