Students Respond to Internal Hire of Chief Diversity Officer

Students+Respond+to+Internal+Hire+of+Chief+Diversity+Officer

Photo Courtesy of University of New Haven Website

Kelly Adkins, Staff Writer

The appointment of a school chief diversity officer has received some backlash from the campus community.

In June, in response to recent national events of violence and a University of New Haven alumni’s controversial posts on social media, university president Steven Kaplan announced assistant provost Lorenzo Boyd would be the new vice president for diversity and inclusion/chief diversity officer.

With his promotion, Boyd, a former Boston police deputy, will oversee the Myatt Center for Diversity and Inclusion and serve on the president’s cabinet, in addition to the Leadership Council — which consists of the university’s cabinet and deans — where he will lead the diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) strategic plan.

“He brings a wealth of experience and knowledge to begin immediately collaborating with units across campus to advance diversity, equity and inclusion efforts already ongoing and implement new initiatives,” Kaplan said in a campus-wide email.
OrganizeUNewHaven (OUNH) — a student-led organization dedicated to implementing change with university administration — publicly released a letter addressed to Kaplan entitled “To the Charger Community.” The letter expressed disappointment at Boyd’s promotion and Kaplan’s decision to make an internal hire, as well as the timing of the promotion.

In this letter, OUNH said: “The position of the VP for Institutional Integrity and Justice is one that requires an individual that provides the precedent for effective allyship by unequivocally speaking out against injustices as to educate and inspire others to do the same,” said members of OUNH in the letter. “It is to our dismay to admit that Dr. Lorenzo Boyd is not the person to do this.”

OUNH and allies, which includes about 28 university faculty and staff members, had given feedback in a letter to Kaplan three days prior to the announcement of Boyd’s promotion. The group said that the current title of chief diversity officer position was outdated and offensive, and called for a new title, that of vice president for institutional integrity and justice.

In an interview with the Charger Bulletin, Kaplan said: “I elected to make the internal promotion because of the university’s immediate needs — as expressed by the many stakeholders who were providing input, and in considering the urgency of the situation and the fact that meaningful action has been neglected for far too long; the challenges of conducting a national search in today’s environment; and most importantly, because we had a highly talented and qualified member within our own campus community to lead in this role.”

“We feel as though Kaplan wanted a ‘headline’ rather than impactful change,” said OUNH in a statement to the Charger Bulletin.
In the statement, OUNH did not denounce Boyd’s previous accomplishments but said he is not the best candidate to create change at the university.

“Yes, Dr. Lorenzo Boyd has an extensive resume, but that resume only pertains to the field of Criminal Justice,” said OUNH in their statement. “Dr. Boyd has no formal diversity and inclusion experience outside of the position he has held in the provost’s office for a year now.”

OUNH also wrote that Boyd lacks the experience and training to support the LGBT+ community on campus, though the current chief diversity officer position is tasked with addressing inequity for all marginalized groups.

In an email to members of the university, Boyd outlined plans for his new position to create student, faculty, and staff DEI advisory teams, work with the IDEA Council to analyze strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats (S.W.O.T), begin an implementation strategy for the Campus Climate Survey, develop a DEI curriculum requirement for the School of Health Sciences, and “revamp the UNIV 1141 common course into the ‘UNcommon Course’ to address issues of racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, and xenophobia” among other goals.

“These are just some of the priorities we will accomplish together in the coming months to foster a sense of ‘belonging’ within our campus community,” wrote Boyd, “particularly among students from historically marginalized communities. It is vital that many different perspectives inform our collective work, and that a broad array of DEI focus areas are included.

“Here at the University of New Haven, we are not immune from these challenges, but I am confident that together we can overcome them and begin a healing process. I am extremely excited to assume the role of Vice President for Diversity & Inclusion & Chief Diversity Officer,” Boyd wrote.