In order to help Virginia Tech focus attention on issues of race without diminishing the university’s broader commitment to diversity, Provost Mark McNamee has announced the creation of a special “Taskforce on Race and the Institution”—a team of students, faculty and staff who will identify key issues and propose specific actions that will lead to lasting progress towards the university's commitment to a diverse and inclusive community.

In addition, McNamee has asked the Virginia Tech’s Commission on Equal Opportunity and Diversity, in partnership with the Office of Multicultural Affairs and the Office of Equal Opportunity, to update the university’s Diversity Strategic Plan, first issued in 2000.

As part of the updated plan, the campus community will be provided with a comprehensive summary and analysis of all current programs, activities, and funding associated with diversity and multicultural efforts for faculty, students, and staff.

“Virginia Tech is committed to diversity among faculty, staff, and students and is committed to creating and sustaining an inclusive, supportive environment for all members of our community,” said McNamee. “Even though we have developed and implemented a wide array of programs, policies, and practices designed to promote and support diversity and multicultural opportunities, we still struggle in addressing issues directly related to race and racism, especially around issues affecting our underrepresented African American and Latino communities. We have not yet established a consistent track record of success that sustains confidence among our underrepresented faculty, staff, and students of color.”

A written progress report from the taskforce will be submitted to McNamee by the end of fall semester 2006, and the report will be made available for discussion within the university community.

The updated diversity plan, once completed, will be linked to the University Strategic Plan and will provide specific ways to measure progress.

“We have an opportunity as a university community to address issues of race in an open and constructive manner,” said McNamee, “I am confident this taskforce, which consists of faculty, staff, and students with a demonstrated understanding of issues of race and racism and a commitment to institutional progress, will make a difference.”

McNamee noted the taskforce will use current research related to race in higher education to identify key issues that need to be addressed; review the current situation at Virginia Tech; review position papers and plans developed over the past 2-3 years by various members of the Virginia Tech community; identify the most important issues at Virginia Tech that limit our progress in recruitment and retention and in creating an inclusive, supportive climate; propose both short-term and long-term action items and strategies that will promote institutional progress based on an analysis of best practices; and identify additional research or follow-up studies that are needed to extend or sustain the work of the taskforce.

“I am personally committed to the success of this taskforce and will provide appropriate staff and financial support,” McNamee said. “I want to be part of the solution and I will be available throughout the process to participate in the deliberations to the extent desired by the group. President Steger and Executive Vice President Hyatt join me in pledging our support to these efforts.”

Members of the Taskforce on Race and the Institution include:

==> Wayne Scales, professor, Electrical and Computer Engineering (committee chair)
==> Barbara Board, director, Northeast District, Virginia Cooperative Extension
==> Marcie Boucouvalas, professor, Human Development
==> Christina Brogdon, human resources analyst, Human Resources
==> Sheila Carter-Tod, assistant professor, English
==> Mary Connerley, associate professor, Management
==> Kevin Denny, senior majoring in computer science
==> Valerie Hardcastle, associate dean for outreach and external affairs, Liberal Arts and Human Sciences
==> Zenobia Hikes, vice president, Student Affairs
==> Vince Houston, lieutenant, Virginia Tech Police
==> Deborah Cumaraswamy Johnson, postdoctoral associate, Science Education Partnership Research
==> Scott Johnson, associate professor, Human Development
==> Russell Jones, professor, Psychology
==> Barbara Pendergrass, former dean of students
==> Priscilla Martinez, undergraduate student, Aerospace Engineering
==> Rosa Mayorga, assistant professor, Philosophy
==> Kevin McDonald, director, Office of Equal Opportunity
==> Ed McPherson, director, VT Stars, Learning Technology
==> Manuel Pérez-Quiñones, associate professor, Computer Science
==> Ray Plaza, projects specialist for diversity initiatives, Office of Multicultural Affairs
==> Ishwar Puri, department head, Engineering Science and Mechanics
==> Tonya Smith-Jackson, associate professor, Industrial and Systems Engineering
==> LaChelle Waller, graduate student, Genetics, Bioinformatics, and Computational Biology