Q&A with Camille Hazeur, Assistant to the President and Director of University Equity and Diversity
Posted: April 1, 2004 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am
Editor’s note: This weekly question-and-answer column with George Mason administrators appears every Thursday in the Daily Gazette.
Photo by Evan Cantwell
The Office of Equity and Diversity Services was called the Equity Office until September. How does the new name better reflect the work of your office?
The addition of the word “diversity” provides a whole new direction for the Equity Office. For the first time, the office will be, so to speak, holding the university’s umbrella for diversity issues, that is, supporting diversity efforts already in place, assessing diversity needs, and helping campus entities carry out the university’s diversity mission. This translates to many activities from identifying potential candidates for hire, to providing support of programming, to sponsoring specific programs. The addition of diversity to the office’s purpose is, I believe, a way to assure that diversity efforts continue to be woven into the fabric at George Mason University.
George Mason likes to promote itself as a diverse university. What does that mean?
I suspect most of us think of diversity the way we define our nation: many people from many parts of the world who are of different races, national origins, ethnicities, ages, religions, genders, including sexual orientation, and colors. I think most of us recognize that human diversity encompasses many more things, including, but not limited to, different economic statuses, geographic histories and locations, experiences, customs, languages, and a host of cultural nuances that make us who we are. We are in the process of creating a statement that will define diversity for George Mason. It will be an inclusive statement that truly reflects our intent to value and pay attention to the diversity of this learning community. The new motto in our office is an old one: E Pluribus Unum–One from Many!
What are the responsibilities of your office? What are some of the key issues your office is dealing with now?
Think of our office as having a two-prong function. One prong is equity, which focuses on making sure the university is in compliance with federal, state, and local laws. This translates into making sure that faculty, students, and staff are protected against discrimination on the basis of age, sex (including sexual harassment), race, color, national origin, ethnicity, religion, disability, or veterans status. Our job is to make sure that the campus community knows its rights and responsibilities in regard to these laws and to investigate any allegations of violations made by faculty, staff, or students. We work closely with anyone who alleges a complaint to seek a resolution. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) coordinator is housed in our office. She works collaboratively with other campus entities to assure that we are providing reasonable accommodations to persons with disabilities and that we remain an accessible campus. In addition, we assist in the hiring process to make sure we are carrying out our responsibility to make affirmative action hiring.
The other prong is diversity. Just as Mr. [Earl] Ingram, my predecessor, was leaving, the president [Alan Merten] commissioned a group of campus faculty, staff, and students to review the Equity Office to seek recommendations for improvement. One of their chief recommendations was that the office assume more responsibility for campus diversity. In that recommendation they listed several potential strategies. One was the establishment of a campuswide Diversity Leadership Council (DLC) to be co-facilitated by me and the vice president for university life. We have put together a steering committee to construct this council, with plans for its implementation in the fall. The DLC will probably address diversity on three fronts: campus needs and activities, our role in the local community, and our potential leadership on the national scene.
What has been the Office of Equity and Diversity Services’ biggest challenge since you arrived here in January? What are you doing to overcome it?
There is no one issue that challenges me at the moment. I think the biggest challenge for me as a newcomer was learning about the Mason community in general and then learning how issues of diversity are lived specifically. That means listening to people describe efforts to enhance diversity that preceded my arrival–the history, if you will–discovering current activities and challenges, and gleaning hopes and plans for the future. The challenge is to synthesize this information and create a focus that culminates in specific strategies and activities, some of which are already happening.
Are there any new things occurring that we should be aware of?
The campus should be on the lookout for the formation of the DLC this fall. In addition, there are currently many campus entities that add to the richness of our diverse campus. I don’t want to list them here because at this point there are some efforts with which I am not yet familiar and don’t want to leave anyone or any effort out. One of my plans is to have a central place for this kind of information. I think the campus community should be aware that there are many people here who are very concerned and interested in diversity–of all kinds–and people who are certain that the many diversity agendas will find voice, from the hiring of diverse staffs, to continuing education about who we are as diverse people, to classroom strategies and personal interaction, to sharing of the immense resources that are rich in ethnic and international cultural stuff–in food, in language, in music, and in custom.
Now that you are at full staff after being understaffed for some time, can you tell us who your employees are and briefly describe their areas of responsibility?
Ronald Sinacore is now associate director and remains in charge of compliance. Like me, Ron will carry out many responsibilities, from investigating complaints, managing the search (hiring) procedures, doing training on discrimination law and search procedures, and providing general proactive workshops on affirmative action and related issues. He acts as office manager and will also serve on the DLC.
Ruth Townsend is our ADA coordinator. Ruth’s primary responsibility is to assure that the campus is accessible to people with disabilities and to assure that we are making reasonable accommodations for people with disabilities. She works collaboratively with many existing campus entities, including, but not limited to, the Assistive Technology Center and Human Resources.
Yvette Bradbie and John Green are both equal employment specialists and investigators. Their job is to carry out investigations in complaints of discrimination. As a nonlegal entity, the Equity Office is the university’s first offense against discrimination, and while people have the right to file complaints outside of the university, we encourage anyone who feels that he or she is being treated differently because of one of the protected categories (race, sex, etc.) to call us so that we can attempt to resolve the problem within the university.
Arash Habibzedah is our data specialist responsible for many computer and data-related tasks, from data gathering to creating training online. Yolanda King is our administrative assistant who carries out many data-related responsibilities, does scheduling, and provides general direction for the many inquiries we receive. In addition, we have two work-study students, Jennifer Dwin and Derek Phan, who help us manage.
What are some of your goals for the coming year?
We are reviewing processes in our equity area, working with Human Resources on the new paperless application process called PeopleAdmin, working on putting sexual harassment and other kinds of training online and making it accessible, and, of course, working on the diversity focus of the area. Our goals are to get the council up and running, do more training on equity issues, respond to complaints in a more timely manner, and assist with the recruitment of our workforce. It will be an exciting and productive year.