Congleton departure makes diversity plan completion date uncertain, according to President David Finegold

Randi+Congleton%2C+previous+chair+of+the+Diversity%2C+Equity+and+Inclusion+council%E2%80%99s+head+committee%2C+left+Chatham+in+late+October.

Rick Muzzey

Randi Congleton, previous chair of the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion council’s head committee, left Chatham in late October.

Michaela DeLauter

Chatham University started earlier this year a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) council in hopes of creating greater diversity on campus. Randi Congleton, Ph.D., was the chair of the council’s head committee, with the council’s plan expected to be completed this June.

Congleton’s departure from the University in October and a search for her successor has led to uncertainty as to when the plan will be completed, according to Chatham University President Dr. David Finegold. 

Last year, Chatham did not have a university-wide DEI plan. Congleton was the one leading the movement to create this plan.

“We would like to see greater diversity in our student body and our faculty and staff,” Finegold said. “Right now, we look an awful lot like Pittsburgh with a large, white population.

“I think we do very well in terms of gender equity and sexual identity. I think we have a very high representation here,” Finegold continued. “I would like to see other dimensions of diversity. I think it would be great to improve that, particularly among our faculty. … We’ve lost some faculty of color over the last few years, each with their own circumstance. Overall, instead of making progress, we lost some ground, and we want to reverse that.”

To combat this issue, Chatham has implemented the national program, Search Advocates. It provides training to faculty and staff at Chatham on how to search for a new hire in an inclusive and unbiased way. 

For campus diversity as a whole, Chatham used an external consulting firm to administer focus groups, and sent out a climate survey in October. The climate survey accessed where Chatham is today regarding DEI by receiving input from the Chatham community.

Before Congleton’s successor begins at Chatham, the plan is to finish the work the committee has started, as well as complete the climate survey and get the results so the committee can identify the strengths and weaknesses of Chatham.

To find Congleton’s successor, the University is going to do a national search following the Search Advocates program. Students are encouraged to bring any ideas for candidates they have to campus.

A search committee will work on processing and screening applicants to narrow down the field to find three finalists. From there, candidates will be brought to campus as quickly as possible.

Finegold said, “since input will be very vital for this role, if a student says, ‘that person is not fit for Chatham,’ it’s going to weigh very heavily in the search process.

“One of the reasons [Congleton] will be sorely missed is because she’s done a wonderful job during her time here,” Finegold added.

Over the past four years, Congleton has made a large contribution to Chatham. She has been promoted twice, hired initially as the director of multicultural affairs. Then she moved up to become assistant dean and was head of the office of DEI. This past year, she was also part of the President’s council, the leadership team of the whole University, as well as the Chief Diversity Officer.

“My goal is not to go back to where we were when Congleton started, but to build off of the tremendous foundation of what she’s made, so that the person succeeding her will see that they don’t have to do all the basic foundation stuff she did,” Finegold said. “My hope is to do the search as quickly as we can to bring someone in who can pick up where she left off.”

The results of the climate survey and focus groups will be examined as the University searches for Congleton’s successor. Finegold wants students to know that Congleton’s departure doesn’t mean Chatham is going to de-emphasize any of the things that she has worked on.

“We’re 100% committed to carry on the work that Congleton has done, and we want to engage on it,” Finegold said. “If [students] have any concerns that they want to bring to Chatham, they are encouraged to do so.”

For further information, read more about the Diversity Plan online at my.chatham.edu.