April 17, 2015 – University of Houston President and System Chancellor Renu Khator and UH Law Center Professor Michael A. Olivas agreed in a faculty discussion Monday that the university has made great strides toward increased diversity over the decades, while acknowledging that work remains to be done.
The conversation, “How to Diversify at the Top,” was held in the Rockwell Pavilion at M.D. Anderson Library and featured Olivas and Conrad N. Hilton College Associate Professor Juan Madera.
Khator noted at the outset that her senior administration is perhaps the most diverse in UH’s history and that the university remains committed to improvement at all levels.
Afterward, she led a lively roundtable discussion of the issues with other administration and faculty members.
Olivas, the William B. Bates Distinguished Chair of Law at UHLC, said there have been many discussions about increasing diversity in the top ranks since he began teaching at UH in 1982.
“I’ve had very high hopes, and in many respects, these hopes have been realized. This is my 33rd year at the University of Houston, and it’s certainly a better place than I found it,” he said. “And yet, there is so much more that we can do.
“I believe that diversifying at the top, and all the ranks that lead to the top, is a demand problem and not a supply problem,” Olivas said.
Olivas, who is Mexican-American, said UH does a good job at reaching out to Hispanic students at the undergraduate level, but less so in the graduate and post-baccalaureate levels.
“I still think teaching is a calling and I just don’t think we’ve inspired enough people, or called enough people, to come to the University of Houston,” he said.
He outlined several steps he would implement to increase minority representation in the faculty and administrative ranks of the university. They include offering jobs to talented postdoctoral students and inviting prominent minority academics to speak at UH events.
Before Olivas’ remarks, Madera of the Conrad N. Hilton College said there are three key ideas that the university needs to keep in mind in promoting diversity.
First, a commitment to diversity must come from “the very top” – both at the administration level and within each college. Second, the commitment must have “buy-in” from every member of the university. And third, Madera said, diversity must be seen “as a resource rather than a numbers game. It’s not a checklist.”