Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Five Keys to Creating an Effective, Engaged and Value-Added Diversity Office on Campus

by Anthony Walesby

The diversity office 1 on any college campus can and should be a vital resource for everyone in the campus community. While there are many factors that contribute to a successful office, I believe there are five key elements consistently present in diversity offices that are highly valued and relied upon by their institutions. Institutional Commitment The first and most important key to an effective and successful diversity office is institutional commitment. Without commitment from the top, it can be difficult for any diversity office to be effective. When the president and other leaders make it known that they value diversity, then diversity becomes valued. Commitment from leadership can take many forms, including top leaders embedding diversity into their speeches, high-level administrators asking each dean to be accountable for and report on their diversity efforts, and staff managers supporting attendance at events celebrating diversity. The placement of the diversity office in the organizational structure can also reflect the level of institutional commitment. Adequate funding, appropriate staff levels and job titles are also important signs of support and commitment. Moreover, having adequate resources, even in these difficult financial times, demonstrates institutional commitment. We see today, as difficult as the economy has been, the rise of Chief Diversity Officer positions on campus. The commitment to hiring these expert professionals, along with providing the appropriate resources, sends a powerful message. It tells the community that despite economic challenges, diversity, in all of its forms, is about every member of the community. While diversity offices should not be immune from shared sacrifice during difficult times, they also should not suffer disproportionally when compared to other offices. During times of crisis, whether financial or otherwise, institutional values provide clarity and guidance, and institutional resolve is demonstrated.

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