Salem looks to make changes to diversity office

Salem looks to make changes to diversity office
June 08
05:00 2017

Following a year filled with peaceful protest and allegations of racism on campus, Salem College is looking to revamp the Office of Diversity and Inclusiveness.

In April, students at the liberal arts college for women held a weeklong sit-in protest demanding President Lorraine Sterritt and the Board of Trustees address a 10-page list of demands that called for all faculty to undergo at least 16 hours of diversity training each year, new system of faculty evaluations be set up to hold faculty and staff accountable, and a host of other demands that painted a picture of xenophobic culture on the campus of the country’s oldest female educational establishment.

According to those who started the sit-in on a daily basis, students of color and other minorities have to deal with racist comments from students and even professors in the classroom setting.

“Over a very long period of time, Salem College has mistreated their students and maintained high expectations of us,” said rising senior Katrina Gonzalez.

While the protest ended after the Board Of Trustees and students sat down to discuss the list of demands last month, Sterritt announced drastic changes on the horizion for the Office of Diversity and Inclusion, under the leadership of Krishauna Hines-Gaither who also serves as an assistant Spanish professor. The department was designed to work collaboratively with students, staff, and administrators to cultivate a climate of awareness, and respect for all individuals on the campus.

In an email sent to students, faculty, and staff, Sterritt announced drastic changes on the horizon for the office, which opened last summer. She wrote, “In order to enhance our efforts we have decided to restructure the current functions of the Office of Diversity and Inclusiveness.

“We will create a full-time position at the assistant vice president level that will provide expanded services to both the Academy and the College, and will be conducting a national search to fill this new role.”

Shortly after the announcement was made, Salem communications and social media manager Johnny Johnson said the new vice president position will have new and significant responsibilities in the areas of diversity, inclusiveness, and equality. Despite initial reports that said Hines-Gaither had been fired, representatives from the school said that isn’t the case but, after the changes were announced, several organizations at Salem once again voiced their frustration, many on social media.

In a Facebook post dated May 25, the Black Americans Demonstrating Unity (BADU) organization vowed to fight to bring Hines-Gaither back.

The post read, “We love and support Dr. Hines-Gaither 100 percent and believe that this is blatant disrespect to fire her in a 10-minute conversation. No one will be as supportive and helpful to the marginalized students on Salem’s campus and we won’t stand for this.”

The organization also started an online petition to reinstate Hines-Gaither as the director of the revamped department. As of Monday, June 5, the petition on had garnered more than 200 signatures, many from current students and Salem alums.

“Dr. Hines has been an inspiration to me & Salem needs this Office & her as director of it,” wrote Abby Bailey from Lewisville. “In order to grow & embrace diversity, we must tackle many uncomfortable issues. Change isn’t easy, it isn’t neat it’s messy, it’s hard & it can upset some but eventually it leads to unity.”

When asked how Salem officials plan to address the petition, Johnson said the appeal was a product of misinformation. He also reiterated Salem’s plans to expand the functions of the office.

“The petition is asking to bring back an office that is not gone and bring back a faculty member who is still employed here,” continued Johnson. “In expanding the functions of diversity and inclusiveness on our campus, it is our sincere hope that the Salem community will understand our commitment to ensuring that the Office of Diversity and Inclusiveness is central to the life and administration of our campus.” 

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Tevin Stinson

Tevin Stinson

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