Author: Lily Goldfarb
Witt/Kieffer, the search firm hired to compile a pool of applicants for a Chief Diversity Officer (CDO) position, has finished research on campus and constructed a candidate profile, according to Ella Turenne, assistant dean for community engagement and CDO search committee member. Meanwhile, debate still continues between students and administrators on the role and scope of the CDO position.
Marsha Schnirring, chief of administrative affairs and the CDO search committee project manager, and President Jonathan Veitch, chose the firm on the recommendations of CDOs and presidents at other colleges.
According to Turenne, the college decided to hire an outside consultant in order to recruit the best possible candidates nationwide.
“We will be able to feel like we got the best pool of candidates,” Turenne said. “The rest is then up to us, but the outreach is important. You get somebody at the end that is as good as the pool was — so the pool has to be good.”
Chief Diversity Officer Practice Leader Oliver Tomlin, a senior partner at Witt/Kieffer, first visited campus Aug.15 to gather community input on the new position. However, the limited number of students and staff on campus at that time prompted the committee to schedule another meeting later that month, according to General Council and committee co-chair Leora Freedman.
In a subsequent visit to campus Aug. 25, Tomlin and the search committee held a town hall meeting and met with different student, faculty and alumni groups, as well as conducted individual interviews. The firm then constructed a profile of the CDO candidate using feedback from the community, Turenne said.
Yet according to Freedman, there have been disagreements among community members about what this profile should look like.
In a May 18 email to the campus community, Veitch announced the CDO would be a member of the college’s senior staff and have the title of Dean and Chief Diversity Officer. Members of the Coalition at Oxy for Diversity and Equity (C.O.D.E.) published an open letter to Veitch Aug. 31 on their website considering the choice to list the position at the dean level and not the vice presidential level.
In their statement, C.O.D.E said that the CDO position should be one at the highest level in the administration. According to C.O.D.E. member Nina Monet Reynoso (senior), community members present at the town hall meeting also debated the seniority of the position.
“This person isn’t supposed to just necessarily work within current structures,” Reynoso said. “They also need to be someone who isn’t afraid to shake things up, because that’s what the school wants and what it ultimately needs.”
Freedman said that the future CDO will report directly to Veitch, whether they are a dean or a vice president.
After the firm compiles the pool of applicants, the CDO search committee composed of faculty and staff will begin the interview process. According the Freedman, the goal is to have candidates visit Occidental during the week of Nov. 16. During this visit, finalists will meet with community members and potentially give a talk to the Occidental community.
Freedman said the committee hopes to receive feedback from the community through surveys completed by community members present at the on-campus interviews. The committee will then recommend a candidate to Veitch by January.
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