Editorial: After so much talk, it is now time for action

A new chapter in CWU’s history will officially begin on Monday as new president A. James Wohlpart takes over for outgoing President James L. Gaudino. For the first time in 12 years, someone other than Gaudino will be at the helm.

During Wohlpart’s tenure, one thing worth monitoring is his commitment to diversity in the job. In the hiring process for Wohlpart, the importance of diversity was repeated on several occasions by the university.

A Nov. 2, 2020 press release regarding the search emphasized the diversity of the five finalists for the position. According to the press release, three of the finalists were women and two were people of color.

“We were delighted to have an extremely diverse and talented pool of candidates,” Trustee Erin Black said in the November press release.

Yet Wohlpart, a white male who comes to CWU after serving as the Provost of University of Northern Iowa (UNI), was the candidate who was ultimately selected.

In a press release announcing his hiring, CWU again touted Wohlpart’s commitment to diversity.

“The university community said that authentic experience with a deep commitment to inclusion and diversity should be hallmarks of the new president, and Dr. Wohlpart has demonstrated innovation and personal investment in these areas,” Trustee Erin Black said at the time. “He embraces a culture that welcomes diverse and dissenting viewpoints, but understands we must be willing to challenge long-held assumptions and come together around a shared vision.”

In comments to the university, Wohlpart has said he is up to the task. During an introductory press conference in January, Wohlpart said he was committed to bringing an inclusive culture to CWU.

“What I’m interested in is creating a culture of belonging for everyone at the institution, so that they can feel their whole human selves and feel welcomed for who they are,” Wohlpart said at the time.

At that time, Wohlpart said it is a “moral obligation” for CWU to ensure that every admitted student can be successful. Wohlpart said he planned to review the curriculum, hiring and other policies at CWU.

“The work that I’ve done, both at [Florida Gulf Coast University] and UNI, is to help those students of color be successful,” Wohlpart said in January. “I think that I have incredible experience with understanding how to build teams and initiatives that allow those students to thrive.”

After the importance of diversity and inclusivity of the campus was stressed throughout the hiring process, it is important to track the job he does. While both CWU and Wohlpart have said all the right lip service during the transition period, talk is cheap, and it is now time for Wohlpart to act on the “moral obligation.”