Some University of Oregon professors are thinking of leaving if a controversial “diversity” plan goes into effect. Mathematics Associate Professor Alexander Kleshchev, a Russian immigrant, told the Daily Emerald the plan reminds him of the Soviet Union.
“Look, I am personally not going to be interrogated about my thoughts, and I am not going to go to reeducation camps either,” said Kleshchev, alluding to the Five Year Diversity Plan’s requirement that faculty participate in a summer diversity seminar.
“I’ve had enough of that in my previous life in the Soviet Union, and I just will not have this again. I tried freedom now; I liked it, and I am not about to give it up,” Kleshchev said.
Most signers of an open letter criticizing the plan are professors in math or science.
(Math Professor N. Chris) Phillips said the Five Year Diversity Plan is a “terrible idea” because it “calls for us to judge new faculty hires first and foremost by the color of their skin.”
The plan, now being massaged, calls for making “cultural competence” a factor in hiring and promotion, but doesn’t define the term. Here’s a university summer workshop on Hiring for Cultural Competence. The blurb quotes a 2004 Invitational Summit on Cultural Competency, which defined “cultural competence as a developmental process, operating on both an individual and a system level, that ‘is based on a commitment to social justice and equity’.” But that’s not all.
The definition goes on to say that “cultural competency requires that individuals and organizations institutionalize, incorporate, evaluate and advocate (its components) in all aspects of leadership, policy-making, administration, practice, and service delivery, while systematically involving staff, students, families, key stakeholders and communities.”
In order to meet it’s (sic) obligations as a 21st-century university, the University of Oregon needs to seriously consider and evaluate cultural competence as a part of the relevant knowledge and skill set of all applicants, whether they are seeking to work as faculty, administrators or in other staff positions. This workshop will examine how the components of cultural competence can be practically included as key criteria in writing position descriptions; in searching for applicants; in constructing and evaluating the answers to supplemental, interview and reference check questions; as well as in other selection processes, for any position.
When I first heard “cultural competence,” I thought it meant professors and staff should be able to work with people from different backgrounds. But apparently it’s not that simple.
John Shuford, the interim associate director for the Center on Diversity and Community (CoDaC) said that cultural competency was not defined for two reasons: It would not be appropriate for the drafters of the blueprint to impose a definition because that might have led to adverse responses by some. Secondly, the working definition would have become the focal point of debate, preventing a deeper discussion of the ideas presented.
Translation: The drafters didn’t want to define the term for fear people would oppose the idea and want to discuss it.