President Judy Genshaft's Address
January 23, 2001 - The Marshall Center
The University of South Florida is absolutely committed to diversity in all aspects of university life, and we are always looking for ways to improve the environment for (diversity here.
This past August, when we received a formal complaint from a student athlete that she had experienced retaliation for making an earlier allegation of racial discrimination, the USF Diversity, Inclusion and Equal Opportunity Office instituted its normal procedures for investigating and resolving such charges.
At the same time, I asked Judge Joseph Hatchett to conduct an independent review of issues raised by the complaint.
I am very pleased and honored that Judge Hatchett agreed to undertake this task. He is one of the nation's most distinguished jurists and attorneys. He has served his state as a justice of the Florida Supreme Court.
He has served his state and nation in such positions as federal prosecutor, U.S. Magistrate, and Chief U.S. Circuit Judge for the U.S. 11th Circuit Court of Appeal. He has returned to private practice with the statewide law firm of Akerman Senterfitt.
Soon after Judge Hatchett began his review, he advised me that his best contribution would be to review the policies that the university has followed in the handling of allegations of racial discrimination. The Judge's final report shows the wisdom of that approach.
In addition to reviewing the handling of one case in the athletic department from the very start to the conclusion of the final appeal, Judge Hatchett compared USF's equal opportunity affairs policies with those at the other nine state universities. His report makes it clear that USF needs improved policies to guide supervisors in responding to discrimination complaints.
His recommendations will improve the environment for diversity throughout the entire university.
In his review of the women's basketball case, Judge Hatchett noted that Athletic Director Griffin responded to the original complaint of discrimination with an internal Athletic Department investigation. He also noted that Athletic Director Griffin was acting within the policies of the university. But Judge Hatchett concluded that a different approach should have been taken. I have spent considerable time discussing this issue with Athletic Director Griffin, and we have learned valuable lessons.
Judge Hatchett recommends that all discrimination complaints be referred to the Equal Opportunity office. Already, the university requires all sexual harassment complaints to be reported, and it makes sense to have the same requirement for discrimination complaints. We take to heart this recommendation from Judge Hatchett. In fact, it is so important that I have directed that it be made effective immediately.
While Judge Hatchett has been conducting his review, we have been reviewing the organization of USF's administrative units for diversity and equal opportunity affairs.
Currently, we have an Office of Diversity Initiatives that runs a variety of programs to advocate diversity and is part of the Division of Academic Affairs.
We also have an Diversity, Inclusion and Equal Opportunity Office that enforces compliance with policies that are intended to ensure diversity. This office is part of the Division of Budgets, Human Resources and Information Technology and reports to that vice president.
These two functions are very closely related, and I believe that increasing coordination between them is a very important step USF must take to improve the university's diversity effort. So today, I am announcing that these two offices will be consolidated into the USF Diversity, Inclusion and Equal Opportunity Office.
I also believe that for USF to continue its progress in the area of diversity, the top leadership's commitment and interest must be clear. The top two officers of the university - the president and the provost - will assume responsibility for this very important function.
The director of the USF Diversity, Inclusion and Equal Opportunity Office will be an associate vice president and will report on a day-to-day basis to the provost. The associate vice president will also serve on the president's staff and each semester will deliver a report to the president on the state of diversity at USF. I plan to meet with each person who reports to me to communicate my personal commitment to diversity and equal opportunity, and to make clear my expectations for their conduct in handling these important issues.
I am very pleased to have Interim Provost David Stamps' support and advice in this endeavor. Earlier in Provost Stamps' career, when he was special assistant to the president, one of his areas of responsibility was minority affairs, and people from across the university praise the work he did.
Provost Stamps will head a working group to oversee the transition I have outlined. We will conduct a national search to recruit an excellent person to the post of associate vice president. And we will move expeditiously to identify what must be done to implement the changes in policies and procedures recommended by Judge Hatchett.
Again, I am very grateful to Judge Hatchett for the service he has provided the University of South Florida. At the University of South Florida, we are always looking for ways to be better, and we have learned many valuable lessons from this review.
The University of South Florida is fully committed to diversity. And we will fulfill that commitment.
I will be glad to respond to questions now.