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Forum spotlights staff diversity and inclusion

| 31 May 2006

Campus staff demographics were illustrated in PowerPoint at "Diversity in Action: Strengthening Excellence in Our Workplace," a daylong forum May 9 attended by more than 500. The forum - part of an ongoing effort to elevate and broaden the discussion of diversity, equity, and inclusion on the Berkeley campus - focused on staff, where a wave of retirements and new hires is anticipated in the near future.

An important theme of the day, articulated by panelist Carlos Cortés, UC Riverside professor emeritus, was that to achieve genuine inclusion and diversity, "the numbers game doesn't cut it. 'Inclusion' can't just be fitting in," he said. "It's giving voice as you include." An inclusive work climate, Cortés proposed (to applause that seemed to signal recognition) is when diverse people who are admitted, rather than feeling "silenced in the name of professionalism," are made to feel "welcome to draw upon their experiences" to do their job.

Keynote speaker Nancy "Rusty" Barceló, vice president for minority affairs and vice provost for diversity at the University of Washington, said the culture wars have "trivialized the concept of multiculturalism." Noting that higher-education institutions "remain contested terrain," Barceló said the "entry of new students, faculty, and staff into the academy in my generation, the creation of ethnic studies, women studies, and more recently disability and LGBTQ studies, have provided new ways of knowing and being in the world that have already begun to transform higher education."

Chancellor Robert Birgeneau opened his afternoon remarks by saying that the forum, and its enthusiastic turn-out, "is great, but we have to make sure that change actually happens." Birgeneau announced the launch of the Berkeley Initiative for Leadership on Diversity (BILD), whose goal is to improve campus climate and increase staff diversity to better reflect the demographics of California and the Bay Area.

Campus workforce data past and present, illustrated visually, were presented by Associate Vice Chancellor for Health and Human Services Steve Lustig at the morning plenary session. His presentation demonstrated the challenge ahead. As of last spring, for instance, women accounted for 56 percent of the campus support staff, 43 percent of those at the management and senior professional (MSP) level, and only 18.6 percent of those in executive positions. When analyzed by ethnicity (as illustrated above) the picture is even more dramatic, with minorities accounting for 58.2 percent of support staff and their proportion diminishing steadily at higher ranks, to 6.2 percent among top campus executives.

The forum was sponsored by the Office of the Chancellor and the Berkeley Division of the Academic Senate. Organizers plan to continue the conversation via brownbag discussions and workshops, beginning this summer. Gina Abrams, the chancellor's intern for diversity and inclusion, strongly encourages staff "to participate in this valuable discussion and help move the initiative forward."

For details on the forum and BILD, see the website of the Campus Community Initiative, cci.berkeley.edu/news.