Addressing America's Ongoing Diversity Problem: The Faces Of Tomorrow
Q & A With President Jamie Hebert
By: Zainab Oladega
October 22, 2017
Georgia Southern is going through a consolidation period with plans on merging with Armstrong State University.
An implementation committee has been created, consisting of students, faculty, staff, and community members of both GSU and Armstrong. Implementation will be finalized by January, 2018.
With the merging taking place, Southern is going through a transformation, with new initiatives, guidelines and goals being created. It’s year-old leadership has made promises of a diversity officer.
With all that is going on around us in our Nation, the topic of diversity is at the top of the discussion list.
It’s week eight of the NFL season and many of the NFL players are still kneeling during the national anthem because of the ongoing social injustice issues. Players through social media and press conferences have expressed to the league that they want to sit down with the league and discuss social justice initiatives.
With this years United Nations Day theme being, “Potential in Diversity”, it is a great time to sit with leaders and talk about what their plan of action will be on implementing initiatives to tackle all areas of diversity.
Diversity here at Georgia Southern, when it comes to student race diversity is average with 63% white, 26 % African American, 5.4 percent Hispanic, 2.4 % Asian and 3.5% of two or more races.
However, when it comes to faculty in diversity, it is certainly lacking. The 2016 full time faculty is represented with there being 621 or 41% professors who are white, 49 or 6% professors who are black and 162 or 19% professors who are of another race. Diversity here is really underrepresented.
With Georgia Southern going through a transformation period and President Hebert implementing a diversity officer, addressing these types of issues is important.
Following a public address at an August Student Government Association meeting, President Hebert agreed to give this reporter a sit down interview on diversity.
However, after six weeks of email, in person and phone discussions with his office staff, President Hebert declined the interview due to, “university travel”.
He instead, offered to answer our questions via email.
Q1. In your first year, how have you sized up the diversity of the faculty, the student body, the administration and staff here at Southern?
A: As the marketplace of ideas, a university should be a place that welcomes diversity and naturally gravitates toward the enrichment that different viewpoints bring to the learning environment. When I was considering the presidency, it was apparent that Georgia Southern includes the opportunity for open dialogue and continually strives for high standards of diversity and inclusion in all areas. We are committed to the continuation of this culture and I am excited for the strides we will be able to make in the future.
Q2. In a previous media report in April, you said: “A diversity officer will never be further away, in my org chart, than the executive leadership team or directly reporting to the executive leadership team,” Hebert said. “What’s efficient and what’s not efficient is something I’d like to discuss with the members of that executive leadership team before we make those types of final decisions.”
Part A. When will that decision be made?
A: On July 12, 2017, the Consolidation Implementation Committee ("CIC") approved a recommendation that the new university include an office which focuses on diversity and inclusion programming initiatives and activities. Subsequently, I have included a position of Director of Diversity and Faculty Development on the final organizational chart for the new institution. This position reports directly to the Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs and will be filled on an interim basis until a permanent hire is made.
Part B. Who will be involved in the decision to create a diversity officer?
A: This decision was made following input from many campus constituents, including members of the CIC.
Part C. What will the role of the diversity officer be?
A: Broadly, this position will be responsible for coordinating diversity and inclusion programming for the entire campus, with specific initiatives and opportunities for faculty development. The precise job description for this position is currently being developed in preparation for opening the position for applications.
Q3. What were your diversity successes at Sam Houston?
I don’t think there is a finish line for diversity. It must be a continuous and deliberate effort and one that we owe our students, A: faculty and staff. It is possible to see improvements, however. You see it in the eyes of the students when they can identify with their professors, are free to be themselves and have the support systems necessary to thrive.
4. How do you define diversity? With so many different inclusion issues dealing with race, religion and culture, lgbtq, we can't forget the disabled, the elderly, and even the socio-economically excluded. So, how do you define it?
A: I think you answered this in your question…you cannot exclude any group of people or characteristic viewpoint when defining diversity. I recognize that individuals can belong to all different types of groups simultaneously and may not always share the same viewpoint. In other words, diversity is much broader than is commonly portrayed.
Name: Dr. Jamie Hebert
Position: 13th President of Georgia Southern University
Native of Louisiana
College: University of Louisiana-Lafayette
Education: Bachelors, Masters, and PhD in Statistics
President Hebert at the 2017 convocation held at the beginning of each semester. During the ceremony he does the "State of the University" address.
"As the marketplace of ideas, a university should be a place that welcomes diversity and naturally gravitates toward the enrichment that different viewpoints bring to the learning environment"