Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Unlike other state schools, UA lacks Office of Diversity

Unlike other universities throughout the state, including Auburn University and the other University of Alabama System schools, The University of Alabama does not have an official Office of Diversity. Instead, the University has opted to facilitate the same functions through the Crossroads Community Center where students can collaborate and promote diversity.

George Daniels, a journalism professor at the University, said the Crossroads Center was thought up as a central organization in place of an official office.

“At least five years ago, there was a discussion about whether we should have a cultural center or some type of centralized unit in the space of Foster Auditorium, and the consensus was that the best way to handle that was to have a cultural center but use the Ferguson Center as that space,” Daniels said. “It became the Crossroads Center.”

The Crossroads Community Center sponsors and promotes programming on diversity for the University.

“I know that we are doing the same things that offices of diversity do on other campuses because I’m in a Southeastern Multicultural Network,” Lane McLelland, director of the Crossroads Community Center, said.

Several other organizations, like Spectrum, the Women’s Resource Center and Capstone Alliance, work to promote diversity as well.

“What I think is really good about the way The University of Alabama approaches diversity is that we don’t just make it the responsibility of an office of diversity,” McLelland said. “This office, along with many other folks on campus, does the kinds of things that people associate with an office of diversity.”

The absence of a central office does have its drawbacks, McLelland said. Some students do not know the responsibilties and duties of Crossroads.

“Many people think the University doesn’t have an office of diversity just because they don’t know what Crossroads does,” McLelland said. “We are in the Division of Community Affairs, and that’s also what confuses people sometimes because frequently the office of diversity is in Student Affairs.”’

Daniels said that in not aligning directly as an office of diversity, Crossroads is allowed to have a broad reach.

“Diversity is a term that is very loaded,” Daniels said. “It can mean a lot of things. I think in the south, sometimes diversity is a euphemism for black and white.”

While many schools have centers of diversity with racial markers, like Black Affairs or Hispanic Relations, the consensus at the University was to have a broad-based approach and to have the center be a part of Community Affairs, Daniels said.

“The key to that success, though, is not a room or a physical space, it is the network that is connected to the space,” Daniels said. “Because supporting the diversity mission of the University doesn’t happen in one office or one space, it happens throughout the University in all divisions, in all departments.”

Attached to the Crossroads Center is the Crossroads Network, a group of students, faculty and staff who discuss diversity issues and plan and promote events related to diversity. Some of their projects include the campus-wide celebrations of African American Heritage Month and Latino/Hispanic Heritage Month.

“It allows to look at diversity beyond race – because that’s typically the marker, race – but also to look at religion or no religion because that’s also a type of diversity, to look at aspects of class or sexual orientation,” Daniels said.

In his 11 years at the University, Daniels said he has noticed changes in the way diversity is handled on campus.

“I think the discussions are greater in number, but they are still too crisis-driven, and by that I mean we talk about something when a problem arises,” he said. “That shouldn’t be the case. This should be part of our everyday discussion and our everyday activities.”

The Network met twice a month up until last year when it went on a temporary hiatus due to leadership change. It will meet again on Tuesday from noon-1 p.m. in Ferguson Center Room 360.

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