I left UNC in 2013. I was planning on staying there for another year and half, but my onetime boss fell in love, divorced and moved on. My new boss realized, fairly quickly, and that was an accomplishment since she was not the brightest bulb in the box, that the office was more associated with me and my work than anyone else’s and that she needed to get rid of me in order to try to make her own mark. So she suggested I go to the School of Education where I already had a faculty appointment. I suggested I just retire a few months early and get the hell out of a college that had no real commitment to diversity, social justice, integrity or honesty when it came to people of color. It was, as I had suspected from the beginning when they put me up in a hotel that looked like Tara, still a plantation. The house niggers could make some good money at Carolina, but they were not going to be given positions where they could change things or make policy. If you actually seemed to be making some kind of progress you would be considered dangerous. Not staying in one’s place was and is a capital sin. Never having known my place my tenure of ten years + was probably a miracle.
When I came there was no programming by the office for anything but black student recruitment, which I never understood the rationale for housing anywhere besides admission.I started six programs for faculty and staff and grad students, all of which perished when I left. The Diversity Plan which I spearheaded had its teeth pulled as well. The Chancellor who was a good guy, but naive, was replaced shortly after I left by a figurehead who had a commitment to absolutely nothing except keeping her job. If courage was butter she would have to eat her toast dry.
Fast forward to 2018. There is an Interim Chancellor A racist statue, put up well after the Civil War, in praise of the Confederacy on a main quad on campus was pulled down by activists. The college reluctantly decided to leave it down, even in the face of outcry by racists. Now they are giving it to an organization that never owned it along with a $2.5 million bonus for being dedicated to racism and the Lost Cause.
The faculty is not happy. I have yet to see a statement from any black group. The Black Faculty Staff Caucus, which I used to be the Chair of, the Black Alumni group. This is the Carolina Way. Do not criticize the college even when they are as wrong as can be. I sent the following emails to the Interim Chancellor a while back about diversity at Carolina. I received a response from his assistant but not from him. That let me know what he was. They are probably going to keep him on as Chancellor since he has not spoken out against the nasty racism supporting grant. Evidently all house niggers are not black at Carolina
March 29, 2019
Good Morning Chancellor Kevin M. Guskiewicz:
I do not know if you know me at all. I am Cookie Newsom. I used to work for the diversity office as the Director of Diversity Education and Assessment. I was also the Chair of the Black Faculty Staff Caucus for most of my tenure and held a faculty appointment in the School of Education until 2015. I started at Carolina in 2003 and retired in 2013 when the leadership of the office changed and the focus of the office and I did not see eye to eye. Something which was not that new actually. I thought the office was supposed to serve as a resource, advocate and educator around the topics of equity and inclusion. The office has never, to my knowledge accomplished that , nor actually tried to except for the brief period that I was there. I invite you to investigate what programs they offer besides Project Uplift.
I have been following events at Carolina and still have many, many friends and colleagues there. One of them sent me your recent statement about racial issues on campus. I decided that I have a moral imperative to fill you in on some things that are probably unknown to you. I do not expect any response or any action or anything, I just think you need to know. I am perfectly content if you ignore this totally as the ravings of a former employee, but I will have done my part to see if I can inspire some kind of meaningful attention to the ongoing problem of race on Carolina’s campus. I am fond of Carolina.
I came to Carolina in 2003 because I wanted to do work on equity and inclusion. I created and conducted the first diversity assessment of the University, and with a trio of graduate assistants analyzed the data. It was why I was recruited to Carolina in the first place. I was in Washington DC at one of my required residencies as a research fellow at the Library of Congress in the Cities and Public Spaces in Cultural Context seminar when I received the call from the then director of Diversity.
The results of the assessment indicated some rather egregious problems around the question of race, from the fact that the Stone Center provided no activism and advocacy, let alone space, for black students, quite contrary to what I had been told its namesake had wanted, to the fact there was no real programming by the diversity office beyond the outdated and never evaluated program Project Uplift ( which has a very unfortunate and racism name by the way, implying minorities need to be uplifted). This was initiated after integration to let black students know they were welcome on campus. It is, in my opinion, no longer necessary and the funds and efforts should be focused on making sure once they get here they have some black tenured professors and have a more organized methodology of handling the issues they face when confronted by racism.
After I finished the Diversity Assessment, which had been suggested by a committee headed by Professor Charles Daye I asked my then boss what I was to do next. His response was “ go meet people.” In other words the job had no other meat on its bones. Lacking a researcher to conduct the suggested assessment they had hired me to design, conduct and analyze the result, but had not thought further.
I did go meet people. What I noticed was there was no pan-University programming that incorporated faculty, staff and students to address diversity issues. So, I began to create programs. The Diversity Education Team was the first. The Faculty Workshop on Diversity was the second, The Diversity Symposium at Carolina was the third, Research Rocks! A program for minority high schools from three counties to encourage early exposure to research where they could come to Carolina and work on projects with faculty was fourth. I started in total 8 programs to engage the faculty, staff and students in examining, evaluating, and experiencing diversity. All of the programs I started no longer function.
The Diversity Office as far as I can tell from a distance has reverted to its origins of being only responsible for Project Uplift. No one is minding the diversity store. The fact that during all of the struggles over Silent Sam I never saw one statement from the Diversity Office is a clear clue of what is not going on at Carolina.
I do not mean to paint myself as the Ex-Officio Patron Saint of Diversity at Carolina. What I do want to share is that it can be different, but here is the sticky wicket. You have to have leaders that care more about their goal of equity and inclusion than about their paychecks. When I first came to Carolina one of the things I was told, usually in whispers, by both white folks who liked me and black folks who liked me was , “Be careful what you say, you do not want to make the people upstairs ( my office was in the “garden level” of South Building) mad.” I began to ask them. “Do people get fired for telling the truth?” There was, and may still be, a culture at Carolina not to make noise, particularly about race. That was contrary to my being, wrong is wrong and should be shouted down in the public sphere in my opinion. No doubt part of the reason I left before I had intended to and came back to Ohio, my voice was too loud for the atmosphere.
I helped begin NADOHE , the National Association of Diversity Officers in Higher Education. I am mentioned on their home page. However, the association and the jobs have taken an entirely different tack than I was intending. It has become primarily not a training and advisory group for all diversity officers but an incubator to help Chief Diversity Officers raise their salaries. Once those salaries are raised the CDOs generally become house slaves. They want their money and keep quiet about abuses and inequities to keep it coming in.
I failed to accomplish what I wanted with NADOHE and I failed to accomplish what I wanted to at Carolina. NADOHE is not a tool and resource for all diversity officers of any stature and Carolina is not a campus that openly addresses inequities and advocates to end them across all populations, staff, faculty, administration and students.
It might have been that I was channeling Icarus and tried to fly too close to the sun of racism, whatever the reason, I am too often assailed by stories from campus by friends and colleagues there that nothing has changed and in some cases has gotten worse.
I appreciate you reading this and hope it shines some little sliver of light on the darkness that is diversity management on campus. I wish you great success in dealing with the issues you mention in your recent public statement, but unless you find better leadership I am afraid you are going to be doomed to doing what has always been done, putting some lipstick on the pig of racism and proclaiming it pretty.
M. Cookie Newsom, PhD
Before any new leadership is installed the office of diversity needs to be studied , examined, evaluated and given direction, goals and objectives and a plan of periodic evaluation established by a Task Force of faculty, staff and students. The convener of said Task Force should not be a current employee of the University. They do not need to have a nickel in the dime of advancing their careers. They need to be knowledgeable about Carolina and have some pedigree in diversity. I have several folks who would do admirably and are still in the area, Charles Daye former law professor, Elmira Mangum, former President of FAMU and Vice Provost at Carolina, John Boger, former Dean of the Law School ( having a white head might make folks pay more attention). I am sure there are other former employees who have their social justice cred if you ask around.
Carolina has never had a diversity office. They have had a student recruitment office that paid lip service to diversity in other arenas. There was no activism, advocacy, education, research , before I came and none after I left.
My two cents :
- The office should report directly to the Chancellor and be housed in the newly configured Stone Center ( more about that later) . Putting it in SASBE makes it look like it only serves students, which is true, but should not be.
- The office should be renamed to include the word “equity”
- The office should be the umbrella for all diversity efforts, all centers, institutes, etc. that deal with diversity in any form should have a reporting stream to the office. American Indian Center, Latinix, LGBTQ Office, if there is anything for Asian students, faculty and staff, that too. Unless there is some cohesion in diversity management folks get to interpret what diversity is and is not. In my view the current centers only serve students. If the goal is to serve only students then the office is not a diversity office, it is a student services office.
- Get rid of Project Uplift. It is archaic and unnecessary. Why one would have a special recruitment and orientation for students of color is beyond me, they do not have different bodies or require special handling. Let the Admissions Office handle student recruiting and Student Affairs handle Orientations. If research and assessment are part of the office functions they will be keeping an eye on student recruitment, retention and graduation rates anyway and reporting on them.
- The office should serve four functions:
- Education—should be involved in the development of and mindful of courses dealing with diversity in the curriculum, should partner in offer ing courses in diversity management for faculty and staff through HR and the Schools and Institutes
- Research, Assessment and Oversight—should do a diversity assessment periodically, but not annually. I intended, when I designing the diversity assessment to drill down into specific departments or schools examining employment, retention, enrollment, persistence, graduation rates, etc. I intended to share the results with the Dean or Director . Archie vetoed it because it would make people mad. When I was at Carolina I presented a paper at the American Association of University Professors at their conference in DC. It was on the dearth of black tenured faculty at Research I universities. I included Carolina in the sample. The paper got quite a bit of attention and was featured in some newspaper stories. When I got back to Carolina all hell broke loose. I was told the Deans were all mad at me and might not want to work with me anymore. I asked them if they disagreed with my data. The answer was “no.” I asked them if they disagreed with my analysis of the data. The answer was “ no.” So, I said, you are mad because I told? No answer. They eventually got over it.
- Advocacy—there is no where for people to go who feel misused due to their personal characteristics except HR which requires formality and puts them at risk for retaliation. Here is an example from my time there:
A student in the school of Library and Information Science came to my office. He was
the only black student in the master’s program. He had experienced a very traumatic
event in his studies. The students were making presentations. He told me he was
getting something out of his bag and was not paying attention yet as two of his
classmates went to the front of the class to start their presentation. They had pulled up
a cartoon on the powerpoint. He heard his name. One of the presenters, a white female
that he knew only from being in class with, said “ Damon will read it.” Evidently the
caption on the cartoon was too small for the students to read from a distance. He was
startled and could not read it from where he sat so he went closer. The cartoon was of
two dinosaurs discussing the word “niggardly’ and what it did and did not mean. The
reason the young lady asked him to read it was obvious. He was humiliated and
embarrassed. He went to the assistant dean at the time, a black woman, who told him if
he raised a ruckus it would hurt his academic and possibly his professional careers.
She counseled him to ignore it. He then went to the Provost and got a similar response.
He then came to me and told me if something was not done he was going to have to
dropout of the program. . I took his case to the then Chancellor and everyone’s tune
changed. He was given an internship in the department , the then Dean wrote him a
letter of recommendation to the University of Michigan doctoral program. He graduated
from Michigan and is a professor at the University of Indiana. He writes to me fairly
frequently. I could give you quite a few more examples, but you need to remember I had
NO authority to actually do anything.
- Activism—speakers, symposia, opportunities to gather and discuss issues, writing letters to the Daily Tarheel, to the N & O, etc.
6. The Stone Center has to be made to do what its namesake intended for it to do. It’s head
should report to the Chief Diversity Officer and have new leadership that will make it for
black students, faculty and staff what the American Indian Center and new Latinix Center
do, or should do, for American Indian and Latino/a faculty, staff and students. There
should be a gathering space for black students. The Center should be involved with
curriculum, activism, research and education focused on black culture, history and
current events and needs. Currently there is no Center for black students, faculty and
7. The office has to have a faculty connection. I had a faculty appointment, given it was in the
SOE it was not that respected, but at least I had one. The office has never gotten much
respect or attention from faculty and has not served faculty or staff at all. That must
Okay, I am finished. I hope you have a great day!