The Ithaca College Board of Trustees has brought seven new members to its board, six of whom are white men. Out of the 26 members of the board, 16 are white men, five are white women, three are men of color and two are women of color.
While this problem is widespread at institutions across the nation, it is important to note the board is lacking the diversity that it sorely needs. Avoiding tokenism is essential, as someone should not be hired to fill a quota or simply because he or she fits within a certain demographic.
But it is also key to make sure that everyone in a community feels that they have someone representing them.
The fact of the matter is this: Boards that draw from different demographics are more successful because they make better decisions.
A diverse board means that everyone is bringing something different to the table, and the surest way to do this is to make sure trustees are from a diverse pool. A group of people from diverse backgrounds — whether that means diversity in class, race, gender or sexual orientation — is better able to reach creative decisions because of the differences in trustees’ backgrounds.
When a homogenous group of people get together to solve a problem, they easily settle into the practice of “groupthink.” While a board with similar members might come to an agreement without conflict, they are essentially reaching a consensus without considering any alternate solutions. A diverse, inclusive board, though, is better able to find creative solutions, according to the experts.
This is not to say that the board is doomed to fail. On the contrary, the board has made a number of positive decisions already. Hiring Shirley M. Collado, a president clearly focused on community-building, is a step in the right direction.
The board seems to recognize the need to diversify its membership but says it needs time to form the meaningful relationships needed to identify a potential trustee. The board needs to follow through to ensure progress.