initiatives to diversify faculty and to create programs that seek to welcome and
validate the culture of the diverse groups of students who are part of our
campus community.
As provost, I have opportunities to charge search committees, monitor faculty
hiring and retention trends and progress, and work closely with senior colleagues
responsible for admissions and financial aid offices. I also have the opportunity to
foster conversations about why diversity is important and to mentor others. But
the entire administration and our Board of Trustees have adopted diversity as a
priority, and that is a source of personal satisfaction for me.
First, some background about Carolina, the flagship of the 17-campus
University of North Carolina system. Carolina didn’t become more diverse in its
student and faculty makeup overnight. Chapel Hill was completely segregated
by race until 50 years ago. Even 40 years ago there were few students of color.
The presence of women, at least among undergraduates, was severely restricted
until 35 years ago. I am frequently asked if I’m an alum of Chapel Hill because
I am a native of North Carolina. I say “no” and continue the conversation. I can
tell you, however, that when I was a child growing up in eastern North Carolina
in the 1950s and ‘60s, UNC–Chapel Hill did not exist for me as a possibility.
Women were not admitted as first-year students, but I did not know that. The
one thing that I did know was that it was a “white” school and that I should
look elsewhere. Eight years after I graduated from high school—when I was
completing my PhD—my advisor suggested that I consider the psychology
department at Chapel Hill. I surprised myself and horrified some of my
friends by doing so, but I have been there since.
But here’s one simple sentence from our 1986 mission statement:
“The mission of the University is to serve all the people of the State….”
Now North Carolina is a changing state, but often considered conservative
in its politics. We have a large African American population that has received
national media attention in recent months because of the presidential election
and its strong support for Barack Obama. Our Latino population grew almost
400 percent from 1990 to 2000, and continues to grow. We have a significant
number of Native Americans, and an increasing number of residents who are
citizens of other nations because we are a hub of research and high-tech
business. We have people of all major faith traditions in our state.
Today, the university’s undergraduate enrollment increasingly resembles
the state of North Carolina, and each new class of undergraduates enters with
RLI 263 2
Diversity in Research Universities
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