NYU Begins Search for Chief Diversity Officer


Anna Letson

NYU provides new scholarship for formerly incarcerated students. (Photo by Anna Letson)

Sayer Devlin, Deputy News Editor

The university administration accepted the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Task Force’s recommendation for a new position on campus: Chief Diversity Officer. There is no precedent for this position at the university, so the task force created a Chief Diversity Officer Search Committee led by Deputy Chief of Staff of the President’s Office Tracy Gardner and Provost Katherine Fleming to find someone for the job.

The committee wants to first hear NYU community members’ opinions on what this new senior administrative position should do and what resources the person may use, since almost no details have been finalized — not even the title has been settled yet.

Gardner said that the Chief Diversity Officer will lead NYU in the development and implementation of a strategic vision and operational plan that systemically advances diversity, equity and inclusion as core components of the university’s mission.

“The CDO will collaborate with people in schools, departments and units across NYU in the U.S., Abu Dhabi, Shanghai and at each of the global sites,” Gardner said in an email. “The CDO will be supported by human, financial and technological resources to achieve University goals.”

To facilitate finding somebody to fill the position, she said that there are listening sessions for the NYU community to help inform the CDO’s job description as well as the position’s possible budget. The CDO will report directly to President Andrew Hamilton and serve on his senior leadership team.

The creation of this new senior administration position is the latest initiative to strengthen the university’s diversity and inclusion efforts after the diversity talks and protests in 2015.

Steinhardt professor and co-chair of the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Task Force Charlton McIlwain said that the Chief Diversity Officer would have significant sway within the school.

“This is a person who must and will have considerable power, influence and resources at their disposal,” McIlwain said. “At the end of the day, no matter what characteristics we talk about, people know this has to be someone with a direct pipeline to the president, to the provost, to other levers of real power and influence across the university.”

He said that this person must possess strong communication skills — not just be able to personally communicate with individuals and to groups of the university community but also to think strategically about communications, specifically in regard to interacting with unique communities. He likened this person to being a connector of the university.

Although Hamilton makes the final decision for who assumes this new position, the search committee will identify and recommend up to three candidates for the job.

CAS senior Amanda Ezechi, the student senators council vice-chair, attended the student listening session. Ezechi thinks that students genuinely care about diversity, even though the topic is often misconstrued through its oversaturated usage without a proper, uniform definition.

“I wish that we were able to market the event differently and explain what the Chief Diversity Officer was and explain what we were trying to get out of the listening session instead of just saying Chief Diversity Officer listening session,” Ezechi said. “I think more people would have been able to respond.”

She said that she wanted more people present because it would allow more students to hear and see each others’ viewpoints.

Gardner said the committee will issue updates on the search through a new website to be launched soon, and McIlwain said that he is confident in NYU’s diversity initiatives from the commitment shown by administrators to devote resources, effort and time to the cause.

“It’s a moment to try to make a difference institutionally — in general and with respect to NYU specifically,” McIlwain said. “We haven’t frequently had the opportunity for things to align where the institutional priorities really do align in terms of trying to move the needle around diversity, inclusion and equity.”

For those close to the situation, this is the ideal movement to instill change and kickstart Hamilton and the rest of the university’s diversity initiative. The committee aims to make a decision as early into the Spring 2017 semester as possible.

A version of this article appeared in the Monday, Oct. 31 print edition. Email Sayer Devlin at [email protected].