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​BOV’s Diversity and Inclusion Committee doesn’t deliver on diversity or inclusion

Committee does not discuss the very concerns it exists to investigate

With the end of the Board of Visitors’ meetings this week, the Board will meet only once more before the next academic year — though this will be June 11 and 12, after the semester has ended. Given this timeline, we were disappointed by the minimal discussion not only of Martese Johnson’s arrest but also of students’ general concerns at Tuesday’s 30-minute Diversity and Inclusion Committee meeting. While it shouldn’t take as serious an incident as Martese’s arrest to prompt real discussion of diversity and inclusion by the Diversity and Inclusion Committee, even in light of that serious incident the Committee failed to give proper weight to preexisting concerns.

While Board member Frank M. “Rusty” Conner III opened the committee meeting by acknowledging Martese’s arrest, his was essentially the last word on the matter save for a passing mention from Kerry Abrams, vice provost for faculty affairs. Conner stated, “Our agenda for today was set several weeks ago. . . well before the incident last week,” though he went on to say the incident “raises a whole host of issues” and that the committee did not plan to move forward with its normal agenda without acknowledging that.

The lack of substantive attention given to such an important matter is troubling given the purpose of that committee. However, the Board did meet with Black Student Alliance President Joy Omenyi at the end of the day Tuesday to hear her perspective and the BSA’s four-part plan — demonstrating they are, to some degree, willing to listen.

The most troubling element of the Diversity and Inclusion Committee meeting, then, was what constituted the normal agenda. The meeting began with an update on faculty salaries from Dr. Marcus Martin, vice president and chief officer for diversity and equity. However, the update — which was centered around whether minority faculty members are salaried at different rates than white faculty members — was rather pointless. According to Abrams, “The number of. . . minorities was small enough that we could not find a statistical difference” between minority faculty members’ salaries and those of white faculty members.

The second part of the meeting involved updates on the community celebration for Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in January and also included discussion of the President’s Commission on Slavery and the University. These are very worthwhile and important initiatives — but in apparently what constitutes the only 30-minutes the Board had to discuss diversity and inclusion at U.Va., this was by no means the most effective use of time.

As far as faculty salaries go, if the number of minority faculty members is so negligible as not to provide enough data to compare salaries in the first place, perhaps the Board should have heard about and discussed why minorities constitute such a small population of the faculty, and how to recruit and retain more minority faculty members instead.

The second half of the meeting, which consisted largely of positive reports about improvements in community gatherings, could be effectively captured in a memo to the Board. With so many existing concerns among various minority communities on Grounds — including the concerns within the black community that have been highlighted this week — it is a shame the Board did not discuss feelings of exclusion and marginalization among students. Though Omenyi discussed much of this in her meeting with the Board, such concerns should be on the Board’s existing docket regardless of last week’s events if the Board truly aims to improve diversity and inclusion at U.Va.

We have previously written about concerns repeatedly brought up by some black students, including the need for the Carter G. Woodson Institute for African and African-American Studies to become a department instead of a program. The concerns we mentioned — among many others — are not new. Why is it that such concerns are not being addressed by the very committee that exists to address them?

If the Board truly only has 30 minutes to spare for the topic of diversity and inclusion, those 30 minutes should be much more substantive than they were Tuesday. But the Board should not only give as important a topic as diversity — which affects students, University workers, faculty members and administrators — such a short amount of time to begin with. Meeting with Omenyi was certainly a start — but this demonstrates a reactive, and not proactive, approach. They already have the time allotted to discuss diversity and inclusion; it’s time they make use of it.

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