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Published: Friday, 12/13/2002

Johnson: UT must tackle diversity issue

Tom Crawford came to the University of Toledo from Fremont looking for diversity. He found it, but not in the way that he expected.

Minorities on campus often tend to stick together instead of intermingling, the freshman said, leaving too many students wondering about the value of diversity.

“There's not an attraction on this campus to diversity among the student body,” he said.

UT President Daniel Johnson acknowledged the need to make strides in diversity yesterday during a town hall meeting and announced the creation of a diversity commission to tackle such issues.

“We have challenges not only in the numbers but also in the climate,” he told a crowd of about 150 in the Student Union.

A demographer and sociologist, Dr. Johnson said the university must be prepared to deal with the predicted growth of minorities among the college-age population in the next 12 years.

“Even though UT's performance on diversity parallels the performance of our peer institutions, ... as we look to the future, with the significant demographic changes on the horizon, I believe it is imperative that we develop and implement more thoughtful, innovative, and results-oriented approaches to enrolling greater numbers of minorities students in higher education,” he said.

Just over 11 percent of UT's student body is black; 2 percent is Hispanic.

At Bowling Green State University, where a diversity task force presented its recommendations in the spring, about 5 percent of the students are black and 2.5 percent are Hispanic. Another team is working on ways to implement those recommendations, said Dr. Alberto Gonzalez, BGSU vice provost for academic services, who chaired the task force.

Nationally, Hispanics make up 12.5 percent of the college student population, and blacks, 12.3 percent.

Dr. Johnson placed equal importance on improving the diversity of UT's faculty and staff, echoing a recommendation of a team from the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools that evaluated UT in April.

The issue of diversity made headlines recently when the U.S. Supreme Court announced it would decide whether university admissions procedures intended to promote racial and ethnic diversity, such as those at the University of Michigan, illegally discriminate against white applicants.

UT also is involved in a court case involving issues of race. In October, a discrimination lawsuit was filed against the university in U.S. District Court claiming it “maintains an egregious and pervasive racially hostile working environment.” Dr. Earl Murry, who was vice provost of faculty development when he took a year-long, paid administrative leave in the spring, has claimed UT systematically eliminated qualified black applicants from the selection pool for faculty vacancies, among other things. The university has denied the allegations.

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