Conference addresses lack of diversity
March 29th, 2011
Omaha, NE – Academics are currently looking into the problems posed by Nebraska’s 2008 ban on affirmative action, particularly in their own back yards. It’s becoming more difficult for universities to recruit and retain not only multicultural students, but staff too. Economic challenges and recent legislation prohibiting race-based and gender-based hiring have created a roadblock. Dr. Ethel Williams, a professor of public administration at the University who helped organize “Talk to Me,” a collaborative effort to address the problem and work toward a solution.
“There are often questions: What can we do, how can we look at or bring in either people of color, international candidates, as well as women when we can’t focus our recruitment?” said Williams. “Also, in a time where you can’t offer money or put alot of money into recruiting, what do you do? It seems to be a dilemma when it need not be.”
The event will consist of four panelists, each with unique backgrounds, discussing their experiences with affirmative action and answering questions. According to Williams, it’s been pivotal to bring in different voices from within the community.
“I think we’re collectively looking at what’s going on,” emphasized Williams. “We’re bringing in a couple of people that are not a part of the UNO campus but that deal with this issue on a day-to-day basis.”
Jose Soto is Vice President of Access Equity and Diversity at Southeast Community College in Lincoln, Nebraska and a panel member for the discussion. He said a university campus should be as diverse as the community it represents.
“Any student is going to need to have some familiarity with other ways of thinking, being and doing and part of that means a familiarity and comfort level with issues of diversity based on race, culture, ethnicity and gender,” said Soto.
Soto said affirmative action is a tool, but that discussions like “Talk to Me” help present a platform for breaking down the barriers of a sometimes difficult topic.
“Part of it is getting people to recognize that things aren’t fair and that we need to engage in activity to counter bias and prejudice, and to have an understanding, awareness and commitment to exacting justice. said Soto. “It’s a kind of lofty goal of saying, in a democracy we have an individual responsibility to ensure inclusion and participation of all members of society.”
The panel will be held at the College of Public Affairs & Community Service on April 1st from 1:00 to 2:30 pm.