The Student News Site of Wofford College

Old Gold & Black

Old Gold & Black

Old Gold & Black

Former director of diversity and inclusion leaving Wofford

Former+director+of+diversity+and+inclusion+leaving+Wofford

By: Essence Buckman, Staff Writer

On Wednesday, Oct. 5, 2016, Jennifer Gutierrez-Caldwell announced that she had accepted a job at Pendleton Place as the connections count director in Greenville, S.C. and her last day working as the director of diversity and inclusion would be Friday, Oct. 14. The announcement came at the end of a meeting for the executive boards of organizations under the Office of Diversity and Inclusion. It was unexpected and shocking to students, leaving them concerned.

“Jennifer’s departure has been hard to accept,” says Resharia Keller ’19. “She has been an instrumental part of my love for Wofford, and has been a person I could go to for anything. Her hard work at Wofford has brought about so many great things concerning diversity on campus, and I will definitely miss her presence.”

Faculty are concerned as well. “The director of diversity and inclusion is one of the most important positions at Wofford College,” says Dr. Kim Rostan, professor of English and coordinator of the African-American studies and intercultural studies programs. “It’s an understatement to say that we are indebted to Jennifer Gutierrez-Caldwell for the remarkable work she has done for us—she has shouldered the work that it should take three people to do during her time here… Given the alarming turnover rate for that position, [the Wofford community] should be asking questions about how best to support that office in the future. We have some serious work to do, in that regard.”

Story continues below advertisement

Dr. Jim Neighbors, another professor of English and African-American studies coordinator, had the same feelings: “Jennifer’s departure is disappointing… Students trusted her and faculty sought Jennifer’s leadership in many ways, including learning how better to cultivate a positive and affirming classroom environment and partnering with her on co- or non-curricular projects to help improve diversity matters on campus. We will, however, persevere and continue to work hard to make Wofford a place where diversity becomes so valued as to be the campus standard. Jennifer helped us take some very big steps toward that goal, and her example will continue to motivate us as we move forward.”

In the wake of her departure, members of the various diversity organizations are pushing to form a diversity council with seats on Campus Union to report the concerns and needs of their organizations. Gutierrez-Caldwell has wanted to see this happen at Wofford since her arrival. Omar Elmore ’19, Fredy Madrid ’20 and Bali Channa ‘20 proposed the diversity council to Campus Union on Monday, Oct. 17, 2016. This proposal is pending approval.

Madrid reports a positive reaction. “The proposal went extremely well,” he says. “It was praised by most of the delegates that attended—I am confident that it will definitely pass.”

Gutierrez-Caldwell encourages the students she has worked with to contact President Nayef Samhat because he wants to hear their feelings concerning diversity. Neighbors says Samhat plans to meet with the presidents of the various organizations under the Department of Diversity and Inclusion to hear their perspectives on the future of diversity on campus.

Ramone Galinanes, Bonner Scholars Program coordinator, has taken Gutierrez’s position as the chair of the newly formed diversity committee. This committee consists of several students, faculty and staff members. He is aware that some are disillusioned with Gutierrez’s departure and that there are questions about how the absence of a director could affect students of color on campus. He sees this concern to be broader.

“A more important question is, ‘What impact does not having many faculty or professional role models of color on campus have on students?'” says Galinanes. “The recruitment of faculty and staff is something that the diversity committee wants to address. [Wofford] needs to move away from the idea that it’s one person’s job, or that as long as a person of color is in the director of diversity position, then [Wofford] is good to go. The campus as a whole needs to form a larger coalition or movement, something that Gutierrez started in many ways, that raises a certain level of consciousness on this campus concerning diversity.”

Since Gutierrez-Caldwell’s resignation, Dean of Students Roberta Bigger announced that Wofford alumnus Ron Norman ’13 will be the interim director of Diversity and Inclusion.

Donate to Old Gold & Black
$0
$500
Contributed
Our Goal

Your donation will support the student journalists of Wofford College. Your contribution will allow us to purchase equipment and cover our annual website hosting costs.

More to Discover
Donate to Old Gold & Black
$0
$500
Contributed
Our Goal