The University of Wyoming’s first chief diversity officer, Emily Monago, will start work July 17 — just two months after the university fired 37 employees as the final step of a $10 million budget crunch.
But leaders from all three representative bodies on campus — ASUW, staff senate and faculty senate — are supportive of the new position, despite reservations about reducing staff while increasing administration.
“I felt a minor amount of questioning the necessity of the position from a few students in the general student body,” ASUW President Ben Wetzel said. “But the majority of students, I felt, were very supportive of the addition and particularly those in ASUW knew it was needed to change culture on campus.”
Former UW President Dick McGinity established the position in November 2015 — despite a hiring freeze in place at the time — saying it was necessary to recruit students, faculty and staff, to be competitive as an institution and produce alumni with strong leadership skills.
“As the only land grant institution in Wyoming, the university must have a strong commitment to diversity,” McGinity writes in a news release. “It must be embedded in our DNA and supported throughout our institution.”
ASUW unanimously passed a resolution — senate resolution 2532 — in support of the university’s efforts to develop and increase diversity in February. Though the resolution did not directly relate to the creation of a chief diversity officer, ASUW Vice President Jaynie Welsh said the new hire promoted a similar goal.
“The core of the decision to hire a (chief diversity officer) was centered around students, and will ultimately have a positive impact on them,” she said. “And that is what matters.”
Faculty senate passed a similar resolution — senate resolution 334 — in December, which aimed to make UW a more welcoming place that recruits the best students, faculty and staff and graduates students with an understanding of cultural differences, said Michael Barker, professor of civil and architectural engineering and faculty senate president.
“There’s certainly always a concern when you are laying off people and then hiring new administrators,” he said. “But diversity is important for UW, and the administration has determined that we need that position.”
Incoming staff senate President Rachel Stevens said that even among staff — who suffered the entirety of this month’s 37 layoffs — there was general support for the creation of the new position, the person chosen to fill it and, more broadly, the increased efforts at UW for diversity and inclusion.
However, the layoffs are still a recent wound, Steven said.
“I think in general, there is a strong concern among staff about administrative bloat,” she said. “(We are) growing administration as we shrink faculty and staff.”
Monago will be paid $150,000, but that is a fair price to pay for the benefits the new position will bring to the university, said student leadership.
“It is hard, to an outside view, to rationalize spending large amounts of money on a new executive administrator, but the truth is this change was needed long before the arrival of President Nichols,” Wetzel said. “UW is finally receiving some much-needed changes.”