New diversity VP right to wait on specific plans

A little more than a year after the search began, we welcome the news that the president and provost have selected UK’s top diversity official.

Judy “J.J.” Jackson of Vassar College in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., was announced as the vice president for institutional diversity on Monday, the Kernel reported earlier this week. Her job will officially begin July 1.

Jackson’s job responsibilities include advising the president and the provost on how university decisions will affect UK’s diversity goals; the position will also include coordinating diversity efforts among students, faculty, staff and administration, according to the Tuesday article.

We are glad that Jackson will not make specific plans for improving diversity at UK until after getting acclimated with the university community. As she said in the Kernel on Jan. 9, having a set plan before spending time at UK “would be like trying to suit everyone up in mail-order outfits for one the most important events of the university’s life.”

Jackson said in Tuesday’s article that, to understand how UK students see diversity on campus, she will meet with student leaders and student affairs officials; she also stressed the importance of keeping an open-door policy with students. Those are our exact sentiments. We’ve advocated including student input during the hiring process in past, and we believe student opinion and advice should play a crucial rule in Jackson’s decision making as the top diversity official.

We also applaud UK for continuing the hiring process smoothly and making the hire after the initial round of interviews failed to provide a viable candidate.

UK had planned to have a vice president for institutional diversity in place by July 1, 2007, but the initial five candidates either pulled out or were not selected for the position, according to a Jan. 10 Kernel article.

As we stated in a previous editorial, time schedules should not dictate who is selected for this position. The search committee must choose someone who can competently and energetically lead the university in diversifying its student body and faculty — and that means not simply rushing to find the first person willing to do the job.

While the final hire came months after the intended date, the delay is reasonable considering a new round of candidates had to be brought to campus. Jackson’s enthusiasm for the job, experience as an administrator and open-door approach on diversity indicate that she is well qualified for the position.

It is well publicized that diversity at UK is in a state that is less than desired. We hope that Jackson will live up to her potential and improve UK’s diversity through her efforts.