Managing Colleges and Universities: Issues for Leadership

By Allan M. Hoffman; Randal W. Summers | Go to book overview

10
Managing with Diversity in Colleges and Universities

Amer El-Ahraf and David Gray

Every organization is diverse. No organization has a hundred matched pairs of people who are alike in age, gender, ethnic orgins, life experience, education, or worldviews. With the growing diversity of our nation and several decades of proactive programs to make organizations more representative of the general population, organizations in the academic community are markedly more diverse than they have been in the past. The makeup of the population itself has become far more diverse since the early 1980s, and successful affirmative action programs have brought this diversity into academic organizations in a significant manner. Many colleges and universities have become associations of people with different backgrounds in which there is no longer a dominant majority. These recent developments have spanned a sizable genre of literature that is centered on the concept of "managing diversity." We think this perspective is an inappropriate starting point for an exploration of the impact of diversity on organizations. We believe diversity cannot be managed. Diversity is imbedded in the fundamental makeup of people that creates their sense of identity. No amount of management improvement will alter the identity of the people who participate in the organization. We believe the emphasis in organizations that are highly diverse must be on creating a climate in which people with a dissimilar sense of identity can work together in a way that makes diversity an asset. We think a more useful perspective is "managing with diversity."

No doubt some of our readers will think this is a distinction without a difference. We think it is fundamental because it puts emphasis on creating

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