New Chief Diversity Officer shares his views

By SARAH Y. KIM | November 30, 2017

This semester, the University hired Fenimore Fisher, its first vice provost for diversity and inclusion and chief diversity officer. He joined the Hopkins community on Oct. 23.

Fisher has spent over 20 years working on diversity and inclusion initiatives. He previously worked as chief diversity officer for New York City. He was also vice president of diversity initiatives and analysis for Walmart and began his diversity career in the nonprofit sector.

As chief diversity officer of Hopkins, Fisher will primarily be responsible for overseeing the University’s Roadmap on Diversity and Inclusion. He also serves as a co-chair of the University’s Diversity Leadership Council (DLC).

In addition, Fisher is an adjunct faculty member at New York University. He believes Hopkins has been progressive in its efforts around diversity and inclusion as compared to its peer institutions.

“Many colleges and universities are trying to accelerate their efforts,” he said. “What I do think is unique to Hopkins is that there’s been an initial focus on transparency and accountability.”

In particular, Fisher believes the Roadmap illustrates the University’s efforts to be transparent. The Roadmap was released last October, partly in response to demands from the Black Student Union (BSU). It outlines four major goals: increasing diversity of the Hopkins community; improving opportunities for Hopkins members of various backgrounds; allowing for the engagement of diverse viewpoints; and fostering a climate of respect.

While some students are appreciative of the document and its intentions, others have criticized it for failing to explicitly address racial discrimination as well as neglecting to meet some of the Black Student Union (BSU)’s demands, such as making the Center for Africana Studies an independent department.

Fisher explained that he is currently in the process of assessing the Roadmap and its initiatives.

He encouraged students to critique the document and said that it is important to be receptive to criticism.

“We will rely upon the opinions, the viewpoints of students to craft a lot of our initiatives that we advance forward,” he said.

Fisher has begun meeting directly with Hopkins students, including representatives from the DLC. He also attended the Student Government Association (SGA)’s meeting this Tuesday.

“I’m getting a sense that things are improving, but there is much more work to be done,” he said.

Fisher characterized the Roadmap as a comprehensive starting point. He specifically pointed to its Faculty Diversity Initiative.

“Such a significant investment speaks volumes to the level of commitment,” he said.

He added that it is important for Hopkins to clearly communicate its values.

“You want to make sure that people have a basic understanding of what you mean when you say diversity and inclusion,” he said.

The excellence of an institution, Fisher said, depends on its diversity.

“We have to create an environment where we value, we respect, we broaden our culture to be welcoming of people of all differences and backgrounds,” he said.

Fisher discussed how his childhood led to his interest in diversity work, citing his parents as his inspiration.

“Early on, they really emphasized a focus on serving as an advocate for equity and inclusion,” he said.

His ultimate goal is for people within the Hopkins community to acknowledge the University as a leader in diversity and inclusion in higher education.

“I’m not necessarily the type of diversity and inclusion practitioner that loves to go out and get awards,” Fisher said. “I’m more focused on our internal communities to view and rate us as being committed to this work.”

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