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Love tackles diversity

After a yearlong search by a committee, Deborah Love has been appointed the first associate vice president for Diversity and Equal Opportunity.

Former U.S. Army captain and director of the Center for Human Rights at Washington State University, Love will report directly to the provost and will serve on both the president’s staff and the council of deans. Love assumed full-time responsibility for the DEO office on Feb. 25

The DEO office was created by the amalgamation of the Office of Diversity Initiatives with the Equal Opportunities Affairs Office in January 2001. The restructure followed a report into USF’s procedures for handling allegations of discrimination conducted by former U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Joseph Hatchet. The report, commissioned by USF President Judy Genshaft, was in response to the fallout following allegations that the university had covered up complaints of discrimination raised by members of the women’s basketball program.

Love said the changes implemented since Hatchet’s report had improved the university’s responsiveness to allegations of discrimination.

“One of the things that has taken place is the university’s grievance and complaint process has been significantly improved,” Love said. “The university’s discrimination policy now requires managers and supervisors, and those in leadership positions, to promptly report either verbally or through written communication reports or instances of alleged discrimination.”

Love said although she does not meet with the provost on a daily basis as was specified by Genshaft when she announced the new office, Love keeps the provost informed through calls, e-mails and weekly meetings.

Love said she would be performing a major advisory role to the president, the provost and the other vice presidents on matters of diversity and policies that affect diversity. Love said her other responsibilities include developing university wide diversity initiatives, overseeing the development of diversity and equal opportunity educational programs and ensuring compliance with university policies guaranteeing equal opportunity and equity.Love said she had first been attracted to diversity and social justice issues during her time studying law at the University of Mississippi.

“I have been working in the area of diversity, equal opportunity and affirmative actions for close to eight or nine years now,” Love said. “Of all of the courses I attended at law school, those courses (civil rights issues, employment discrimination, labor relations) were the most interesting to me.”

Love said she had experience, obtained during her tenure at WSU, in conducting investigations into equal opportunity complaints.

“We had a duty to conduct an investigation, and provide the plaintiff and respondent with an opportunity to provide statements and documentation supporting their claims, allegations or issues,” Love said.

Love said she did not expect to be involved when the pending lawsuit brought by former members of the women’s basketball program, alleging a coverup of racism by the university, goes to trial.

Eduard Piou, assistant vice president for Diversity and Equal Opportunity Affairs, said his decision to move to the College of Education was a direct consequence of Love’s appointment.

” I believe that the Office of Diversity and Equal Opportunity is too small for an assistant vice president and an associate vice president,” Piou said.

Former associate vice president for the now defunct Diversity Initiatives office, Denys Blell, who is no longer employed by USF, said he wished Love success. Blell refused to comment on whether the merger of his former office with the Equal Opportunity Affairs Office rendered USF more capable of handing discrimination issues.

“The provost believes that to be the case, and he is in charge. I have no comment about that,” Blell said.Love said one of the challenges facing her at USF was overcoming resistance to change.

“I see this office as a catalyst for change – sometimes some people find change to be difficult,” Love said.

A pile of brochures on the coffee-table in the waiting room of the provost’s office promoting the responsibilities of the defunct Office of Diversity Initiatives, and citing Denys Blell as the associate vice president, illustrates the extent of the challenge facing Love.

Contact Chris O’Donnellat