Director of equal opportunity open forums commence

Jake Dalbey

The first of four open forums slated to determine the new director of equal opportunity began Monday, and the forums will continue through Feb. 15.

Sharon Abraham, former director of diversity and affirmative action at Eastern Michigan University, was the first to speak at 3 p.m. in Morrill Hall about diversity issues affecting faculty and students on college campuses.

Abraham began her speech by highlighting various areas of concerns for campuses in today’s society. These included enhanced compliance, global focus, student unrest and a diverse faculty.

A focus of equal pay despite gender or race was a core value for Abraham as she referenced President Obama’s Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009 as a goal to strive for and ensure that female and minority staffs are paid fairly across the ISU campus.

This value also streamed into Abraham’s goal of hiring and outreaching to more veterans and those with disabilities for jobs at Iowa State.

Global focus for education was another talking point as Abraham expressed the need for a global student perspective.

“Businesses want students to have a global reach,” Abraham said.” Soon it’s almost going to be a requirement for students who graduate with a higher education to have some sort of study abroad program underneath them.”

Debt among college students is an issue that Abraham sees as possible to lower and make more manageable for students.

“I have a friend who just graduated with a master’s and bachelor degree who is already $100,000 dollars in debt,” Abraham said.” How are you supposed to gain wealth if you are this far into debt? It’s reasonable to think that we can find ways to share funds with students so they can be successful after school.”

Abraham concluded by supporting the importance of equal treatment and pay among faculty, as well as trained staff prepared to deal with issues of inequality.

“Something that is seen on my campus is the notion of gender equity, especially when it comes to pay, and there’s many issues with making that a possibility,”  Abraham said.

Stating that pay equity is a challenge that has been around for a while and will continue to be present in the future, Abraham said enhancing diversity, creating a better self audit system and possible equality training among staff will help alleviate this.

Students’ rights were also mentioned, as Abraham believes that many vocal students who are present in the minority of an issue are often treated unfairly in the classroom and general public, meaning trained staff would be put in place to help consult these students on their issues and create solutions.

When asked why Iowa State was the right choice for her, Abraham stated it was a mix of several factors.

“Iowa State was not on my radar, but you guys hired a great search firm who put together a good list of qualities they wanted, and I said to myself that this was something I could do and something I could do well,” Abraham said. ”Also, the ISU strategic plan had the right words inside it and I knew from there that you are willing to move things along and be valuable starting points”

The director of equal opportunity forums will continue next week with Ellyn Bartges on Monday, Margo Foreman on Feb. 11 and Jyl Shaffer on Feb. 15.