After students at Friday’s open forum called into question the diversity of Counseling and Psychological Services staff, administrators are looking to tackle the problem.
At the community conversation hosted by administrators Friday, junior Christine Wei raised concerns about the lack of diversity in CAPS staff, noting that there is only one Asian-American counselor available to students. Wei explained that the ethnic composition of the staff at CAPS does not reflect the ethnic composition of the Duke student body.
“This misrepresentation may prevent students of color who are experiencing culture shock at Duke from receiving proper treatment that aligns with their own cultural values,” Wei wrote in an email.
Provost Sally Kornbluth, one of the administrators at the Friday forum, said she agreed with Wei on these issues and explained that immediate action would be taken to address the issue of staff diversity raised at the forum. She explained that diversity in hiring is a priority for CAPS.
“There will be several positions opening in CAPS, and we want to ensure that the counselors in CAPS are as diverse as possible and can serve the whole student body,” Kornbluth wrote in an email.
CAPS will be opening up a national search for two additional clinical social workers in the next fiscal year, and the search for a new director has already begun, wrote Sue Wasiolek, assistant vice president for student affairs and dean of students, in an email. She explained that these searches will involve distributing the job announcements to professional organizations “whose members reflect the membership of underrepresented communities at Duke.”
Wasiolek echoed Wei’s beliefs that a more culturally representative CAPS staff would benefit students in need of support.
“It’s important...for students to believe there may be a shared cultural understanding of stress and unease and to reduce any reluctance to seeking counseling services,” she wrote.
Wei explained that a diverse staff at CAPS would lessen the cultural divide between some staff and students.
“You can learn as much as you want about a culture and its values, but you can never fully understand the challenges that a person has faced until you have lived through them yourself,” she wrote.
Larry Moneta, vice president for student affairs, similarly noted that some students’ issues are so tied to their cultural identity that having faculty who can relate to their struggles would be helpful. He added, though, that there needs to be a balance between having culturally literate staff who can help students coming from different backgrounds and having staff who reflect the distribution of identities on campus.
“One can’t have a staff that is absolutely aligned with every individual on campus,” he said.
Although Moneta is “pretty proud of the overall diversity” of Duke’s current CAPS staff, he noted that more than one Asian-American counselor would be beneficial given the size of Duke’s Asian-American population. He said that CAPS previously had two Asian-American counselors but that one of them recently left.
Wasiolek explained that maintaining faculty diversity at CAPS is considered during every hiring process, noting that currently seven of the 22 clinical staff members are persons of color.
“When we have open positions, we look at our current demographics and discuss our needs for the position related to areas of expertise as well as broadening CAPS’ staff diversity,” she wrote.