Article From “The Enterprise”
The Massasoit Community College Board of Trustees voted last month to create a Chief Diversity Officer position to strengthen the school’s commitment to diversity and inclusion.
BROCKTON – Massasoit Community College is attempting to strengthen its commitment to diversity with the creation of a Chief Diversity Officer position.
The college’s Board of Trustees voted in January to create this new position, which reshapes Yolanda Dennis’ role as Executive Officer of Diversity and Inclusion to incorporate affirmative action and other diversity initiatives.
The board has discussed this role change for over a year in less concrete terms, and finally voted last month to move forward with putting all diversity-focused programs and plans under one umbrella.
“This is the new norm as far as colleges and universities,” Dennis said. “In light of protests at colleges around the country, notably in Missouri, a lot of schools are moving towards having a Chief Diversity Officer.”
She has worked at Massasoit for four years, and in that time, said, “We’ve made some progress, and we have more work to do.”
Dennis and college president Charles Wall have been meeting since the board’s January vote to work out a job description and decide Dennis’ pay for the new position.
At their February board meeting, the trustees will review the job description written by Wall and take a second vote to finalize the position.
Board Chair Pamerson Ifill said Dennis’ current position isn’t able to “address diversity in a broad-based, strategic way,” and the goal of the new position is to “impact more broad-based changes on the college.”
One of the main ways the board intends for Dennis to use her new role is to increase diversity among college faculty.
“We need to make sure the college reflects the student body,” Ifill said.
Currently, between 45 and 47 percent of Massasoit students are people of color, while only 11 percent of Massasoit faculty are people of color.
As the Chief Diversity Officer, Dennis will deal with affirmative action policies and complaints, which were previously handled by the Human Resources Department.
Dennis said her work will be very similar to what she does now, and cited some examples of recent work she has done, including bringing diverse speakers, making gender-neutral bathrooms available on campus, and helping create a mentorship program for male students of color.
When his office was asked last week about the new position, Wall said in a statement that Dennis’ role has changed over time to include additional responsibilities.
Changing her job title and job description “bring the position in line with duties currently being performed, strengthens and codifies the role, and fosters a diverse and inclusive climate,” Wall said in the statement.
The board sees this as “the best way” to deal with the increasing diversity of the student body, Ifill said.
“I see it as a way to move the college forward to make sure all students are welcomed here.”
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