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EU Appoints Diversity Specialist: Faculty prepare statement voicing concerns of university’s appointment process.

Controversy among faculty, staff, and students has followed the appointment of Dr. Randolph Walters as Special Assistant to the President for Diversity, Equity, and Belonging by President Ronald Matthews. The following statement outlines some of the critiques of this process: its lack of transparency, disregard for procedural recommendations to promote equity, and allegiance to the structures which fundamentally inhibit diversity and inclusion.

The critiques of this process came with the acknowledgement that the appointment of Dr. Randolph Walters was done in good faith, in an attempt to promote diversity and inclusion at Eastern. This statement was written upon request from the Waltonian by Dr. Sharon Gramby-Sobukwe, Dr. Kathy-Ann Hernandez, and Dr. Kimberlee Johnson.

“In a letter dated September 12, 2020, to President Matthews, some black faculty members have expressed frustration and disappointment that the university leadership continues to promote and appoint without transparency. The routine practice of filling leadership positions by appointment and without an openly competitive process leaves decision-makers to select employees they know. Yet, such a process does not challenge leaders and managers to seek potential candidates beyond their circle of familiars. In doing so, they break the fundamental rules for creating a diverse and inclusive university climate.

Eastern University has historically used appointments, rather than committee search processes, to hire in positions critical to the leadership and direction of the university. For the most part, these have benefited white males. Despite complaints and objections throughout the years, as well as scholarship and best practices for effective diversification and inclusion, EU continues to do this.

These faculty members express special concern about establishing and filling the new and critical position of Special Assistant to the President for Diversity, Equity, and Belonging in this same “back-room” manner, a process that omits the voices and perspectives of minority groups on campus. An appointment in this manner undermines the very ideals of justice and equity it should encourage. Proceeding without clear and open descriptions of parameters and the expertise and experience required for such jobs raises more questions than answers about the appointments. Doing so, further, undermines trust among constituents of color especially, and threatens to weaken the effectiveness of the Diversity Officer. The result is divisiveness and perpetuation of these systemic practices.

The faculty letter, therefore, challenges those with authority to reconsider how they make decisions to fill
positions. Like many institutions across the country, Eastern University stands at a crossroads. Will leadership continue to justify these hires on the basis of their right to do so, or will they consider their responsibility to act justly among the wider community? Will decisions reflect a commitment to transform current processes and procedures to diversify, or will they maintain the status quo?”

For more information, contact wtonline@eastern.edu or kathleen.okeeffe@eastern.edu.

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