University of Maryland Diversity Plan Faces Sharp Critiques

Students, faculty, and staff voice concerns about the school's new plan.

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At the beginning of the school year, University of Maryland officials decided that they needed to do something about diversity on campus. A panel called the Diversity Plan Steering Committee was charged with "developing a road map to a more multifaceted campus," the Diamondback reported in September.

But when the plan came out, critics came out in droves, arguing that the plan was flawed in nearly every facet. Last night, students, faculty, and staff aired their concerns at a campus town-hall meeting that drew more than 300 people, the Diamondback reports.

The plan has the conceptual backing of nearly every group on campus, the report says, but it still needs a lot of work. According to the Diamondback, the current draft features 34 ideas across four areas: managing diversity, academics, student life, and staff. It also calls for the creation of a new office for diversity and the appointment of a chief diversity officer, the report says, as well as the increased recruitment, retention, and promotion of minority faculty and staff, among other things.

According to the Diamondback's account of last night's meeting, students worried that the plan "shortchanged" graduate, international, and disabled students; faculty expressed concerns about the inclusion of diversity of thought and questioned the plan's staying power; and university staff members wanted more representation.

"We've seen reports like these come and go, and I hope this is not another one that will just come and go," American Studies Chair Nancy Struna says. "I would ask if the committee would reconsider whether diversity is just another series of goals or if it is a dimension of excellence, and if so, how do we make sure it's rewarded and ensure that for the rest of my lifetime here, we finally get it right?"

But despite all the concerns about inclusion, defining diversity at the University of Maryland still seems to be the main sticking point before much more can be decided.

"It's an age-old question, and we're still trying to figure it out," says Rob Waters, the assistant to the president for diversity and equity. "We haven't quite collaborated, 'We want our student body to look like x; we want our faculty to look like x.' What diversity means and why diversity is important may be different things to different groups."

According to a previous report by the Diamondback, the committee will redraft the plan now that the town hall meeting has given all sides a chance to express their opinions.

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