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Diversity conference to kick off year-long study

The University will launch a year-long examination of diversity both on- and off-Grounds with a symposium and workshop Feb. 18-19.

The event will be entitled "Charting Diversity: Commitment, Honor, Challenge." The office of University President John T. Casteen III, the Equal Opportunity Programs Office and the president's Equal Opportunity/Affirmative Action Committee planned the event in response to recent debates about affirmative action and the use of race in college admissions.

"The conference is an educational endeavor intended to acquaint people with the legal issues that are in dispute in the Michigan case and in similar cases, and to review equal opportunity within the University," Casteen said.

The symposium will be held Feb. 18 and will include speakers from all over the country. Some of the scheduled speakers are from the University of Michigan -- a school that is being sued by the Center for Individual Rights for using race in admissions.

The organizers formed eight roundtable discussion groups of students, faculty and staff members who will examine diversity in specific areas such as curriculum and student development. Each group will have about 20 people.

Planners of the event said they hope the speakers will inform participants of national trends. They also hope the speakers will "get some good thinking started in the roundtables," University spokeswoman Louise Dudley said.

"Some laws [affecting diversity] have been changing so much there's some uncertainty," Dudley said. "We want to make sure we're up to speed."

On Feb. 19, the roundtables will meet to establish their goals for the coming year. At the end of 2000, they will report to the University community what they learned, and will recommend plans to improve diversity.

Asst. Dean of Students Glenna Chang, Linda Bunker, Education School professor and chairwoman of the Equal Opportunity/Affirmative Action Committee, and Karen Holt, director of the Equal Opportunity Programs Office, are organizing the conference.

"This is going to be a really great experience for the University," Chang said.

Patricia Werhane, chairwoman-elect of the Faculty Senate, will be on the roundtable group examining diversity in governance and leadership.

"I think [the conference] is a great idea," Werhane said. "We want to make sure we continue to attract a diverse student body"