Leadership Group to Focus DEIB Efforts

August 15, 2023

Dear Faculty and Staff,

I am writing to update you on changes we’re making to implement a leadership team focused on planning, integrating, and assessing our efforts in diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging. We believe these changes will allow Furman to continue to make progress in these areas that we value.

After going through a search this past academic year for a Vice President for Diversity, Equity and Inclusive Excellence, the search committee made several observations. Although there is much work to be done, Furman has made significant progress in advancing DEIB. In fact, our search consultants and candidates noted that Furman was ahead of many institutions in this regard.

Indeed, Furman faculty and staff leading our DEIB efforts have done excellent work, especially in the face of many challenges. None of the VP candidates the search committee interviewed brought more to the table than these campus leaders.

We also recognize that the hiring environment for DEIB VPs and chief diversity officers is particularly challenging at the moment, given pending state legislation and the recent Supreme Court ruling on affirmative action. As a result, many DEIB professionals have left the field of higher education, making it difficult to find the talent we were seeking.

With this in mind, I met with various campus leaders and the Senior Administrative Team (SAT) to discuss next steps for DEIB leadership at Furman. The consensus was that we need to commit to advancing our work in this area but that continuing the VP search at this time may be counterproductive.

Instead, we are creating a Shared Equity Leadership (SEL) team based on a proposal from Associate Dean for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusive Excellence Cynthia King; Associate Dean and Director of the Center for Inclusive Communities Franklin Ellis; and the co-chairs of the DEI Committee, Robyn Andrews, Libraries Circulation Supervisor and Diversity Coordinator, and Lisa Knight, Chair of Asian Studies and Professor of Religion, Asian Studies and Anthropology. All four served as members of the search committee and were critical in creating and organizing the community-building efforts Furman engaged in last year.

The coordinated efforts of this group will continue but be more formalized with these four leaders serving as the SEL team. They will share responsibilities in leading communication, decision-making, resources, responsive action, division of assignments, and information flow, with the following areas of focus:

  • Cynthia King – Academic Affairs, Athletics, Facilities, and Finance
  • Franklin Ellis – Enrollment Management, ITS, and Student Life
  • Robyn Andrews – Development, Furman Police, and Staff Advisory Council
  • Lisa Knight – Human Resources and University Communications

To uphold the University’s commitment to DEIB at all levels, Franklin also will serve as Special Assistant to the President for Diversity and Belonging and as a member of SAT to ensure that DEIB is a lens through which all of SAT’s work is considered.

This innovative shared leadership approach takes advantage of the very strong team we already have in place and reinforces that DEI and belonging are everyone’s responsibility.

While the VP of DEIE search is paused, campus wide DEIB work will continue under the guidance of the SEL team. We will evaluate after a year, then determine next steps.

Please join me in thanking Cynthia, Franklin, Robyn, and Lisa for their willingness to find creative solutions and for stepping up in these important leadership roles. I look forward to working with them and others to continue our work to create an inclusive and welcoming campus.