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George Vlahakis
IU Media Relations

Last modified: Tuesday, February 7, 2006

Indiana University establishes new center to foster further advances in diversity

Feb. 7, 2006

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- IU President Adam W. Herbert on Feb. 7 announced the establishment of a new Center on Diversity that will maximize IU's chances to improve the level of its diversity efforts across the board, without usurping the authority of administrative offices and programming bodies that already exist.

Charlie Nelms

Funding for the new center will come from a combination of institutional resources, user fees for services and external grants from private foundations and corporations. The center will be directed by Charlie Nelms, IU vice president for institutional development and student affairs.

Key goals of the center will include:

  • Infusing diversity into the curriculum across all campuses, schools and programs;
  • Engaging the university community in open dialogue on key issues of race, equity and diversity;
  • Pursuing equity and excellence for populations of under-represented groups;
  • Enhancing cultural competence for all IU students, administrators, faculty and staff.

In announcing the new center, Herbert and Nelms noted that IU has a uniquely distinguished history of diversity among public institutions. Under the leadership of former IU President Herman B Wells in the mid-20th century, IU was transformed from an all-white institution to a national pioneer of diversity.

IU was the first Big Ten University to desegregate its athletic teams, residence halls, student union, and to a certain extent, its faculty. IU was an important destination for black students seeking graduate education through cooperative programs with Southern states, which would not allow blacks to attend white universities in their home areas. In 2002, Herbert became the university's first African American president.

In spite of these advances, Hebert said, IU has several areas of great need. "While Indiana University has made noteworthy progress in achieving higher levels of equity and diversity on all of its campuses in recent years, much remains to be done before success can be declared," he said. "This center will serve as an authoritative resource on the higher education status of under-represented minorities in the state of Indiana."

One area of concern is the limited enrollment of Latino and African American students in relation to their representation in Indiana's population, and, compounding that, graduation rates for those populations that dramatically lag behind those of majority students.

Thousands of Latinos have migrated north to Indiana and elsewhere. Additionally, Vietnamese refugees and their children who are now attending IU need services. Recent Supreme Court decisions have altered the nature of some of the university's diversity programs, as will future federal and state laws.

IU also has a legacy of decentralized academic governance, which has resulted in a wide variety of impressive innovations across the eight campuses of the university but no single solution to the need for a diversity-infused curriculum.

"Although many fine efforts have been made by individual faculty, task forces, academic units and diversity offices, currently there is no formal structure that would facilitate such an infusion," Nelms said.

The center also will address a need for comprehensive knowledge of best practices across campuses, schools and departments. There is a need to organize and understand those resources and to put the best ones into practice throughout IU.

The new center will be created in the model of other successful freestanding, multidisciplinary centers at IU, such as the Poynter Center for the Study of Ethics and American Institutions and the Center on Philanthropy. It will have an executive director, associate director, faculty associates, staff and several graduate and undergraduate research assistants, as well as an advisory committee.

"A freestanding center will enable an independent entity to maximize IU's chances to improve the level of its diversity efforts across the board, without usurping the authority of administrative offices and programming bodies that already exist," Nelms said.