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Monday, March 04, 2024

UF down to three for first chief diversity officer

Three candidates for UF’s first chief diversity officer will visit campus to meet with faculty, staff and students before the end of the semester.

UF President Kent Fuchs announced the position in August 2017, following several incidents that incited conversations about race on campus earlier that year. Chief among them was a noose found in a Weimer Hall classroom and racial slurs that were left on an Anderson Hall whiteboard, according to Alligator archives.

Candidate Matthew Boaz, the current chief diversity officer at Wright State University in Dayton, Ohio, spoke to faculty Monday and to students Tuesday.

John Fitzgerald Gates, an associate dean for diversity and inclusion at the University of Virginia, will be on campus Thursday and Friday.

Antonio Farias, the current vice president for equity and inclusion at Wesleyan University will come April 19 and 20, said Cammy Abernathy, the dean of the Herbert Wertheim College of Engineering and chair of the search committee.

“There was a desire to have someone as a focal point for diversity and inclusion on campus,” Abernathy said.

Abernathy said it’s important everyone is involved with the selection process because the new position will have an effect campuswide as it is a cabinet-level position, serving as senior adviser to the president. UF’s Human Resource Services will post live video feeds of each candidate’s presentation and feedback forms on its website. After all three visit campus for two days each, Fuchs will review the input given by faculty and students and make a choice.

“Student input will be taken very seriously,” Abernathy said.

Cheyenne Cheng, a UF psychology junior, said it’s important she meets the candidates to hold UF accountable through the selection process.

“He gets a seat at the table where a lot of minorities don’t,” Cheng, 21, said. “I don’t want this position to be filled just to be filled.”

After Boaz spoke to students Tuesday, he said if he is chosen for the position, he will work to offer more representation for students who are minorities or who have disabilities.

Boaz also said he’d like to get the university and city on the same page for diversity and inclusion.

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“This work isn’t always comfortable,” he said. “But you have to do what you have to do to change the game.”

Gates said he plans to listen to marginalized groups on campus, better understand UF’s unique qualities and align the efforts of diversity and inclusion with the rest of campus.

“I will meet UF where it is in its diversity journey while helping it get to where it wants to be,” he said.

Farias did not respond to a request for comment as of press time.

UF spokesperson Margot Winick said pay will be determined after Fuchs picks a candidate,

Fuchs said UF’s different colleges and organizations strive for diversity and “best practices” for inclusion across campus, so the chosen person needs to be able to tie all those individual efforts together.

“I felt it was important we have one person who would be a resource for all of us and hold all of us accountable,” he said.

This person will also need to be able to thrive at a place as large and complex as UF, he said.

“For me, diversity is more than race, ethnicity, gender,” he said. “It really is about perspectives and backgrounds and religions, and we can be a part of that.”

Contact Elliott Nasby at Follow him on Twitter at @_ElohEl

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