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Affirmatic action office takes a new name (Released: 9/27/95)

by Thomas Becher, Office of University Communications.

STORRS, Conn. -- The University of Connecticut's Office for Affirmative Action Programs has changed its name to the Office of Diversity and Equity.

"The new name reaffirms our commitment to diversity and at the same time reflects the expanded mission of (the) office," said President Harry J. Hartley.

"The name change underscores the President's and the University's commitment to diversity, multiculturalism, and social equity for all groups," added Irene Quong Conlon, the center's director.

UConn is among a small but growing group of institutions that are choosing to reflect a proactive direction in their nomenclature, she said. McGill University, for example, has an Office of Equity, while the Pennsylvania State system has a Director for Social Equity and the University of Nebraska-Lincoln uses the title Diversity and Affirmative Action.

Most universities, however, continue to use "affirmative action" or "equal opportunity" in the title of their programs, Quong Conlon said.

The name change at UConn is independent of the current highly publicized national debate on affirmative action. "We've been talking about the name change for years," she said.

"We want to give people a better sense of what the office actually does. The new name illustrates our involvement in educational and outreach activities that go beyond just compliance with affirmative action law and regulations."

For example, Quong Conlon and her staff advise the President and senior administrators on institutional civil rights issues; train administrators and supervisors on preventing and handling discrimination complaints; and often assist departments in developing recruitment strategies. The office has powers of sign-off on position searches for faculty and non-teaching professional staff hires.

Her office also administers UConn's Minority Staff Development/Recruitment Program, funded by an award from the state Department of Higher Education.

Last fall, the office conducted an orientation program for new minority faculty and staff. Quong Conlon said she hopes to expand this type of activity into a mentoring program for all new junior faculty and staff. "Our aim is to promote the spirit of the law and move the University forward in the direction of social equity for all," she said. "As part of the management team, we want to help the University to be and to stay more diverse, more comfortable and supportive for all groups to work and study.

"Our institutional commitment to diversity and social equity means that everyone at the University has a role to play in fulfilling our goals as we head into the year 2000," Quong Conlon said.

Quong Conlon has also updated the mission statement of the former Office for Affirmative Action Programs to reflect its current activities. The new profile of the Office of Diversity and Equity includes "commitment to diversity and multiculturalism," outreach, and activities to comply with and support the Americans with Disabilities Act.

"We will continue to do the things we need to be doing to prepare students to function well beyond the University, to be competitive in a global economy and diverse environment," she said. "The University is a microcosm of the world; if students can't deal with a range of different people here, then how will they deal with others when they become the legislators or business leaders of the future?"

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