At SUNY, we know that diversity makes us stronger. By taking pride in our diversity, our campuses invigorate conversations, awaken curiosity, foster civic engagement, and widen perspectives. Chancellor Zimpher, with our system and campus leaders, have been strengthening our commitment to all forms of diversity for some time now. In fact, last September SUNY unveiled a new diversity policy which worked to expand and improve the diversity program and makes campuses more healthy and inclusive spaces. Needless to say, people took notice.
During its 29th Annual Legislative Conference, the Assembly Puerto Rican/Hispanic Task Force awarded Chancellor Zimpher the Champion of Latinos award. The award was granted to Zimpher for her “leadership in cultivating a university system that is diverse and that helps to infuse a vibrancy that contributes to a higher quality of life for all New York State communities.”
Looking back at efforts at SUNY, we can see why the Assembly Puerto Rican/Hispanic Task Force would want to present this honor. The percentage of SUNY students identifying as Hispanic or Latino increased by 5% from 2005 to 2014. Not to mention, nearly all minority populations at SUNY increased during this period. As a percent of SUNY’s total enrollment, under-represented minority enrollment has grown from 14.7% to 23.8% in the past ten years. The numbers show that SUNY’s commitment to diversity is more than just empty promises, and that SUNY will be dedicated to maintaining this upward trend into the future.
About the Assembly Puerto Rican/Hispanic Task Force
In 1937, Oscar Garcia Rivera was elected to the New York State Assembly, the first Hispanic in New York to take political office. By the mid 1980’s, there were around two million Hispanics living in New York, one million of which came from Puerto Rican descent. Inspired by the rapidly expanding population growth, Assemblymen Hector Diaz and Angelo Del Toro met with the speaker of the assembly to create a Latino caucus, an official legislative body that would focus on the needs of the expanding Hispanic community.
The New York State Assembly and Senate Puerto Rican & Hispanic Task Force was founded in 1987, and has since mobilized Hispanics in an effort to focus attention to issues of vital importance to communities all around the state. Since then, the Somos el Futuro conference is held annually in Albany, New York to create a platform for legislators, scholars, business and labor leaders, and representatives to come together and tackle issues that concern the Puerto Rican/Hispanic community.
Today, the task force consists of 28 Assemblymen and women that work tirelessly each year dedicating their time to serving the Hispanic population of New York. Assemblymember Marcos A. Crespo, who was elected to the New York State Assembly at the age of 28, was elected to the task force in March 2015 and has done tremendous work for both the organization and SUNY students over the course of his time as a state legislator.
Crespo has focused on college retention and graduation rates for Latino youth and expanding diversity for college staff for the SUNY system, which has resulted in major diversity policy changes adopted by the SUNY Board of Trustees in September 2015. Following Crespo and the task force’s action, each of the 64 SUNY campuses will have a chief diversity officer (CDO) to set diversity goals for each campuses including input on student success, creation of retention and graduation improvement plans, and the involvement in human resources to hire more diverse staff and faculty.
During its 29 years of enactment, the Puerto Rican & Hispanic Task Force has done tremendous work statewide. Chancellor Zimpher’s Champion of Latinos award is a step in the right direction for future improvement of Hispanic representation in higher education.
One thought on “A “Champion” Among Us”
This is partly why SUNY is able to attract the best talent from all over the globe – because of the focus on diversity.
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