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Friday, April 17, 2009

Virginia Tech takes a Step Backward on Diversity

The spit hit the fan here in Hokie land on Tax Day, as it was announced that school president Charles Steiger and Provost Mark McNamee had given in to pressure from Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) and a few like groups to change the wording of the school's diversity component in making promotion and tenure decision for faculty. FIRE framed it as a battle between, on the one hand, the individual rights and academic freedom of faculty members, versus the "requirement" and "litmus test" being imposed on them by the institution. FIRE raised some ruckus over the issue in the Collegiate Times student newspaper at Tech, as well as garnering coverage in the Chronicle of Higher Education.

And it worked. The administration caved, without consulting the vice president for diversity or other stakeholders until after the decision had been made. They claim that they have only taken the working out temporarily, until wording that makes involvement in diversity clearly optional can be agreed on. But it sends a very bad signal, for an institution where blacks and other minorities are badly underrepresented, and with a history of bad decisions that have hurt Tech's reputation in minority communities. Hope we can make our voices heard and get the reversal reversed again back to where it was, and where it belongs!

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