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Columbia to hire consultant to evaluate DEI efforts after fourth DEI director leaves for another college or university 

President and CEO Kwang-Wu Kim speaks to faculty and staff members in the Film Row Cinema at 1104 S. Wabash Ave., on Thursday, April 13, 2023. Columbia’s budget deficit, along with student recruitment and retention efforts were discussed during the over an hour and a half town hall meeting. (Sam Tucker)

This story has been updated. 

Following the departure of Academic DEI Director Jessica Meharry, President Kwang-Wu Kim announced he has invited an administrator at the University of Chicago to evaluate the college’s current DEI efforts.

Kim named Tobias Spears, currently an assistant dean and Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion officer at the university’s Biological Sciences Division.

Spears will “assess what we are currently doing and to help us envision an infrastructure capable of better supporting the college’s ambition to be a national leader in this area,” Kim wrote in an email sent to faculty and staff on Monday, Aug. 7.

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He will “meet with a range of campus stakeholders” and deliver a report of recommendations near the end of the upcoming fall semester, Kim said. 

Spears’s hiring will be funded through the President’s Office, according to Chief of Staff Laurent Pernot.

Why this is happening: As previously reported by the Chronicle, Meharry is the fourth head of Academic DEI to leave since the office was established in 2016. During her tenure  the Antiracism Transformation Team, announced plans to conduct a campus racial climate survey during the 2023-24 school year.  

As the college searches for Meharry’s replacement, Kim wrote that he remains “committed to accelerating and broadening these initiatives at the institutional level.”

Go deeper: In a 2022 interview, Spears described his work to create a “sense of belonging” for faculty who are underrepresented in their fields.

“Leaders should give room for and champion multiple voices and should be willing to be wrong and grow from mistakes,” he said. “They need to laugh with their colleagues and listen to the stories people tell about their lives. They can be proactive about diversity, equity, and inclusion—seek out training, develop well defined criteria for searches, and pay attention to history.”

 

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About the Contributors
Leah Love
Leah Love, Former Deputy Editor
llove@columbiachronicle.com   Leah Love is a senior journalism major, minoring in Black World Studies. Love has covered Chicago politics, breaking campus news and the arts. They joined the Chronicle in August 2022.   Hometown: Oak Park, Illinois
Sam Tucker
Sam Tucker, Former Photojournalist