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Diversity of staff and faculty headed upwards

Since Guilford College was founded in 1837, diversity has been one of its seven core values, which are principles that must be perpetuated throughout the campus community.

Although diversity is a core value, only 25 percent of Guilford’s staff and 20 percent of the College’s faculty are people of color, which is a three and four percent increase since the 2014 to 2015 academic year, respectively.

“Honestly, I don’t think I’ve noticed a lot of diversity among the faculty at Guilford,” said junior Grace Sanabria. “I’ve noticed that certain departments maybe have more diversity than others. In my opinion, it could definitely be better.”

Despite this sentiment about the lack of diversity, Guilford continues to place importance on diversity within its faculty.

“Having diverse faculty is tremendously valuable to our students and the greater academic community,” wrote President Jane Fernandes in an email interview with The Guilfordian. “With more significant diversity among our faculty, staff and students, we create an environment that allows us to develop new knowledge about human beings that can bridge or break our assumptions.”

For Sanabria, being taught by diverse professors has helped make connections in class.

“In my experience, I think it makes you feel better when you see someone who you can  with,” said Sanabria. “I’m Hispanic, so (with) my professor for sociology and anthropology … she’s also a Latina. I feel more comfortable with her sometimes because of our identities. We are able to understand each other better, so I think that’s really important for students to relate to people.”

Professor of Sociology and Anthropology María Amado expressed similar sentiments on the importance of having a diverse faculty to teach students.

“Well, I think … it makes (students) feel represented, (it) gives them role models,” said Amado. “(Having diverse faculty) opens spaces for the students to be able to share issues that they may be confronting that pertain to their situation as minorities and … they may feel uncomfortable if they had to talk about that with non-minority professors.”

Amado is from Panama, a country in Central America. With her personal connection as a faculty member with a Latinx background, Amado hopes to see more representation among Guilford’s faculty.

“I would definitely like even more diversity than we have,” said Amado. “For example, there is a significant population … of (Latinx) students here, and (Latinx) students with special needs and … as far as I remember, I may be mistaken, but in terms of tenure or tenure-track faculty, (there) are only two (of Latinx background) here on campus, so I think there should be more.”

In recent years, the administration has implemented various plans as part of efforts to increase diversity throughout the College for a better educational experience for students.

“Guilford stresses diversity as a college-wide priority,” wrote Fernandes. “The (establishment of) an Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion this year is a significant step forward in building systems and processes college-wide that better serve our diversity-related priority goals and initiatives.

“Vice President Barbara Lawrence is doing a tremendous job beginning to establish a robust and well-integrated infrastructure for this new division that will heighten our effectiveness college-wide.”

A recent priority of the College to increase faculty diversity is the “Invest in Faculty and Staff” plan.

“Systems and protocol related to our hiring practices, for example, have been enhanced to ensure we maximize the breadth of diversity in our search pools,” wrote Fernandes. “We have strengthened guidelines and expectations for how positions are designed, advertised and recruited in ways that make attracting and including diversity a priority.”

According to its website, Guilford is “committed to creating an academic institution where a variety of persons and perspectives are welcome” and also “committed to providing an environment where students from all cultures and backgrounds may succeed.”

One way in which Guilford cultivates diversity of perspectives is with the curriculum of the Foreign Languages Department.

“The Foreign Languages Department affects diversity in that we’re teaching about diverse cultures,” said Dave Limburg, chair of the foreign languages department. “In each of our languages, you can find that culture, not just in one place, but in various places around the world … We can teach a lot about diversity in that context … about diversity in culture and language and literature and artworks and things like that too.

“We try to concentrate on bringing in diverse perspectives whenever we … choose books for students to read or choose topics that we want to explore. We try to keep diversity in mind.”

Despite progression toward a more diverse faculty, according to Limburg, there is and always will be room for improvement.

“I think we could do better, and that’s kind of always the way those core values are,” said Limburg. “We are always striving to do better at them and not just figure that we can check them off as if they’re requirements.”

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