Changes on Campus

Questioner: Anonymous

Posted to: John Delaney, UNF President

1a. After hearing the discussion at the November meeting about the incentive/signing bonus for “minority” faculty members, I was quite bothered. Has the administration had any discussions that move beyond a numbers perspective of white vs. non-white faculty members? For example, it may be fruitful to encourage some changes on campus that will get rid of the “token” hire approach we heard about in the last meeting.

 

1b. Are we to take away from Tom Serwatka’s statement at the November meeting about being ashamed of UNF because it is too white and that there is additional money to pay above market for faculty of the “right” color that color itself has a value that UNF is willing to pay?

 

1c.  Faculty Association meetings are held on the same first Thursday of every month at the same time and in the same location. Should the faculty interpret this lack of attendance and participation as a signal that you don’t believe these meetings to be of importance?  You have been missed 19 of the past 24 meetings and have not attended one this year.  If you continue this attendance record, it might be helpful to establish another way to communicate with your faculty about initiatives and plans, so we know where are headed.

 

Written response from the President’s Office:

OFFICE OF THE PRESIDENT

December 14, 2013

Dear President Rakita;

Allow me to answer the two questions that arose from my discussion on increasing diversity within our faculty ranks:

1a. After hearing the discussion at the November meeting about the incentive/signing bonus for “minority” faculty members, I was quite bothered. Has the administration had any discussions that move beyond a numbers perspective of white vs. non-white faculty members? For example, it may be fruitful to encourage some changes on campus that will get rid of the “token” hire approach we heard about in the last meeting.

1b. Are we to take away from Tom Serwatka’s statement at the November meeting about being ashamed of UNF because it is too white and that there is additional money to pay above market for faculty of the “right” color that color itself has a value that UNF is willing to pay?

After a question from a faculty member about past funding for opportunity hires, I stated that these funds were still available.1 If I failed to communicate clearly, let me state that these funds are in no way restricted to use in hiring minority faculty and have, in fact, been used, more often, for other purposes, including retaining exceptional faculty who have received offers from other institutions and attracting national experts in their respective fields. With regard to the question about paying above-market rate, it’s important to note that, in using these funds for retaining current faculty or hiring new minority and nonminority faculty, the department must make a case that it is the market that drives the need for additional dollars.

In response to these questions, I feel personally compelled to point out that words such as “token hire” or “of the right color” are pejorative and suggest an underlying assumption that recruiting minority faculty is opening the university to a lesser quality faculty. Such remarks were seen as insults to successful and highly productive minority members of UNF’s faculty.

I assume that the two individuals who offered these questions did not mean to denigrate their colleagues. But regrettably, we each may fall into similar traps when we think and talk about people who differ from ourselves in race/ethnicity, age, religious beliefs, political views, gender, privilege and so forth. Fear and stereotyping of the different is an all too human characteristic. I suspect this less than admirable trait can be found in many of us from time to time, yours truly included.

Respectfully, Tom Serwatka.

Equal Opportunity/Equal Access/Affirmative Action Institution.

 

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