At the State of the College Address, George H. Watson, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences (CAS), introduced the new $1 million budget being set aside by the CAS yearly to fund programs to increase diversity.
Watson said the movement is a culmination of several events and factors he has encountered in the past year, including the racially charged novel “Just Mercy” and campus visitation by social justice activist Bryan Stevenson and the conversation surrounding the Black Lives Matter campaign following the investigation of the lantern remains.
He also said the dynamic contributions of vice provost of diversity, Carol Henderson, changed the way he views diversity on campus.
“It’s always been about diversifying the faculty, having more professors and students of color,” Watson said. “She shifted my thinking to it being about having a welcoming environment to learn and to invite all students to do so.”
Watson said the exact parameters which the money will support are still in the developing stages, but that diversity has always been a priority.
“We have such a history of diversity issues,” Watson said. “We’ve come a long way, but diversity has always been a focus.”
From a faculty perspective, the incorporation of diversity into the curriculum of the College of Arts and Sciences is vital. Sarah Wasserman, assistant English professor, said she sees the one million dollars as a step in the right direction, toward a more well-rounded community. She said believes the lack of diversity diminishes the atmosphere of the campus.
“When you throw around the term diversity—there’s race, religion, student interest,” she said. “Without these, you end up with a campus that feels homogenous.”
Wasserman said members of the community must be prepared to encounter a variety of people when they enter the real world.
“The best conversations occur between those who are not like-minded,” she said.
Students in the College of Arts Sciences are cautiously optimistic about the new drive to increase diversity. Alex Eichenstein, a freshman communications and English major, said she heard about the $1 million commitment through email.
Eichenstein said it is unfortunate that such measures need to be put into place, but it’s necessary nevertheless. She said she hopes the new initiative will construct a more diverse student body that better reflects how diverse the state of Delaware is as a whole.
“The lack of diversity is obvious, and something definitely needs to be done,” Eichenstein said.
With the new portion of the budget being set aside to support this new goal, Watson said he wishes to use this as a basis for the college’s next strategic plan to tackle the subject. In the coming years, he said he hopes to see change on the campus through the monetary allowance, though what that change will be he isn’t entirely certain.
“I would like to see that students are feeling included and welcome,” Watson said. “But how do you measure that? How are we going to ‘move the needle’ of diversity? That’s what this robust plan of action is for.”
He said it is important that the $1 million being used by the College of Arts and Sciences is not an isolated endeavor. By introducing the initiative at the State of the College address, Watson said he hopes to work with the central administration of the university as a financial partner.
“It’s not just a million dollars in the college,” Watson said. “It’s a million dollars to use to coordinate with the university level initiative.”