Views expressed in opinion columns are the author’s own.
In some of his first public statements as the new interim Chief Diversity Officer at the University of Maryland, Roger Worthington affirmed his interest in establishing immediate channels of dialogue between himself, the office he will oversee and all members of our campus community. While the values that Worthington has espoused — diversity, equity, transparency and inclusion — should be fundamental to this institution, we must wonder why the same values were not honored during his appointment process.
Although I have never met Worthington, through my conversations with peers who have worked with him, I can easily sense his passion for improving our university. I have few doubts that he will be an asset to our students, and that he will work tirelessly to reaffirm our university’s commitment to true equity and social justice.
While I cannot criticize the ultimate decision to hire Worthington, I must express my concern with the manner by which this decision was made.
Other applicants for the position of Chief Diversity Officer participated in a competitive national search and were required to interact with students, faculty and staff as part of the interview process. The same cannot be said of Worthington. In fact, it is my understanding that university leadership never sought the input of student leadership in making this decision. This process was not predicated on our values of transparency and equity, or informed by our principle of shared governance.
Even more distressing is that Worthington served as co-chair of the search committee for the position he now holds. This should have raised immediate red flags, and is yet another testament to the lack of transparency that underpinned this decision.
As the current representative for the undergraduate student body, I feel we have been left out of a pivotal decision that will impact our university community for years to come. It seems as if our university will only embrace shared governance when it becomes convenient. We cannot continue to operate this way, even when there is a sense of urgent need. This is not how community is built but rather how division is sown.
Shared governance, now more than ever, is a necessary part of rebuilding in the wake of tragedy. Considering recent student demands concerning diversity and inclusion, the administration should prioritize using processes that are in line with our shared governance model. To truly progress, students, staff, faculty and administration must come together to create a safe community for all.
The hiring of a new Chief Diversity Officer should have represented the beginning of a new chapter for our community, a chapter in which our university finally embraces its students as partners in our shared journey. Instead, we have once again been kept at a distance and not trusted as stakeholders in this vital process.
In response, we as a community must stand resolute and be even more vigilant and vocal. Our advocacy for a fair, transparent and equitable process cannot be ignored if we are to ever overcome the challenges that stand in our way. Student leadership across campus is here and ready to make a difference. I hope this commitment will be acknowledged by our entire community.
A.J. Pruitt is the University of Maryland SGA President. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.