On Wednesday, Aug. 30, a resignation letter from the Assistant to the Director of the Latino Research Center, Iris West, circulated on social media. The letter stressed, in particular, university administration’s mishandling of diversity issues on campus.
Diversity is a key issue on our campus as the university still heals from a student being identified as a participant in a white supremacist protest in Charlottesville. Students feared for their safety and called for the student to be expelled or at least fired from his position at the university. President Marc Johnson announced the university had no legal basis to do either.
Now the university administration faces another problem when it comes to diversity— their lack of commitment to the issue has been exposed.
According to the letter, diverse organizations are given minimal funding and can’t pay their employees a livable wage. The LRC receives just over $6,000 for an entire year. The Center, Every Student, Every Story, has a smaller operating budget than ASUN does just for its diversity initiatives.
“The fact that the LRC is now hanging by a thread, without funding, staff, or support to keep programs running is a testament to little to no respect Latinos on campus receive,” West wrote in her resignation letter.
The university cannot continue to underfund these centers. At a predominately white university, people from every other race need a place where they feel they belong. The university also needs to hire a more diverse staff. These students deserve to be taught by professors that look like them, because when they are, they are more likely to succeed.
The university also needs to conduct an honest search for a qualified Chief Diversity Officer. Patricia Richard currently holds that position and doubles as President Johnson’s Chief of Staff. She took on the role as Chief Diversity Officer after the position was vacated two years ago. She was supposed to be the temporary replacement until the university could find someone else. Two years later, she’s still in charge despite having no experience in the field. She holds degrees in music and communications.
Furthermore, a university official told the Nevada Sagebrush that after they brought up concerns about Richard’s qualifications to the administration, they were told to never question her again or their job would be at risk.
The university needs to show now more than ever that they are dedicated to diversity and inclusion. Threatening jobs and under-funding the resources of the people and places diverse students go to feel part of a community does not show the university “recognizes and embraces the critical importance of diversity” as our mission statement says.
We can no longer continue to sweep these issues under the rug. The hate speech and acts on campus need to stop and the university truly needs to dedicate resources to creating a campus culture where diversity is actually valued. They can no longer just talk about diversity, they need to do something about it. And if they won’t, the students of the University of Nevada, Reno, need to create that culture on campus and stand up to the administration. This is our campus, we need to make it what we want it to be.