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The Centurion

The Battle for Diversity on Bucks’ Board of Trustees

Derek O'Brien

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A push by a group of faculty members for more diversity in Bucks Board of Trustees was highlighted by county commissioner Diane Ellis-Marseglia in an October board meeting.

During the Oct. 4 meeting, Ellis-Marseglia pushed back against a move to fill two board positions and requested more time to receive more applications for the two vacancies on the board.

Ellis-Marseglia explained that Bucks faculty had been in touch with her, asking for more diverse applicants to fill the vacancies.

The other two commissioners persisted in filling the applications. One explained that the board was “desperate” to fill the vacancies, but had nothing to say on the reasons to why the situation could not be postponed so they could review more diverse applicants.

The measure to fill the vacancies was put to a vote, passing 2-1 with Ellise-Marseglia voting against. Attempts to contact with commissioner Ellis-Marseglia for a comment were unsuccessful.

Bucks’ Board of Trustees is currently comprised of 13 members, four female and nine male. All of the 13 members are white. The board’s responsibilities are to look out for the well-being of the college and the students that attend it. Some of those responsibilities include voting on school programs courses and budgets. The board also represents the image of the college.

Chairman of the Board, Thomas Skiffington spoke on the issue regarding the lack of diversity on the board. He remarked that the board is indeed diverse: its members consist of women and men from different parts of the county and with different careers and outlooks. He commented that yes, the board may not be diverse in the sense of people of different ethnic backgrounds but the board is still a diverse and encourages diversity.

I also asked if they were able to look out for the interest of the students of different backgrounds as there is no one on the board that is ethnically diverse. He responded by saying that they absolutely can look out for the best interest of those students and all students at Bucks. He stated that they “work and consult with all walks of life” and work on different programs to bring international student to the school as well as donating towards scholarships for ethnically diverse students.

I also asked if he thought the process in filling the vacancies was rushed. He said that the vacancies have been there from as far as June and he felt that there was plenty of time for the application process.

John Petito, a professor of history and political science teacher at Bucks, was one of the faculty in touch with the commissioners in hopes of bringing diversity to the board of trustees.

He explained how important those higher positions can be, and how important it is to have a diverse board so the interests of all Bucks students can be taken into account.

“We have a wonderful board of volunteer trustees who selflessly give a lot of time and effort to oversee the college, but it is unfair to ask them to represent other groups of stakeholders – people of color such as African-Americans, Latinas, Southeast Asians, Asian-Americans… and it is doubly unfair to have people of color entirely unrepresented on the Board. We do not need to have every possible group represented, but we certainly ought to have at least a few.”

“Here is what a diverse board would do for the college: ask questions. Questions like, why are there so few non-whites in the college administration and on the faculty? Where are we advertising for jobs? Who is serving on our search committees? Are people of color applying for jobs here? If not, why not? Is anyone at the college paying attention to our lack of diversity? Is anyone responsible to make sure we have a diverse college community?”

Petito encourages students to be active in the community. He pointed out that anyone can go to county meetings and leave a public comment. A student could address any concerns in the community, including the concern of diversity within the board.

A member of the board of trustees who does not wish to be named said they could not speak for the board, but did say that steps are always being made to ensure diversity within the board.

The member said that one problem with getting diverse applicants is that Bucks County isn’t the most diverse area and that that board did represent most of the population in Bucks County.

Though the positions were filled with personnel that were not as diverse as many in the college had hoped for, they point out that the battle for diversity is not over, and the community is waiting for its next opportunity to diversify the college.

The audio clip for this meeting and other board meetings can be downloaded at buckscounty.org.

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The Battle for Diversity on Bucks’ Board of Trustees