MU Interim Chancellor Brady Deaton hopes a change in command will help the university attract more students and faculty from a wider range of racial and ethnic backgrounds.
At a press conference in Jesse Hall on Wednesday, Deaton detailed changes in the way diversity issues will be handled from now on. MU Deputy Chancellor Mike Middleton will take over as head of minority affairs, which includes the black studies program, women’s and gender studies and academic retention services.
Handy Williamson, the former leader of those programs, will retain control over international programming and faculty development.
Deaton said the change had been discussed over the past year, and the time seemed right to make it.
“(It was) an ongoing process that just happened to come today,” he said. “It fits with the momentum already underway.”
The change was formally announced on Deaton’s first day leading the Columbia campus following Richard Wallace’s retirement.
A report on campus diversity, conducted by an outside group and released in April, specifically mentioned Williamson as someone who is “indifferent and sometimes hostile to African American concerns.”
Deaton said the report was not a direct reason for the restructuring but that it was a factor in the decision to separate minority and international affairs.
He said Williamson was effective in increasing faculty and staff diversity on campus.
Middleton was selected to head the office because of his experience as an administrator in the Office of Minority Affairs and Faculty Development. He also was appointed to the Leadership on Diversity Council by Wallace.
Williamson remains in charge of international programs due to his “extensive international background on the federal level,” Deaton said.
He also helped the “For All We Call Mizzou” fund-raising campaign, extending it overseas to alumni in foreign countries.
“We’re trying to approach what we’re doing in both areas in a real teamwork fashion, so we’re all going to be working as a team to strengthen our programs in these areas,” said Deaton.
A committee also is discussing whether diversity should be added as MU’s fifth core value. The university lists respect, responsibility, discovery and excellence on its statement of values.
“It’s a very healthy discussion, and it can go either way,” said Deaton.