Guest speaker calls for more diversity at WSU

As first African American UC Davis chancellor, speaker says schools should recruit diverse staff



University of California Davis’ Chancellor Gary May discusses supporting minority students in STEM fields Wednesday in the CUB auditorium. May says he experienced racism during his time in college and hopes society gets to a point where race is not a factor.

NAPHTALI CALLES, Evergreen reporter

Gary May, chancellor for the University of California Davis, spoke at WSU about his personal adversities in combating racial bias in higher education.

“Putting on these leadership lectures is a way to get students to think about getting into leadership positions in academia,” said Aaron Oforlea, president of the WSU Black Faculty and Staff Association. “It is also a way to introduce different ways of thinking about leadership and diversity at WSU.”

Oforlea said May was awarded the Presidential Award for Excellence in STEM mentoring by former President Barack Obama.

“We don’t do a very good job at recruiting and retaining diversity at WSU, so when I hear about events pertaining to embracing diversity I go,” said Greg Crouch, clinical professor in the Department of Chemistry.

May said he was sworn in as the first African American chancellor at UC Davis in 2017, and the second in the UC system.

“Not only is this event extra credit, but I wanted to do something for myself before finals started and this event sounded interesting to attend,” said Michelle Habila, WSU sophomore majoring in interior design.

May said his mother persevered through many adversities and learned to follow that example as an undergraduate at Georgia Institute of Technology.

“My mom remains a great source of inspiration and strength, she entered the University of Missouri during the era of Jim Crow laws,” he said.

May said in order to diversify faculty at WSU, one needs to implement open faculty searches when recruiting and not just hope diverse faculty apply.

“On my first day at my dorm [at Georgia Tech], the n-word was on my roommates’ name card which said, ‘Chip is an n-word lover,’” he said. “That really upset my parents, but I persevered and to students here today, I’m going to encourage you to not let those type of attitudes win.”

May said it is hard to imagine society will get to a point where race is not a factor, but there is a need for allies to speak up and push back on biases.

“In some cases, I am just a black man at a traffic stop and nobody knows I have a Ph.D., nobody knows I’m a chancellor of a university, but even in my professional life, these intersections occur,” May said.

On behalf of WSU May was given a plaque for his excellence in this leadership lecture series as a keynote speaker.