BY ARKA TECH
We hope two new positions, one in the administration and one in the Student Government Association, will produce big results for Arkansas Tech University.
Both positions deal with diversity and inclusion and thus far we have every reason to believe the university is serious about its desire to make significant gains in both areas.
Earlier this month Dr. MarTeze Hammonds was introduced as associate dean for diversity and inclusion, a new position on campus.
Also this month, Adrian Speck, a senior from Dardanelle, became secretary of diversity and inclusion, a new position within the SGA.
Yes, the university has talked about diversity, has taken some steps toward increasing the diversity among our students, staff and faculty. But there is obviously much progress that still needs to be made in that area.
Hammonds appears to be well aware of that fact. In comments attributed to him in a university news release after his appointment, Hammonds had this to say:
“I have the ability to come in, roll up my sleeves, introduce some new initiatives and most importantly do some training to move the campus in a way that it becomes more inclusive,” he said.
“I like a really good challenge. After reading some of the numbers, research and history, it felt like the right fit for me to come in, take what is already existing and build upon that to create a situation where every student feels included no matter who they are, even before they arrive on this campus.”
In that regard, Hammonds echoes a theme that has been introduced on several occasions by Tech President Dr. Robin Bowen, who appears committed to the concept of diversity and inclusion and making both an important part of this campus.
In fact, during the fall semester Bowen initiated a consultative process to evaluate how Tech approaches issues related to diversity and inclusion.
There is no question that the university, when it comes to our student population, has become more diverse. According to the same university relations news release, 10 percent of our students identified themselves as members of an ethnic minority group 10 years ago. Now that figure is up to 22.4 percent.
Figures also show that African-American enrollment has increased by 244 percent from 2004-2014, while Hispanic enrollment has increased by 522 percent over that same span of time.
So yes, the campus is becoming more diverse. The challenge now is to do exactly what Hammonds has suggested, and that is, making every student feel he or she is included.
“So many have talked about the idea of social justice, but not in the way we are talking about it now,” Hammonds said in the release. “It’s not binary between black and white. We want to make sure it is clear that here at Arkansas Tech, social justice stems into all of the identities. We all have layers of identities. The intersections of those identities should be respected. It is the norm to have diversity on this campus.”
It will not be an easy task but the university appears well prepared and deeply committed to make diversity and inclusion a reality on this campus.