The incoming president of Gonzaga University has been on the job less than a week, and already he is calling for greater cultural diversity on campus.
In his first speech to faculty and staff Friday, President Edward Glynn said Gonzaga must start hiring more minority faculty members to make the university a mirror of the world.
“There should be more persons of color on the faculty,” Glynn said.
His arrival on campus is being greeted with optimism.
Faculty and students said they believe Glynn can offer the leadership needed to erase the mistrust and fear left over from racist hate-mail incidents the past two school years.
Glynn communicates well. He is direct and he listens, they said, and his speech during the general faculty conference underscored an easygoing demeanor.
Dressed in a polo shirt and khakis, he spoke in a relaxed and conversational tone, almost as if he were talking to individual members of his audience.
When a hornet buzzed his head, he stopped, slapped at the insect, and interjected: “I’m under attack.”
The audience laughed.
“I am very encouraged by his words,” Bob Bartlett, director of cultural diversity, said after the speech. “It is our obligation to provide a diverse environment because the world is diverse.”
Glynn, 60, becomes the 24th president in the 109-year history of Gonzaga, succeeding the outgoing and popular former president, Bernard Coughlin.
Coughlin retired last spring after 22 years as president and will become the first chancellor of the university following a sabbatical this fall.
Coughlin is widely credited with increasing GU’s size and stature, boosting its endowment and overseeing an ambitious construction program.
Now, Glynn begins his first school year with the challenge of consolidating Coughlin’s gains and keeping the cost of a private Jesuit education affordable to the middle class.
Some 4,800 students are expected when classes resume Tuesday. No enrollment increase is expected.
Last year, 415 students - less than 10 percent of the student body - were minorities.
During his speech, Glynn said population trends show that people who are now considered racial minorities will comprise a majority of the U.S. population by the year 2050.
Without a diverse faculty, students of the future simply will not enroll at Gonzaga, and the institution will risk losing its vitality.
“We should do it (hire minority faculty members) out of enlightened self interest,” he said. “If we don’t do it, students of color will not come here.”
Racist letters and threats were made against a handful of black law students the past two springs, and the widely publicized incidents triggered concerns about racism on campus. They also embarrassed a university that was ill prepared for such turmoil.
The perpetrator, or perpetrators, have not been caught, despite a federal investigation.
A campus-wide task force appointed after the first racist letters were sent has recommended a series of changes to improve the climate of diversity on campus.
Glynn now has the job of implementing them.
One recommendation is the creation of an Institute of Human Diversity and Social Justice.
Glynn’s speech went beyond talk of race.
He commended faculty for its dedication to education, and called on the university to maintain an ideal teaching environment for students and faculty.
He pledged to protect the institution from outside interference, and urged professors to teach students to aspire to a greater good.
“We don’t live lives of fear,” he said. “We live lives of hope.”
Political science professor Blaine Garvin said Glynn is already gaining the trust of faculty. He said he isn’t surprised by Glynn’s quick acceptance.
Garvin said he remembers Glynn when Glynn served as academic vice president at Gonzaga for two years in the late 1970s.
Glynn left to become president of St. Peter’s College, another Jesuit institution in New Jersey. For the past six years, Glynn served as regional administrator of Jesuit activities in several East Coast states.
“I think he’s a people person,” said associate education Professor Janet Burcalow, president of the faculty assembly.
Last week, Burcalow joined Glynn in calling for greater diversity at Gonzaga.
Students said they are hoping Glynn will take bold steps to end racial intolerance.
Among changes already being implemented, the university has invited an author and consultant on multi-culturalism to speak at a new orientation session for incoming freshmen, the so-called class of 2000.
Lisa Hunter, a junior helping organize the orientation, said Glynn may be just the person Gonzaga needs. “Students are looking for someone who can come in and make changes and has the power to do it,” she said.
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