The search committee for the director of affirmative action hosted an open forum on March 8 to facilitate discussion about the position. Tonia Williams, an applicant for the position, answered questions for committee members who led the forum.
According to Williams, the director of affirmative action is a position that ensures all new employees and students receive training about affirmative action, sexual harassment, sexual assault and discrimination based on a person’s appearance rather than personal qualities.
According to its website, the Affirmative Action Office at Geneseo exists for the purpose of maintaining campus compliance with all federal and state laws and SUNY policies.
“Affirmative action is not about quotas at all. It has gotten a bad name because it has been interpreted and implemented incorrectly in the past. It is not about preferential treatment or lowering of standards,” Williams said. “Affirmative action is equal opportunity legislation.”
Assistant Dean for Disability Services Tabitha Buggie-Hunt asked Williams about her perspective on the college’s recruitment process of both employees and students that are minorities, veterans, women and people with disabilities. Williams said there needs to be a “special focus” on this type of recruitment.
“These people will not just come, but rather recruiters need to place a special importance on these groups,” she said.
Williams also spoke about the college’s responsibility, aside from recruitment, to adhere to certain guidelines.
“You have to have an environment welcoming for these people,” Williams said.
Williams also discussed barriers in recruitment processes that hurt applicants.
“Barriers in language, communicative issues, speech impediments and others affect the interpretation of the person rather than the skills they have and the ideas they talk about,” she said.
To fix these issues, Williams said, “We need to educate ourselves. We need to take time to talk so people know their opinions are being heard and that they matter.”
Williams also discussed obstacles she faces regarding educating others on affirmative action and how to maneuver around them.
“Getting everyone else to understand what I do is very difficult. It is necessary to educate others on what affirmative action is versus what people say it is,” she said.
According to Williams, the most important and simultaneously problematic job of the director of affirmative action is to help others understand affirmative action and to provide individuals with enough information for them to apply to discrimination they may encounter.
Williams ended with a discussion of the training process that she plans to implement should she be selected for the position.
“I am not against using technology to train staff,” she said. “However, what I like to do is talk, because a lot of issues come up that need to be discussed. Technology does not always answer these questions.”