Many institutions across the country have been establishing chief diversity officer positions with fervor over the past year in response to demands for institutional change, including Ithaca College. But here, the change is not apparent.
That is because the college already has a role that fulfills this job description: the associate provost for diversity, inclusion and engagement — also filled by Roger Richardson, the interim chief diversity officer.
The diversity element was added to Richardson’s position last April, long before the protests last semester. Linda Petrosino, then-interim provost and vice president for educational affairs, converted Richardson’s title from assistant vice president for student affairs and campus life to associate provost for diversity, inclusion and engagement.
This is the position Richardson still holds, making him the head college administrator of programs and initiatives that fall under the three elements of that title. This encompasses what he had been doing since 2005 as co-chair of the President’s Advisory Council for Diversity, which coordinates diversity planning and initiatives, keeps the college on track with its own diversity goals and serves as a resource to campus groups and offices for their own diversity programming and curriculum development.
What the chief diversity officer role entails is connecting diversity efforts around campus, holding college groups accountable to their own diversity goals and responding to incidents of racial bias or discrimination. In other words, a nice-rewording of Richardson’s current responsibilities as associate provost.
In addition, this role is both figuratively and physically far removed from the heart of student life on campus. Those in student affairs and administrative diversity leadership positions were moved from the Campus Center to the Peggy Ryan Williams Center, separating them from those these initiatives are supposed to serve.
The value of this position line needs evaluating. Right now, its overlapping responsibilities with another key administrative position and its disconnection from the student body raise the question of whether it will be effective in addressing the college’s diversity issues.