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June 14, 2001

SIS wins affirmative action award

The affirmative action committee of the School of Information Sciences (SIS) has received the 2001 Chancellor's Affirmative Action Award honoring the "outstanding University of Pittsburgh program area or individual that has made a significant contribution in affirmative action."

Working with Professor Emeritus E.J. Josey, SIS's affirmative action committee over the last 15 years has helped to recruit and retain minority students, faculty and staff, especially African American students, Chancellor Mark Nordenberg said in announcing the award at Monday's Senate Council meeting.

Nordenberg cited:

* Individual recruitment efforts by Josey, including visits to historically black colleges and universities; attendance at the Graduate Opportunities Conference for Black and Hispanic Students in Pennsylvania, and visits to large urban public and university libraries with African American support staff holding undergraduate degrees.

* Additional affirmative action efforts by Josey in his role as SIS Minority Concerns Council adviser; his personal outreach to prospective students, and his fund raising, which included his urging the American Library Association to establish the Spectrum Initiative scholarship program for minorities.

* Ongoing support for Spectrum Scholars.

* Reinstatement of the Minority Resource Office, which existed at SIS in the 1970s and '80s, to serve as a peer advising service offering a forum for student concerns and a referral service to University and community resources.

* Establishment of the SIS/University Library System Minority Fellows Program.

The chancellor's award, which includes a $2,500 prize, was created by an initial gift from Maryann F. Coffey, formerly a Pitt assistant to the chancellor and affirmative action director, and her husband Joseph I. Coffey, formerly a professor in the Graduate School of Public and International Affairs.

Winners are chosen by a committee of Pitt faculty and staff.

In accepting the award, Josey said he was proud to be a member of the Pitt community, "for when many institutions were taking flight away from affirmative action, our University stayed the course. And, secondly, the School of Information Sciences is staying the course. Dean [Toni] Carbo and the school's Committee on Affirmative Action have been unusually supportive of my recruitment activities."

However, Josey added: "We've had some success, but there is more to be done in the recruitment and retention of minority faculty and students."

In reviewing what he called "the rocky road of affirmative action," Josey quoted from a June 4, 1965, speech at Howard University by then-President Lyndon Johnson: "You do not wipe away the scars of centuries by saying, 'Now you are free to go where you want, do as you desire and choose the leaders you please.' You do not take a person who for years has been hobbled by chains and liberate him, bring him up to the line of the race and then say, 'You are free to compete with all the others.' "It is not enough to just open the gates of opportunity. All of our citizens must have the ability to walk through those gates."

— Bruce Steele

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