University President Marc Johnson announced Thursday Chief Diversity Officer Patricia Richard is stepping down from her role and the university will be conducting a nationwide search for her replacement.

“The past year has challenged the University to confront incidents of racism, discrimination, bias and hate,” Johnson said.

Richard will remain in the position until the national search is complete and will stay at the university as Johnson’s chief of staff — a position she held prior to and while serving as chief diversity officer.

Johnson said he welcomes student and faculty input on how the role should be designed to better enhance diversity on campus.

“The position will be full-time, dedicated to bringing elevated attention and energy to the breadth of issues and challenges we face,” Johnson said. “Over the summer I will be studying the appropriate structure and role for diversity leadership to fulfill the University’s commitment to diversity and inclusion.”

Throughout the school year, students and faculty called for Richard to step down because of her lack of experience as the university faced internal turmoil surrounding diversity issues.

In December, UNR graduate student Kevin McReynolds — who was involved in a racially charged incident with UNRPD last September — publicly called for Richard to step down and the university to conduct a nationwide search.

“[Richard] has three jobs. I’m not saying she needs to be fired, I’m just saying that she needs to pick one […] You signal to all the students that are minorities that we don’t matter to you, we’re worth one-third of your time,” McReynolds said in December. “If she’s the best we come up with [in the nationwide search], she’s the best we come up with. But I think there needs to be a real effort.”

Iris West, former assistant director of the Latino Research Center, also called out Richard’s lack of experience with diversity in September in a resignation letter detailing the diversity issues she and others face at UNR.

“The fact that there’s a person that is the Chief of Diversity with no experience, no knowledge, no history of doing anything regarding diversity, and yet is lauded by the president as the most adequate person for that job — and she’s doing two other jobs on top of that — shows that there’s no real interest in doing something serious,” West said.

Despite these claims, Johnson praised Richard’s efforts in his letter.

“She has taken the time to involve herself in reaching out to the many diverse groups on campus to open dialogue and discussion on issues related to diversity, inclusion and equity,” Johnson said. “In forming a Diversity Council, she has brought together professional leaders on campus, as well as representatives from Faculty Senate, Staff Employees Council, ASUN and GSA. These important groups have helped bring expertise and perspective from a number of diverse interests to coordinate work, including a comprehensive climate study to be conducted, and the development of a Diversity Plan.”

After learning of the nationwide search, McReynolds also praised Richard.

“I applaud Ms. Richard on her commitment and contributions to this university,” McReynolds said. “I look forward to continued dialogue and growth toward a campus inclusive to all students under the new Chief Diversity Officer.”

This is an ongoing story and will be updated when more information is available. Check back with the Nevada Sagebrush for more.

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