Austin Peay is moving forward with their search for a Chief Diversity Officer (CDO), an expanded position that will combine compliance to Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 that requires our institution never exclude, deny any benefit to, or discriminate against any person on the basis of sex.
Austin Peay President Alisa White said, “The position is required by law. We’ve had the position of Chief Diversity Officer as a part-time role for more than three years. As we grow, the responsibilities of each position grows.”
As it stands today, David Davenport tends to the position part-time while also being the Director of the Foy and directing campus-wide recreation services.
Associate Dean of Student Life, Victor Felts said “Bringing a new member to our team who embodies leadership, has experience and has presented on diversity and Title IX at conferences will be a real asset to the campus.”
As the population of APSU students has become varied and many in backgrounds, needs and objectives, the curriculum and the means of delivering a quality education have evolved.
Recruitment, admissions and graduating classes all attest to a diversity of age, racial and ethnic background, gender, ability levels, religions, sexual orientation, residential and commuter, on-ground and online students.
For this reason, diversity plays a vital part in mission of APSU. Included within the school’s mission statement , these three bullet points stand out:
-Expanding access opportunities and services to traditional and nontraditional students, including the use of multiple delivery systems, flexible scheduling and satellite locations.
-Promoting equal access, diversity, an appreciation of all cultures and respect for all persons.
-Serving the military community at Fort Campbell through complete academic programs.
Ashley Kautz, Coordinator of the Adult, Nontraditional & Transfer Student Center, “hopes the university finds a dedicated individual that prioritizes efforts to develop a plan that advances access, diversity, equity and inclusion as outlined by the institution’s strategic plan.”
Cultural Centers like the one Kautz coordinates have evolved over time to create focused spaces and resources tailored to larger demographic groups like Veterans, Non-Traditional and Transfer Students, Hispanic and African American Cultures.
The campus provides lots of intersections where people of all backgrounds and viewpoints are learning together.
The new Chief Diversity Officer will be asked to go farther and integrate “the historic and new efforts on campus that celebrate and support our diverse identities,” said Associate Professor Jill Eichorn, Director of Women and Gender Studies.
Director of the Center for Service-Learning & Community Engagement, Alexandra Wills said she shares the overall enthusiasm for celebrating the campuses diversity, yet her immediate focus is on the aspect of Title IX that protects members of our community from sexual assault, sexual harassment, dating and domestic violence.
White shares that concern, saying “Title IX is also the federal regulation that governs how we as an institution address sexual harassment and sexual assault complaints. Every complaint must be meticulously investigated, and the load continues to grow.”
Over the course of last week, four candidates participated in a thorough interview and vetting process and several themes emerged.
Diversity includes, but is not limited to all the demographics: gender, ethnicity, race, age, religion, sexual orientation, disability, life experience, regional origin, first language and more.
The education, culture change and protection of all our campus community is a hard task that requires more resources and community buy-in.
Hiring a full-time Chief Diversity Officer who will report directly to the President is a step forward toward this aspect of APSU’s strategic plan.
“Austin Peay is privileged to serve many students who come from different backgrounds, experiences and frames of reference, and we want to do what we can to foster a community culture that is inclusive and supports everyone’s pursuit of a quality, safe educational experience,” White said.