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Charles R. Bantz

Archive of Prior Chancellors' Speeches



IUPUI STATE OF DIVERSITY

January 17, 2000
Chancellor Gerald L. Bepko
Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis
A Core Campus of Indiana University

State of Diversity Message

One fundamental tenet of our society is that all women and men are created equal with equal rights under the law. An important contemporary reflection of this ideal is found in the effort to achieve full participation of all groups in the benefits and responsibilities of our society. Not only must we eliminate discrimination, and realize the vision of the civil rights movement, but we must encourage and strengthen the resolve of people who have been victims of discrimination in the past. Education that prepares people for life is a key component of this goal.

It is not a matter of fairness and justice alone, however. The future will be more and more complex. We will encounter an increasing number of complicating forces in maintaining a healthy democracy, economic growth, and a high quality of life. The worldview that suggests we can go back to a simpler approach - one designed to help people cope without encountering complexities - is destined to fail with the internationalization of our lives and the increasing impact of populations of people of color. In any interaction, we bring various ideas, cultural orientations, physical abilities and disabilities, as well as perspectives based on age, race, gender, religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation, employment experience, educational experience, and more. For society to deal with this intricate web of characteristics, our educational programs must prepare people to embrace the world's diversity in all its dimensions. We must create a society in which differences are celebrated and not allowed to become the subject of tension or discriminatory behavior. We must prepare people for building on their individuality in a context where the many aspects of personhood are valued intrinsically as contributions to a fascinating and beautiful social mosaic.

For many years we have argued that a great strength of IU's IUPUI campus, and of our city, is its diversity. From its beginning, Indianapolis had a diverse population. By the time the first railroad came through in 1847, African Americans were already 6.5 percent of the city's population. The population grew even more diverse with Irish immigrants looking for work and German immigrants escaping revolutions in their homeland. Jews from Eastern Europe settled around Morris and Meridian Streets. Italians settled southeast of Monument Circle. Serbs and Greeks opened small businesses on the city's near west side. Poles, Slovenians, and Hungarians moved to Haughville on the west side where they worked in foundries and factories. Chinese started businesses along Fort Wayne, Massachusetts, and Indiana Avenues. Between 1890 and 1920, the city's population tripled. By the 1910 federal census, the African American population had grown to nearly 10 percent of the total. While an Hispanic presence was recorded as far back as 1870 in Indianapolis, it also grew in the 1930s as Eli Lilly and Company expanded its operations into Latin America and began attracting Hispanic professionals to its headquarters here.

African Americans and ethnic immigrants quietly fueled the city's economic prosperity. In the 1870s, the city boasted four African American newspapers, one of which, the Indianapolis Recorder, still prospers. Among many black entrepreneurs was Mme C. J. Walker, who relocated her cosmetics company to Indianapolis in 1910. While Indiana Avenue appears on the original plat of the city in 1821 as one of four diagonal thoroughfares, its destiny was to become a premier site for black entrepreneurship and cultural development. Our own beloved Indianapolis poet, Mari Evans, recalls "the Avenue" this way: "Late Sunday afternoons, the Madame Walker tearoom stylishly packed, crisp gloves, the soft silks gleaming. The Western sky awash with red-orange, vivid to pastel, stroked with delicate purples, sunset viewed with awe from a fourth-floor project window. Lockefield. Ah, yes. Lockefield." Evans' vivid portrait recalls for me the pleasure and excitement of living in the restored Lockefield Gardens apartments in 1989.

Our city and university should continue together to build on this history of diversity. In part, because of the influences of our university, we have long believed that Indianapolis can be a city of the future in terms of race and diversity. Social justice, fairness, and the goal of using our diversity to prepare people for the interdependent world of the 21st century should combine in the planning for educational programs and in strengthening the social fabric of our community. In this connection, we applaud our new mayor, Bart Peterson, for planning a racial summit to be held here at University Place on January 29.

While we have pursued the goal of diversity as an inherent part of learning for many years, we must continue to work to build on our experience. In the December 10, 1999, issue of the Chronicle of Higher Education, Harvard Professor Gary Orfield writes: "For close to two decades, a strange disjuncture has existed in academe: many higher education leaders have strongly embraced and defended Affirmative Action in admissions, yet, until recently, few have conducted research to justify its importance." That is changing. In The Shape of the River, William G. Bowen and Derek Bok set forth data on the success of students who have benefited from Affirmative Action programs. In its defense of a legal challenge to Affirmative Action in admissions, the University of Michigan offered data on the progress of majority and minority students in undergraduate studies; specifically, how Affirmative Action shaped their behaviors. Professor Patricia Gurin, of Michigan's psychology department, concluded that diversity fosters "active, conscious, effortful thinking . . . the kind of thinking needed for learning in institutions of higher education."

In a recent Andrew W. Mellon Foundation study by Dean Whitla, director of counseling and psychology at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, a Gallup survey sent to 1,800 students at Harvard and Michigan revealed that students attending law school with students of other races had changed their views on legal issues, the profession, and the society in which it operates. For example, 78 percent of Harvard students and 84 percent of Michigan students said that discussions with persons from other racial groups had a "significant impact" on their views of the criminal justice system. White students said it was "impossible to understand the system without hearing the perspectives of minority classmates." When asked to compare classes in the level of intellectual challenge and the seriousness with which alternative views were considered, students who said "diverse classes were superior" outnumbered students who found single-race classes superior by 10 to 1. An IUPUI goal must be to develop more empirical studies along these lines.

Our commitment to diversity requires other work, as well.

Our enrollments of minority students have grown, but we still do not have a proportionate number to reflect the relevant minority populations in the larger communities we serve. Moreover, we have not graduated a proportionate number of minority students. We must redouble efforts to support students in their academic achievement. Degree completion must be improved for all undergraduate students, but particularly for minority students. We have made progress in recruiting and retaining minority faculty - one of the most important ways to achieve diversity and ensure the optimal conditions we seek - but we must make more. This is a key part of realizing the educational benefits of diversity. We must make progress in recruiting minority staff, as well; we must redistribute minority colleagues into a broader range of jobs; and we must make up for recent losses in key positions.

Beginning today with this first "State of Diversity message," we will publish a yearly statistical profile to show our progress in achieving diversity. It will evolve into a public diversity portfolio that will be enhanced by activities of the recent past or on the immediate horizon. Recruiting Charlie Nelms as IU Vice President for Student Development and Diversity was an important step, in and of itself, for all of IU. He has been very helpful, particularly in defining the new position of IUPUI Vice Chancellor for Student Life and Diversity, which has now been filled by a person with exceptional credentials - Karen Whitney. Her work at the University of Texas at San Antonio in developing a student center, campus housing, child care facilities, and campus climate programs made her the ideal person to fill the roll.

We have formed the IUPUI Diversity Cabinet, which I chair, and which has two excellent vice chairs - Paula Parker-Sawyers, Director of the Office of Neighborhood Resources, and Lillian Charleston, Affirmative Action Officer. The cabinet will designate areas for special emphasis, establish goals and strategies, and help us hold ourselves accountable.

Our base of data will be enhanced by surveys being conducted by Trudy Banta as vice chancellor for planning and institutional improvement. We will host a program review on the subject of diversity this spring, which will give the Diversity Cabinet and the entire academic community an opportunity to take stock and build on our diversity efforts.

In developing our diversity agenda, it will be important for us to listen carefully to Hugh Price, president of the National Urban League, who gave a powerful speech about education at the Indianapolis Economics Club last fall. The key to success, according to Price, lies not only in efforts made by school teachers and administrators, but also in the values expressed by the community. Thus, the National Urban League and Indianapolis Urban League are spreading the gospel that "Achievement Matters." September has been designated as Achievement Month and, in September 1999, a number of people came together to improve SAT preparation, including the leadership of various key organizations, community participants, and 50,000 schoolchildren and their parents. Price said, "Young brothers were there in jeans and dreadlocks; the sisters in their designer clothes. Why? Because they know achievement is cool and because they are determined to get into college."

Price urged that we "preach this gospel of achievement until it reaches every . . . household, every organization, every pulpit and place of worship, every publication, and every broadcast program," until the gospel of achievement "permeates the consciousness" of every child and every educator, and until all people understand why Urban Leaguers say: "Our Children = Our Destiny." As the Indianapolis Urban League completes its new center on the edge of our campus, we should join with the Urban League to launch our own "Achievement Matters" campaign. Although designed to support diversity, we should not confine our campaign to African American or minority students. Many other students would benefit from the same message. We might well build a greater unity knowing we are all involved in the same struggles.

As we greet you today on this important occasion - the day set aside for observance of the greatness and worldwide importance of the life of the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. - I hope you will join our quest for social justice; I hope you will join us in our quest for optimal educational conditions of diversity; I hope you will join in our quest for better performance and accountability in making IUPUI look more like the larger community; and in preaching, and beseeching, that achievement matters. It matters to everyone.



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This page last modified on February 12 2009
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