UNM's new president has a long way to go to solve the university's diversity problems
By Danny Hernandez
Before David Schmidly looms a large and daunting goal: solving UNM’s “diversity problems.”
The new university president seems eager to take on the challenge and said during the selection process that, because of his experience as president at Oklahoma State University and Texas Tech, he’s just the person to do it.
But some have thier doubts, and cite two sexual discrimination lawsuits against Texas Tech during Schmidly’s tenure.
Margaret Montoya is one of the doubtful. The UNM law professor and pundit on KNME’s “The Line” is concerned about the lawsuits, one of which was brought by another law professor against Texas Tech. According to Montoya, one of the allegations made by the plaintiff is that Schmidly said he would never hire a woman as dean of the law school. The lawsuit was dropped in 2004 when the plaintiff accepted a position as dean of another law school.
Yet two years before the law professor filed her sex-discrimination lawsuit, two School of Pharmacy faculty members also filed a sexual discrimination lawsuit against Texas Tech. This is according to the United States Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals records obtained by the Alibi.
Schmidly has adamantly and consistently denied the allegations and says the proof of his success in increasing diversity is in the numbers.
Schmidly boasts that during his time at Oklahoma State, the African-American student population increased by 25 percent, the African-American faculty increased by 47 percent and the Hispanic student population increased by 28 percent. He adds, “and we’ve had really good success in bringing women on to the faculty. In the last five years, the number of males increased by one and a half percent, and the number of women on the faculty increased by 19.1 percent.”
Furthermore, he says at Texas Tech, he increased diversity at the upper levels of management by hiring a woman to be vice president of finance and, “we hired a Hispanic for institutional diversity, we made institutional diversity one of the major themes of the strategic plan, and we hired a Hispanic for operations.”
At Oklahoma State, which Schmidly says is “the most racially challenged institution I’ve ever been [in],” he says he made similar changes in the upper echelon and also created an office of diversity.
But Montoya remains unconvinced. “He’s coming into an institution where the problems of diversity are more complex than at Texas Tech or Oklahoma State University,” she says, adding that the school needs a president with a better and more sophisticated understanding of UNM’s diversity problems and New Mexico’s cultures.
More than 75 percent of UNM’s faculty are white, while the majority of the state’s population is Hispanic. Minority groups have always pointed to the lack of parity in undergraduate graduation rates and graduate schools enrollment, especially at the Anderson Schools of Management and the Medical School. Women’s groups and minority groups have pointed to the lack of parity in the number of faculty, especially tenured faculty, and in staff.
Still, Schmidly says he will strive for diverity, equity and inclusion. Will he manage the task? Only time will tell.
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