A town hall-style meeting was held a few weeks ago in response to growing concerns that Campus Diversity and Inclusion (CDI) is not a sustainable workplace. Faculty members Leela MadhavaRau and Reggie Robles have left positions within CDI.
Both faculty left this University, accepting offers from other higher education institutions. In Leela MadhavaRau case it was a matter of family returning to Canada, as well as embracing an opportunity at a prestigious institution. Reggie Robles’ departure was simply explained as he was returning to his Alma Mater.
Despite the very normal reasons surrounding staff departure, a motif of concern was obvious throughout the Q and A with Dean Eddleman. During this town hall style meeting, students were allowed an opportunity to ask Donna Eddleman, University Dean of Student Affairs, questions about CDI’s future and voice concerns from the perspective of the student
Concerns like: Who leaves a good job? What did the University of Redlands do to try and keep two valued employees on board? What didn’t the University of Redlands do?
The majority of speakers voiced an uneasiness with the University’s hiring of an outside consultant. This professional outsider’s role is, to quote an email sent by Dean Eddleman, “to help us build upon what CDI has done well and to identify what might benefit from more time and attention.”
I asked the question, “Is it possible that the consultant recommends that no one needs to be hired, then, is it possible that the University of Redlands follows such advice?”
Dean Eddleman answered that, yes it is possible that the consultant recommends, and that yes it was possible that the University of Redlands does not hire anyone new, unless, CDI was to, in Dean Eddleman’s words, “change from its current form”.
But when pressed about this, Donna conceded that CDI’s form could change, so technically the option to not hire anyone new remains on the table.
Complicated responses given to simple questions remained the overall theme of the meeting. It was clear that Donna was not fully aware of why the students attending were concerned, and she seemed more and more surprised while the meeting continued that her answers were vexing to the crowd.
Overall, the meeting felt productive and energetic. But it felt that way for the wrong reasons, it seemed as though the students attending did not have many opportunities, like this, to ask, “what is going on?”
Maybe that is the real take away from all of this. There need to be more town hall meetings between faculty, administrators and students. But logistical agreements would need to be reached by all parties involved, and this might prove to be all but impossible.
The conclusion of Dean Eddleman’s follow up email was an apology for feeling the need to be defensive:
“I began the evening asking that our conversation be AIR—articulate, informed, and respectful. The exchange did not go as I expected. I found myself on the defensive, and therefore not always as respectful as I should have been. For that, I am sorry.”
This new consultant, and CDI’s future will be continued to be reported on aggressively. I encourage anyone who has concerns about what they are seeing or hearing, withing CDI to contact the Redlands Bulldog.
Photo contributed by Redlands Bulldog photographer Donovan Smith.