I was asked recently, why I was friends with a someone. I have to admit, that this friend and I don't really have that much in common. I'm a computer geek and he is a professor. He is well read in many areas, I'm only well read in computer business, science fiction and technology. But we both work out, both have kids at home, both have smart wives, and are both driven to succeed. In the end, the reason I'm friends with him, is that I respect his path through life and he has something to teach me. I don't think we have ever talked where he hasn't shown me a new way to look at something, that I didn't see before. I don't always agree, but I always learn. Hopefully, he sees some benefit to being my friend. It turns out that I have lots of friends like this, smart but different then I am.
When I look at SIU's diversity programs, they seem to center on bring black students and black professors into SIU. This is OK with me, but I'm not sure that it does what my friendship with the professors does for me, with is teach SIU something that it doesn't already know.
I found this interesting statistic that 50%+ of federal government hires are black and have been for sometime. If you think about this, doesn't the federal government directly compete with universities for the smartest black graduates? The same people who could go and suffer for 3 or 8 years to get a PhD, can go into the federal government with a masters degree (or even a bachelors) and have a better job. The same is true for Fortune 500, they are working hard to harvest as many good black students as possible. I wonder, if this is why there are less black PhD's then there should be? Are good black students being given much better opportunities in government and business then they are shown in academia? I can tell you we see practically no black people in startups on the West Coast in my years there, I wonder what they are doing instead?
But, even if you can get a large number of diverse professors (my apologies to our many foreign born and darker skinned professors, for some reason you don't count. You don't have the political clout I guess), they really don't offer that much diversity, they are just peas of the same professor pod. Maybe it is time to think about really diversifying SIU?
You guessed it, maybe it is time to figure out how SIU can reach outside of academia and get some new ideas from other areas of our society? Maybe SIU should bring in some teaching ideas from the high schools? Maybe SIU should demand the professors get out of their silos and talk to professors in different disciplines (one of the continuing themes of comments in this space from professors, is they know nothing about what his happening outside of their departments) inside and outside of SIU? Maybe SIU should start reaching out into the communities of Southern Illinois and start trying to understand and help outside of the moat? Maybe SIU should find some business people to give money and let those business people have a lot of control over something, just to see what SIU can learn? Maybe the employees of SIU should read some management books ("Good to Great" anyone? I know that Glenn Poshard has read it)?
Now before you get your panties in a bunch and start to comment in ignorance, what do the best universities in the USA do? All of these things, is what they do. Granted, the employees of SIU would have to stretch to do this and that is exactly why many choose to work at SIU, so they never had to stretch.
SIU seems to be doing fine recruiting black students, but could do better. Since SIU has many brown skinned professors and there are no black professors to hire, maybe it is time to turn the diversity program from skin color to something productive? Maybe it is time to learn something new or do something new, from outside the academic environment?
We know the SIU management will never do it and many professors would fight it, but it would greatly improve the university.
Your comments are welcome.