By Brady Antonelli /// Managing Editor
Lewis & Clark faculty members are currently in the midst of a multi-month review process for a proposal to diversify faculty, and, consequently, the student body.
LC has in the past had a reputation among both students and faculty of being a predominantly white school, and the proposal is designed as the next step in creating a more racially diverse campus and to ensure faculty and students of color feel welcomed.
Previously, there have been efforts to ensure racial diversity, but after racial issues brought up last fall a student response, it brought a question of progress to the minds of students and faculty.
Elliott Young, Professor of History and the Director of Ethnic Studies, is one of 22 faculty members backing the proposal as it makes its way to a vote. As to the question of how much the school has accomplished in terms of racial diversity on campus, he says he has seen little accomplishment.
“In terms of diversifying the faculty [there has been] not very much [progress],” Young said about LC’s previous efforts to create diversity.
The diversity issue does not stop at faculty; there are also improvements that could be made to the curriculum.
“We’ve got two problems: holes in the curriculum and we’ve got an overwhelmingly white faculty,” Young said.
In response to the issue of faculty diversity, the main points of the proposal are to revise the current Opportunity hire policy, to establish a goal of matching the racial demographic of the United States population in 20 years and to create a Diversity Fund.
In order to fill the gaps in curriculum, the proposal seeks to furher diversify the first year Exploration & Discovery course and also give hiring preference to professors in underrepresented fields, such as African American Studies or Latino/a Studies.
If the proposal is passed, it will be an administrative step forward in diversifying both the population and the intellect of the school.
“If we were to achieve some more diversity, what it would do is change the kinds of conversations we have in classes,” Young said. “If you have a class that is all white discussing these issues of race and ethnicity, it is an impoverished conversation if you only have one black student or one Latino student in the room.”
Some questions are being raised by other faculty members, especially regarding financing of certain aspects, including the creation of the Diversity Fund.
“We think that if there was a targeted fund for increasing diversity, people who are not currently giving to the school would be willing to give,” Young said.
The proposal, along with the movement towards more diversity on campus, will be much more effective if backed by students. During the Fall semester, many issues came to light and were met by throngs of students organizing against racism within the community.
“There was a group of students which was involved at the Manor House which has, from what I can tell, disintegrated, so we presented this proposal at a forum in the council chamber, and I think the SAAB representatives are pushing forward with the idea of trying to diversify the school’s curriculum as well as faculty and student body,” Young said.
“I think the student body needs to organize itself somehow, either through the existing student government or through organizations to come up with concrete proposals of how they want to see that pushed forward and to publicly make the faculty and the community at large aware of what they think,” Young said. “I think students don’t need to wait to be surveyed, they could organize themselves and make themselves heard. And I think that’s part of learning how to be democratic citizens.”