Robert Shelton makes much of his devotion to diversity on campus and of his relationship with various under-represented groups at the UA. Recently, he has made a lot of noise about this year's freshman class being the most diverse in the history of the UA However, let's take a look at his actions rather than his words:
Considering that Tucson is over 40% Hispanic, where is the Hispanic leadership at the highest level of this administration? There is Joel Valdez, who has done much good for the UA and for the Tucson community, but he is near retirement and much less willing to fight the good fight than he has been in the past. Who can blame him? Shelton publicly, and many think recklessly, fired his only other high ranking administrator when V.P. Juan Garcia was asked to resign via email by Shelton for the "tone" of a response he emailed to Provost Hay. That firing may come back to haunt Shelton and Hay. Besides Valdez, there is no high ranking Hispanic in"the tower," and "team Provost" --Hay's leadership team-- is lilly white. In fact, Hay has shown absolutely no interest in understanding the diverse Tucson community. She has repeatedly refused or ignored invitations from these groups. The campus is restless and the Garcia firing is one of the sparks that may ignite the Shelton/Hay reign. Many people on campus will be pleased to know that Garcia has filed multiple complaints against President Shelton and Provost Hay for discrimination and other charges. It will be interesting indeed to see how these grievances are resolved and what the reaction of the Board of Regents might be. it is also interesting to note that Garcia is one of the few people on this campus willing to stand up publicly against the administration.
Shelton has crowed recently and frequently about the diversity of this year's freshman class. However, the resources put in place to help students from under-represented groups to navigate the UA have been removed. As noted in an earlier post, the Cultural Centers have been left unfunded, University College, which served more Arizona Assurance scholars, more scholars from under-represented groups and the neediest students, has been dissolved. With it went the experienced advising that kept many, many of these students on track for graduation. The Financial Aid Office has lost its most experienced staff, and students who most desperately need help are left without. Furthermore, extremely large classes mean that students have little contact with professors when studies tell us that relationships with teachers do more to assure student success than almost any other factor. With classes in the hundreds, who has time to build relationships with students and how many 18-year-old teenagers will be brave enough to approach a professor themselves? In particular, how many first generation 18-year-olds from a minority culture will approach a usually Anglo professor? Without resources, a lot of the students from this freshman class face a very difficult road ahead. Many of them will not survive the first semester and many more of them will not graduate.
Remember too that the UA is up for NCA accreditation review and we were slammed 10 years ago about a lack of diversity in the faculty ranks. It's worse now. We've have actually slid backwards in this regard under the Shelton administration.
So, we ask, what does Shelton and the UA have to be proud of in regard to serving diversity in this state?
Evelyn B. Hall