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Tuesday, November 30, 2021

UF continues 7-month-long search for new Chief Diversity Officer

Students and campus diversity groups are concerned about the vacancy

UF is inviting a second round of candidates for its Chief Diversity Officer vacancy this week.

The CDO position was created in 2018 following white supremacist Richard Spencer being invited to speak on campus and an incident where an administrator rushed graduating Black students off stage.

The UF CDO search committee has been looking at possible CDO candidates since February when the university’s first and former CDO Antonio Farias resigned. Farias left UF to become the University of Colorado Denver’s vice chancellor.

The committee, which consists of 16 students, faculty and staff appointed by UF President Kent Fuchs, has since invited one round of candidates to campus at the end of the Spring semester. As of Sept.13, the committee agreed to interview a second round of possible candidates and invite them onto campus to meet and engage with students.

Some UF students and campus diversity organizations want to hear more about what’s going into the process to find a new CDO.

LaRaven Temoney, a 24-year-old political science doctoral student and secretary for the Black Graduate Student Organization said she believes the university needs to be more transparent about the hiring process. 

“I’m not sure if UF is really clear on what they want in a Chief Diversity Officer,” she said. “It seems like they want someone who’s already a Chief Diversity Officer.”

Temoney said an ideal candidate would have experience with conflict management and facilitating uncomfortable conversations. She’s looking for someone who is creative in his or her approach to diversity and inclusion and directly interacts with students, faculty and staff.

“UF on paper has a decent amount of diversity but when it comes to rankings for different things, UF’s diversity and inclusion efforts suck compared to a lot of institutions at the same stature,” Temoney said.

She believes the long absence of a CDO hinders progress on president Fuchs’ promises following the Black Lives Matter protests last summer. 

“At the very least, put an interim,” she said. “You put an interim for everything else. I’m kind of confused why that wasn’t made a priority, especially when no one in the administration is an expert in [diversity, equity and inclusion].”

Carmi Thompson, president of the Society for the Advancement of Chicanos and Native Americans in Science UF chapter, said the university should be open to different forms of knowledge and expertise. Sometimes those in CDO roles are not necessarily in it for the right reasons, she said.

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“By having that more narrow lens for a job that should be innovative and transformative, you could miss out on other highly qualified candidates who have the background, who have the understanding, who have the compassion and the empathy that you need in a strong leader,” Thompson said.

The 26-year-old graduate assistant said she also hopes the position continues to be a voice and ally for those historically excluded from higher education.

Thompson hopes the next CDO takes cues from Antonio Farias. She said the previous CDO was supportive of student initiatives, and did great things.  

Thompson said she hopes the new CDO leads with empathy and compassion and listens to all of the voices that make up the UF community. 

“At UF we talk a lot about being a top-five institution, but we can’t be a top-five institution if we do not care for the people that make up all of these units and all of these departments across the school,” she said.

Although she understands the search process for a suitable candidate can be long, Thompson believes the CDO position is critical and should be prioritized among other administrative roles.

CDO search committee chair Jodi Gentry said the process has been extensive. UF does not want to exclude students and faculty who were not on campus over the Summer from participating in the search process, she said.

“We do have a sense of urgency,” she said. “We really do know that this is important and we’re moving forward but I think it shows how important it is that we are looking for the absolute right person for us.”

Gentry said the university and the committee is looking for someone who’s been a Chief Diversity Officer at a university or system level before — given how large and complex UF is. 

But, as a member of the cabinet, they are also looking for someone who has strategic responsibility for promoting and enabling inclusive excellence for faculty, staff and students as the role of the CDO is to provide leadership, expertise and even a vision for how the university can work together and create a model for inclusion, diversity, equity and access.

Contact Camila Pereira at cpereira@alligator.org. Follow her on Twitter @CamilaSaPereira.

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Camila Pereira

Camila is a third-year journalism student and the administration reporter on the university desk. When she is not reporting for The Alligator, Camila is always listening to music and probably drinking honey milk tea.


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