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Khator speaks on diversity issues

Winding down the provost candidates’ interviews to only two, Renu Khator, USF’s interim provost, made her rounds Thursday afternoon.

Khator met with six representatives of the Minority Faculty and Staff Association to discuss what they all agreed to call “imperative issues” affecting minorities at USF and beyond.

Khator was able to utilize her Indian background to highlight the importance of the different minorities’ involvement with education, particularly USF.

“(The Indian community) is very involved with education,” Khator said. “It’s not too far away. You’ll see the Indian community grow more.”

One member who participated in the talk was Samuel Wright, associate dean of student relations. He shared his grief on USF’s lack of faculty enrichment programs and talked about a specific department as an example.

“My heart aches when I see programs such as the engineering department, which is not meeting the students’ needs,” Wright said. He then went on to ask Khator if she was chosen for the position of provost, what would she do in order to improve such issues.

Khator mentioned transforming classrooms as one way to meet students’ needs, as well considering other options to improve the overall feeling of the university regarding its diversity.

“First, (USF) has to ask (itself) if we really have the culture that other people find interesting,” Khator said. “And does (USF) respect (that) culture?”

She emphasized the necessity of using strategic planning to the university’s advantage and said that although respecting diversity will be a challenge, she will be up for the job.

The meeting also touched upon minorities’ efforts to attend college, in particular the requirements they are faced with before entering higher education institutions in addition to a shortage of important decision-making positions held by minority members.

“Diversity is not a requirement,” said Trevor Purcell, chairman of Africana Studies. “It is important to articulate a policy where diversity is shown as an essential part of our community, and the greater community we call the U.S. of A.”

Although Purcell said it makes sense to have a diverse environment, Wright said that many times the “real” people who are concerned with issues affecting their communities are not even part of the decision-making process affecting their lives.

“Everybody brings feedback to the table,” Wright said. “We should have diverse opinions so everybody is represented.”

Khator not only agreed with the various representatives but also asked questions on what she can do, if selected as provost, to address concerns affecting the minorities at USF.

“We have to get a culture at USF that respects diversity,” Khator said. “We should be doing more than we are doing today … as long as (staff, administration and students) show me how the pieces fit together.”