CPE approves diversity plan; changes soon to come

Olivia Medovich
Staff writer

The Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education (CPE) voted Thursday to approve the statewide diversity plans developed by Kentucky’s eight public universities.

With it, Murray State’s diversity plan, approved by the Board of Regents late last month, will become the standard guide to creating a more diverse campus at the University.

“We’ll be coming back together with our Commission on Diversity and Inclusion and start looking at implementation steps,” President Randy Dunn said. “From my perspective, it would really be helpful for them to do clear prioritizing on implementation steps we can get done right out of the gate and those that are longer term.”

The plan criteria requires focus on student body diversity that reflects the diversity of the Commonwealth or the institution’s service area, achievement gaps, workforce diversity and campus climate.

Dunn said while he will work with the Commission to undertake initiatives, the duty is his.

“One of the things our Board of Regents made clear is that they gave the responsibility to me for ensuring implementation of the plan as appropriate and reporting back to them on an annual basis,” Dunn said. “I’m going to rely on the Commission for advice and counsel, but I’m going to take a pretty hands-on approach with ensuring that this plan comes to life and changes the face of the campus.”

The CPE has a strategic direction it wants to take and asked the Council for Equal Opportunity (CEO) to provide guidance over the policies, Kirby O’Donoghue, CPE council member, said.

“Each university’s direction is directed toward expanding recruitment target toward students of diversity,” O’Donoghue said. “Being a new member of the CEO, I am looking forward to making sure universities have fair standards for diversity.”

According to Council’s website, it is the policy of the CPE that to truly prepare students for life and work in an increasingly diverse world, the public postsecondary institutions within the Commonwealth shall embrace diversity within constitutional and legal parameters.

Mark Powell, senior from Henderson, Ky., said the new policy should have many positive effects on the University.

“Our country was founded on different cultures and beliefs,” he said. “It can only benefit students and faculty if you have the different backgrounds present at the University level.”

The council made recommendations for certain universities to revise their plans, O’Donoghue said.

“Murray State had no additional comments, so clearly the diversity plan met their standards,” O’Donoghue said.

She said most universities define diversity as one of their goals, but the council wants to make sure action is taken to achieve this.

“I think it is very important if one is to value diversity to say explicitly how that will be enhanced,” she said. “I know Murray State has always valued diversity and measured how those students can be successful at MSU.”

Zack Kenady, senior from Hopkinsville, Ky., said a variety of people is important to encourage students to learn about others cultures.

“I think it is good to have a diverse culture in the area,” he said. “I don’t think any institution should be forced to have a policy, they should be able to decide on their own how to make their university diverse.”

O’Donoghue said the CPE does not want to force any university to have a certain population of any race, but rather look at how they could raise that particular population.

The council will make sure all policies are fair and relevant to the university’s needs, she said.

“We want to make sure there is a partnership established with other universities,” O’Donoghue said. “We’ll look to see if there is a current initiative to engage students through programs of study abroad that would encourage students to want to attend the University.”

Dunn said he has charged the Commission with costing out some of the initiatives.

“As we look at this year’s budget, which we’re already a fourth of the way through, we’ll look to get implementation around some of the lower cost items – things we can get done more quickly and directly – and then build into the subsequent year budget things that may have more of a cost attached to them,” Dunn said.

The Council will review the need for the policy in 2015. The first evaluations of the plans are set for 2012.

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