The Davidsonian

New Chief Diversity Officer Will Uplift Diversity, Equity, Inclusion

Arshi Husain ’26 (she/hers)

Staff Writer

A decade ago, Davidson students protested the lack of diversity among faculty. Sarah Welty ’13 wrote in a 2012 edition of The Davidsonian, “Public tenure records show that five of the last seven professors who received negative tenure decisions have been faculty members of color.” 

This public pushback marked the rise of a decade-long battle for increased diversity on campus–including the increased demand for a standalone Chief Diversity Officer (CDO). The college, after years of deliberation, has announced the creation of a full-time CDO, who will report directly to the president beginning in 2024. 

“A Chief Diversity Officer does work across the campus–not just in academic affairs–but also in athletics, student life, business services, human resources, and so on,” said Dr. Melissa González, who will serve as an interim CDO starting fall of 2023. 

While a CDO position has existed in Davidson College for years, Dr. González stresses the importance of having a separate office with a standalone CDO. “The rationale for reporting directly to the President is that this gives the most cross-campus, cross-divisional scope.” She suggests that the organizational structure of an institution plays a key role in diversity work. 

In 2016, Dean Wendy Raymond was listed as the college’s first Chief Diversity Officer. At the time, she also served as the Vice President for Academic Affairs and Dean of Faculty. This development brought in different opinions and initiated discourse among faculty. “There was concern that having one CDO would give a sense that the responsibility of diversity, equity, and inclusion is concentrated in one person. The reality is that we all share that responsibility,” spoke Dr. González. Some faculty members contended that such a position would be too autocratic.

The Faculty of Color Caucus, however, pushed for a standalone CDO in 2017. Around the same time, former president Carol Quillen appointed a Commission on Race and Slavery. Dr. González points out that while Davidson was ahead of the curve in terms of inclusivity, the college still needed to work on several different areas, including structural changes. Many other top liberal arts colleges around the nation had preexisting Diversity Offices while Davidson faculty struggled to reach a consensus.

Dr. Fuji Lozada currently serves as the Chief Diversity Officer as well as being the Associate Dean of Faculty and the Chair of Chinese Studies. Dr. Verna Case, predecessor to Dr. Lozada, used data to find that students of color, especially Black males, were getting lower grades than their white counterparts in gateway courses. The two, along with other faculty members, worked on making syllabi for gateway courses more inclusive for students of color. “Then again,” Dr. Lozada says, “there was only so much time I could spend doing that. With a standalone CDO there could be more effort.” 

The scout for a permanent, stand-alone CDO will entail a national external search. The college will work with professional search firms and spend time perfecting a job description. 

“The CDO has always been an add-on role. Now we’re looking towards coming together as a community to decide the specific job requirements for an independent position,” said Dr. Lozada.

Coordinator of Interfaith Programs, Associate Chaplain Ivan Myerhofer, expressed appreciation for the college’s decision to bring in a full-time CDO, “This decision speaks volumes. It’s not enough that Davidson brings in a diverse student populus. What’s more important is how that diversity is cultivated on campus. That’s why having a CDO is so important.” 

The college has made substantial progress in terms of diversity, equity, and inclusivity (DEI). From 2010 to 2015, the discussions among faculty regarding the role of a CDO remained inconclusive. Recently, President Hicks released a statement saying, “We will continue to be accountable to achieve DEI goals in our areas and departments. I look forward to our ongoing conversations and planning to create a dynamic, empowered, and critically important CDO role.” 

Faculty and administration are on the same page regarding the benefits of establishing a standalone CDO position. At the same time however, they acknowledge that there are still milestones and goals to be met. 

Dr. Lozada remarks, “We can be better. We can do much better.”

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