On July 15 Fresno State posted the position for the inaugural “University” Diversity Officer rather than the traditionally used “Chief” Diversity Officer title.
On April 18, the President’s Office invited all to attend a listening session focused on the search to fill this role. At that time it was referred to as the “Chief Diversity Officer.”
The title change marks an effort by the university to be mindful of Native American and First Nation culture and language, according to Fresno State President Saúl Jiménez-Sandoval.
“In consultation with our American Indian scholars and community, we changed the name to reflect a more inclusive and culturally-sensitive title to the position,” Jiménez-Sandoval said.
In May 2022 San Francisco Unified School District (SFUSD) dropped the word “chief” from all job titles to avoid connotation with Native Americans, according to Sam Whiting of the San Francisco Chronicle.
“While there are many opinions on the matter, our leadership team agreed that, given that Native American members of our community have expressed concerns over the use of the title, we are no longer going to use it,” said Gentle Blythe, SFUSD spokesperson.
Most other universities, including the majority of the California State University (CSU) schools, continue to use the word “chief” in staff titles.
Fresno State professor of American Indian studies and founder and first chairperson of the Fresno State American Indian Faculty and Staff Association, Kenneth Hansen, was not included in the talks because he is not under contract over summer. He did acknowledge recent efforts to reduce usage of the word “chief,” but warned that the job description could set “a successful candidate up to fail.”
“By using the word ‘university’ in the job title, the implication is that the position will serve the larger campus community in more innovative ways,” he said. “As is typical, however, several different jobs have been squeezed into a single position description, making this very difficult to fill in the first place, and likely making it difficult to retain whomever gets hired.”
The full-time University Diversity Officer position will serve under the direction of the President to “motivate and galvanize the campus community toward a shared vision of an institution that is welcoming, inclusive, respectful and free from discrimination, intolerance and harassment, where all can thrive.”
Efforts to do so will include the development, implementation and continual improvement of a diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) strategic plan to address campus climate and develop a sense of belonging.