Dr. Soundarapandian (Vijay) Vijayakumar, an associate professor in the Department of Natural Sciences & Mathematics at SUNY Cobleskill, was recently appointed to the SUNY system’s University Faculty Senate as a member of the 2015-2016 Committee on Diversity and Cultural Competence.
The SUNY system created the diversity committee as a group which would “concern itself with issues pertaining to equity, inclusiveness and access, as they are reflected in the curriculum, student body, and personnel of the State University.” The committee is one branch of the larger University Faculty Senate. Dr. Vijay and his fellow committee members are responsible for collecting and distributing information on diversity, along with providing guidance and recommendations to the Senate so that it may act within the best interests of all people involved in any policy decision or professional matter.
Dr. Vijay was chosen as a strong candidate among many applicants; he is one of eleven faculty and staff members from SUNY campuses and SUNY system administration.
“I was interested in this position because although there is diversity on our campus, there are no formal discussions on diversity among faculty.” said Dr. Vijay. “I want to initiate that dialogue on campus.” Dr. Vijay hopes to gather input from other faculty on diversity issues and then take those concerns to the committee and Faculty Senate.
This new appointment comes at an exciting time, as SUNY Chancellor Nancy Zimpher and the SUNY Board of Trustees announced a new diversity policy for the entire SUNY system on Thursday, September 10. The “Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Policy” defines diversity as covering race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity and expression, age, socioeconomic status, individuals with disabilities, veterans, first-generation students, transfer students and international students. The SUNY Provost, Alexander Cartwright, has made clear that this new policy is meant to make all students feel included on their campuses: it is not a measure to simply fill quotas.
Now, more than ever, the diversity committee’s role in the Faculty Senate is imperative for the challenge of creating an environment of diversity, equity and inclusion on SUNY campuses across the state. Dr. Vijay will join other committee members in their first meeting of the semester on September 24 – 25 in Saratoga Springs, NY.