By Editorial Board | Echo
The Rev. Greg Dyson began his new position as special assistant to the president for intercultural initiatives on Jan. 2. Dyson's position, among other things, will have him reporting directly to the president and creating a strategic plan for diversity and intercultural initiatives, according to a press release by Director of Media Relations Jim Garringer.
However, the first part of coming up with a strategic plan is assessing where Taylor is when it comes to engaging diversity and understanding how the university can improve. And while it's difficult for Dyson to assess where Taylor is right at the moment with just over a month on the job, he has observed that the interest level is high.
"I have talked to students, faculty and staff - people of different levels of administration - all of whom feel the freedom to talk about it, or to share their apprehension or concerns. And so that's a really healthy sign," Dyson said.
Director of Intercultural Programs Felicia Case believes it's a good thing to have a special assistant like Dyson, but thinks Taylor has also made some steps backward as well. According to Case, the number of international students recruited has dropped recently. An example of this can be seen in an article published last semester by Abigail Roberts, citing there were no new English as a Second Language (ESL) students entering Taylor this school year, compared to the average of eight students per year.
Just starting in his new position, Dyson's priority is listening to people all across campus and hearing what they have to say about the diversity. During Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Dyson led a workshop called "Finding Your Voice," which aimed to get people who felt like they couldn't speak on issues of diversity express their thoughts through the medium of art. He believes that everyone's voice is needed in this conversation.
However, Taylor remains a predominantly white institution, so Case believes it's important to consult diverse students and students of color about how they think Taylor is doing when it comes to intercultural initiatives. Case tells the fable of the giraffe and the elephant, saying that in the end, some things may need to be changed to better accommodate for diverse students, faculty and staff here.
"The elephant began to wonder, 'is this a place I'm supposed to be?'" Case said. "That is how students, faculty and staff of color in places like this are wondering . . . you can invite us to the house, but you might have to do some redecorating and deconstructing so that everyone fits in the house, not just the giraffes."
The Editorial Board agrees that, while Taylor University occasionally lacks in engagement with diversity, the addition of such positions as Special Assistant to the President for Intercultural Initiatives shows that they desire to improve.