Vacant position, missing mission

Former Vice President of Diversity, Inclusion, and Community Engagement (DICE) Constanza Cabello left Framingham State in August 2021 and as of this month, a new job description for the position has yet to be written.

In a June 2020 community-wide email, President F. Javier Cevallos declared Framingham State’s commitment to becoming an anti-racist institution.

However, the University’s failure to make leeway in filling a position that is vital to this mission demonstrates that a full commitment to this pledge has not been made.

Without a leader for this mission in place, how does the University expect progress to be made?

The administration has put all the responsibilities of this position on a select few who already have jobs of their own, risking their burnout and further delaying progress toward becoming a fully anti-racist institution.

For example, in the March 8 SGA Administrators’ Forum, SGA Diversity and Inclusion Officer Dara Barros voiced students’ disappointment in the lack of events held in honor of Black History Month, adding students of color don’t feel supported.

Lorretta Holloway, vice president of enrollment and student development, said this was due to the absence of a vice president of DICE.

It appears there was a hope student organizations would fill in for the vice presidential role in supporting and celebrating our community members of color. 

At the time, Cevallos said the search for this vice president position had been delayed and the candidates won’t come to campus until at least September, with the position possibly being filled by October or November.

This is unacceptable.

Students, faculty, and staff deserve the support they were promised and for the University’s commitment to anti-racism to be sustained.

We at The Gatepost understand and support the initial decision to delay the searches for this position as well as the provost and vice president of Academic Affairs until the Spring 2022 Semester because that would allow the new president to choose the final candidates.

We acknowledge the difficulty of efficiently conducting two vice president searches simultaneously.

According to an article published in this week’s issue of The Gatepost, the firm hired to conduct the searches, WittKieffer, suggested delaying the search for a vice president of DICE to fall because it would be “too complicated” to undertake both.

However, this is exactly what was accomplished in the past at FSU – most recently, in the spring of 2019, when a search for a provost and vice president of Academic Affairs and vice president of DICE simultaneously took place.

The University’s administration should never have publicly announced the start of both searches  if they were not certain the newly hired search firm could support both of them.

We also by no means wish to rush someone into the position who may not be the best fit to successfully carry out the responsibilities of the job.

However, delaying this search to the fall semester is unreasonable.

It is also mystifying that the University did not try to fill this position on an interim basis either with someone currently employed at Framingham State or through the Registry for College and University Presidents, an organization of retired, experienced college executives available to fill key administrative positions on a temporary basis.

The vice president of Academic Affairs position was ably filled by Ellen Zimmerman on an interim basis, which has allowed for the work of that office to continue. Not doing the same for DICE makes the position appear unimportant to the University.

An interim appointment should have been made to avoid the difficulties the community now faces in trying to keep the University’s anti-racism mission evolving.

We thank Holloway and especially Eric Nguyen, director of the Center for Inclusive Excellence and a first-year employee at FSU, for taking on much of what this job entails.

The failure to fill this vice presidential position is not only unfair to them, but to those who have tried to continue diversity and inclusion work while no progress has been made in the search. 

This search should be a priority for the University, but clearly, that has not been the case.

With such a vital position vacant, the University is failing to fully uphold its commitment to anti-racism.

The community deserves better than this.