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CHAMPAIGN — The search to hire the first chief diversity officer at the University of Illinois is being extended, as none of the four finalists interviewed for the position worked out, according to Chancellor Robert Jones.

The chancellor sent a message to search committee members last week, saying the search that started last March has been extended to "allow us to bring additional candidates to campus."

He had originally hoped to hire the first vice chancellor for diversity, equity and inclusion early this semester, but the new goal is to make a decision by the end of the academic year in May.

"We had a very strong group of candidates, but we were unable to make a hiring decision," Jones said Monday after being asked about it at the Senate Executive Committee. "It just didn't work out, because of personal reasons for the candidates or for the kinds of individuals that we felt really we needed in order for this critically important position to be successful."

Four finalists were brought to campus in November and December to give presentations to students, faculty and staff:

— Denise O'Neil Green, a former UI professor and now vice president for equity and community inclusion at Ryerson University in Toronto.

— Karen Clinton Jones, chief diversity officer at Buffalo (N.Y.) State College.

— Wanda Heading-Grant, vice president for human resources, diversity and multicultural affairs at the University of Vermont.

— Professor Franklin Tuitt, senior adviser to the chancellor and provost for diversity and inclusion at the University of Denver.

In his email to the search committee, Jones called the new position a "transformational step for our university, and finding the best possible person to establish and build the organizational structure to support diversity efforts is critical to our long-term success and impact in this area."

"There has to be a match and a meeting of the minds of what we are trying to do and whether the individual is a good fit," Jones said Monday. "We can't afford to get this wrong."

Jones said the executive search firm, Greenwood Asher, is already identifying new candidates. The firm, a frequent consultant for the university, is being paid $60,000 or one-third of the new vice chancellor's first-year cash compensation, whichever is higher.

Whoever is chosen will oversee a new cabinet-level Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, which will be staffed by three associate or assistant vice chancellors — two of them existing positions and one a newly created post.

The new office and positions were recommended by an outside team asked by Jones to review all programs that promote diversity among students, faculty and staff. The campus now spends about $60 million annually on those efforts, from student scholarships, faculty hiring and campus cultural centers to the Disability Resource and Educational Services center.

But those programs are decentralized, making it hard to track how money is prioritized or how units are held accountable and leading to redundancy and a lack of coordination, the review team said.

The vice chancellor will chair a new Campus Diversity Committee, develop a diversity strategy for the UI and be responsible for the existing Office of Access and Equity, which oversees compliance with civil rights, discrimination and equity laws.

The search committee is co-chaired by James Anderson, dean of the College of Education, and Danita Brown Young, vice chancellor for student affairs.

Reporter/Columnist

Julie Wurth is a reporter covering the University of Illinois at The News-Gazette. Her email is jwurth@news-gazette.com, and you can follow her on Twitter (@jawurth).