PORTLAND, Ore. – A push for more diversity is causing a stir at the University of Oregon (search).
Department heads across campus have castigated an early draft of a five-year plan, which would tie raises and promotions to "cultural competency" — the ability to successfully work with people from all backgrounds — and would give funding priority of new positions to departments that adhere to the university's diversity goals.
The reaction in Eugene (search) is 180 degrees from that of faculty members at Harvard University (search), who earlier this month hailed to a multimillion-dollar commitment to gender equity made by President Lawrence Summers (search).
Oregon's plan calls for hiring up to 40 faculty members by 2012 to teach courses in a "cluster" of diversity-related topics, including race, gender, gay and disability studies as well as setting aside more financial aid for minority undergraduates and graduate students from "under-represented" backgrounds.
The critics wonder where the money will come from, and worry about the weight placed on political correctness in determining tenure.
"Many people were upset with the content in different ways; the plan was sort of an Orwellian, totalitarian plan," said Michael Kellman, a chemistry professor.
University officials declined to comment directly on the plan, but President Dave Frohnmayer acknowledged the concerns in a letter to the Faculty Senate's diversity committee.
"We need to step back from specific details, to be mindful of alternative viewpoints, and to develop a sense of urgency in recognizing the problems we face," Frohnmayer wrote. "I also emphasized the need ... to engage faculty, staff and students who believe they have not properly been involved in this dialogue."
Faculty Senate members want a new committee on diversity to examine the proposal. Frohnmayer has responded by saying he would like any new group to "move with dispatch to suggest ideas for continuing this dialogue to a successful and timely conclusion."
The diversity dustup is the latest in a series of racial incidents to roil Oregon's flagship public campus. At a rally earlier this month, 150 people alleged racial discrimination and harassment at the College of Education. And last week, a senior filed a complaint with the federal government over the school's policy of reserving 10 slots of selected math and English courses for minority students.
Under the diversity plan, number of black, Hispanic, Asian and American Indian students would be doubled in the next five years — to roughly 5,400. Of the 20,339 students enrolled this year, 2,706 were nonwhites.
Two weeks ago, Summers committed Harvard to spending $50 million over the next decade on a range of programs for women — from mentoring to child care to safe, late-night transport.
Summers pledged to change the predominantly male culture after coming under fire for saying innate differences in ability between the genders may partly explain why fewer women are in the pipeline for top science jobs.
Oregon's controversy is seen by one administrator, who helped put the plan together, as a chance to talk about diversity on campus.
"We want to make a welcoming campus," said Chicora Martin (search), the university's director of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender education and support services. "I think you need to have a plan for that."