people attending the meeting—most of them local African-American
leaders, including Toledo mayor Paula Hicks-Hudson and
Toledo city council members Larry Sykes, Tyrone Riley,
mayor’s executive assistant Alan Bannister, and Linda
Alvarado-Arce (Exec. Director of Toledo’s Board of Community
About a dozen
Latino leaders also attended, including two who met with Dr.
Gaber: UT alumnus Mark Urrutia and Guisselle Mendoza,
Adelante, Inc. executive director. Other leaders in attendance
included: Washington Local Schools board member Lisa Canales,
business owners Gary Johnson and Hernán Vásquez,
and David Ibarra, Adelante’s Meyling Ruiz, and
Rico of La Prensa.
member asked if UT is trying to recruit enough Latinos as
students to reflect the changing demographics of the U.S., as
the country’s fastest-growing population—and whether the
university is actively doing anything to retain those students
after they’re recruited.
stated Latinos comprise four percent of UT’s current student
population. But he was unable to answer whether Latinos are part
of a conscious university effort to recruit and retain a diverse
student body. Dr. McKether, though, promised to report the
question back to UT leaders as part of its strategic planning
Others in the
audience openly questioned whether tenured faculty and senior
staff members reflect the diverse community-at-large, which
received a negative response from Dr. McKether.
pointed to “an interdependence between the university and the
community,” while others brought up changing demographics in
Toledo and the need for the university to reflect the diversity
of the greater community.
spoke of moral and social reasons to promote diversity at UT,
but members of the audience also talked about a “business case”
for diversity, so students are better prepared to enter the
global marketplace, as well as contribute to their local
communities under the umbrella of “think globally, act locally.”
“I think of
the opportunity the university has to offer a global experience
in a local setting,” said Johnson. “The more different faces
that they can provide on the local campus the easier it is to
provide that global experience. The more diversity you have in
the community, the more diversity you have on campus, the better
it is for business.”
kids that are there learning want to see people like them. When
you have a diverse university and they see other people like
them doing other types of jobs, it’s easier for them to have a
better understanding of diversity and embrace it,” Johnson
“If we accept
that the university is a diverse institution, the question then
becomes are we doing a good enough job at diversity?” asked Dr.
McKether, as he tried to get the audience to talk about the
areas of inclusion and equity.
area where UT lacks diversity is on its board of trustees.
There is no Latino representation on the university’s board at
present—and it’s been a number of years since the last Latino
leader was appointed.
described the university’s senior administration as
“predominantly white and male.”
“You could say
that it lacks diversity,” he said.
pointed to the university’s lack of preparedness to handle
students who may be of undocumented immigrant status. She
suggested training for front office staff to be able to handle
issues that come up during student registration and related
tried to convince a skeptical audience that changes will be made
by the university’s president, who has now been in charge for
six months. He promised a diversity plan will have measurable to
hold everyone accountable.
to her senior staff: these are things you will do or you may not
be here,” he said. “I’ve never heard that since I’ve been
University needs to be sure all voices are heard, and these
sessions are essential to our strategic diversity plan,” Dr.
Gaber said in a prepared statement. “We need to incorporate the
feedback we receive into our policies, procedures and
initiatives, as well as ensure that UT is an inclusive,
welcoming and supportive environment for all stakeholders, from
faculty and staff to students and the community we’re grateful
even told the group his professional reputation is on the line,
as he holds meetings with campus and the community—but promised
to be an advocate for improvements in diversity, especially
where student achievement is concerned.
I’ve been arguing for the last five or six years. I’ve been
saying there’s an achievement gap,” he said. “If you look at the
achievement gap between Latinos and black males and females with
everybody else, there’s a big gap. If nobody’s addressing that,
that’s a problem. That’s not being inclusive. If you’re arguing
it on the outside and I’m arguing the same thing on the inside,
that’s progress—because we recognize the need for everyone to
achieve, not just one demographic.”
“conversation on diversity” will be held with campus staff
Thursday, Feb.4, noon to 2 p.m. on the UT Health Science campus.