Randall Ojeda to fill role as Diversity Center director. Collegian file photo.
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Butler University has selected Randall Ojeda as the new director of the Efroymson Diversity Center. Ojeda graduated from Butler in 2018 with a master’s degree in school counseling and will officially begin his role as director on Oct. 18.
Ojeda’s appointment comes after the resignation of former director Gina Forrest which left the role unfilled. Prior to this new role, Ojeda worked as the vice president of residential services for Children’s Bureau, Inc. in Indianapolis. Ojeda said in a statement to the Butler community he hopes his role as director will allow him to have a positive impact on Butler students.
“I am excited to be returning to Butler, as I know the University’s rich history and commitment to inclusion,” Ojeda said in the statement. “I am passionate about leading with equitable practices, and look forward to investing in students and their journeys throughout their years on campus.”
Frank Ross, vice president for student affairs, made the announcement to the Butler Community in an email on Sept. 21. Ross said the Diversity Center is of central importance on campus and Ojeda’s position will help advance its mission.
Since the beginning of the semester, Caroline Huck, executive director of student involvement and leadership, has been in charge of overseeing the Diversity Center. Huck is assisted by Marcos Navarro Garcia, a senior critical communication and media studies major, who took over some of the unfulfilled responsibilities.
Navarro Garcia said his work in the Diversity Center has been difficult but worth the struggle.
“I mean it was a challenge because it was a lot of work … but it’s rewarding because these students are, they’re amazing,” Navarro Garcia said. “These students down in this space are worth the fight, they’re worth the struggle, and they’re worth fighting for. And I think that is exactly what anyone coming into this position believes is that the students down here are worth every extra minute of support that they need because they’re wonderful, and they’re just trying to navigate a world that was not built with people like them in mind.”
Navarro Garcia said he is excited to have someone permanent in the Diversity Center again. He believes that this will allow students to get the support that he doesn’t have the capacity to give since he is a student as well.
“This has definitely been a long time coming,” Navarro Garcia said. “I’m glad it’s happening now because I think now is a critical time when people are kind of assessing how their Butler experience is going so far and whether or not they want to continue here, and so I think having someone here in this space that is here full time is going to make the world of a difference.”
The departure of Forrest provided an opportunity for the Diversity Center to restructure. Butler will no longer have an executive director of diversity, equity, and inclusion, a director of multicultural programs and services, or an assistant director of multicultural programs. Instead, there will be a director and assistant director of the Diversity Center. The search for an assistant director will continue with input from Ojeda.
Navarro Garcia said he hopes this new structure will eliminate gray areas and inconsistencies in responsibilities for each role.
Over the past few years, the Diversity Center has undergone several transitions. The first came when two new positions were added in 2019. However, when staff left those positions, they went unfulfilled, and the Diversity Center transitioned to being managed by only the director.
Ja’Sia Ward, a junior biology major and vice president of programming for Black Student Union and treasurer for LGBTQ+ Alliance, said she believes the turnover in the Diversity Center is a result of the larger campus culture.
“I just know that there was a ton of discrepancies going on with the university and our staff in the Diversity Center, and honestly, that’s the issue that is going on all over campus, the university … promotes diversity, equity and inclusion, but then, they don’t really do anything to back it up by hiring black staff or people of color in general, unless we’re talking about the kitchen or somewhere … so that’s frustrating,” Ward said.
With so much turnover in the Diversity Center, students hope that a new director will be able to provide stability.
Molly Pratt, junior computer science and Chinese double major, is the events coordinator for the Asian and Pacific Islander Alliance and said she visits the Diversity Center almost every day. Pratt said she would like to see a new director bring everyone in the center together.
“I’m looking for transparency and communication because I feel like before, that’s been really hard,” Pratt said. “Because maybe they communicate with presidents of different organizations, but really getting into the community of the Diversity Center… even people who aren’t part of organizations who just like the center for what it is… so I think integrating themselves into what the [Diversity Center] really is and being able to talk to students and being available, that’s important.”
Some students believe the key to having consistency in this role is for the university to provide necessary support for the director and other full-time positions in the Diversity Center.
“I think they need to prioritize his position and see the importance of it, and they need to listen,” Ward said.
Navarro Garcia echoes Ward’s sentiments.
“I am hopeful that the key players in the institution that need to have Randall’s back will,” Navarro Garcia said. “And I’m very hopeful that there is an investment that is going to be made and his development as a professional.”