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Saturday, May 27, 2006

Equal opportunity at OSU

Equal opportunity at OSU

Ongoing quest is to hire the best

By Cliff Kirkpatrick
Corvallis Gazette-Times

CORVALLIS — Joe Seumalo takes great pride in his Polynesian culture.

He is one of three Samoan assistant football coaches in the Pacific-10 Conference, along with Mike Tuiasosopo at Arizona and Ken Delgado at California.

Seumalo joined Oregon State before the spring as the new defensive line coach, coming from San Jose State.

While he’s far from an activist, Seumalo wants to see more Samoans moving up the coaching ranks, and even wishes a Polynesian coaches association would form.

Seumalo, however, makes one thing clear in his view of hiring minorities — teams, college and pro, must hire the best person regardless of race.

“It still has to go to the best guys,” Seumalo said. “I feel when I got hired I was the best guy. It’s great you can get a minority coach, but just get the best guy.”

He’s not the only OSU minority coach who feels that way. Women’s basketball coach LaVonda Wagner, being the only black head coach on campus, has the same philosophy.

“I’m all for equal opportunity, but I want the best person to get the job,” Wagner said. “I hope I was the best person for this job. If I’m not, I would be somewhere else.”

She doesn’t have to worry about that. Athletic director Bob De Carolis said she was his No. 1 choice and went into recruiting mode once he met her.

Neither does Seumalo, since football coach Mike Riley and the players have been raving about him.

The Black Coaches Association published a report that reviewed the process of hiring minority head football coaches the last two years. Grades varied from A-F, with the general belief that the process is lacking.

Of the 23 openings at the NCAA Division I-A level in 2004-05, five schools received an A and seven a B. There were two Ds and four Fs.

Even if the school hired a white person, an A could be achieved because the process gave opportunity to minorities.

BCA vice president Richard Lapchick, who happens to be white, said in his forward of the latest report that the BCA is seeking changes in the way head coaches are hired.

The organization wants the best candidates, irrespective of color, to be interviewed. Then have the best person hired. When there’s an open, objective process, the BCA believes more minorities will be hired.

OSU hasn’t fallen under the BCA grading system with Riley being with the Beavers for the last three seasons, but procedures are in place for a passing grade. That’s the case for athletics and the rest of the departments on campus, according to OSU employment services manager Stephanie Taylor.

The BCA judged colleges on communication, the search committee, candidates interviewed, reasonable time taken and Affirmative Action.

Affirmative Action?

Those buzz words that set people off, originating in the 1960s, are still in use four decades later. The laws that ban discrimination in job searches that give everyone an equal opportunity are still there, and most colleges try to follow them.

“We have a process where we work to be as inclusive in our searches as possible,” executive associate athletic director Todd Stansbury said. “We work closely with Affirmative Action (office) when we are doing a search to insure the net we throw out there is as wide and inclusive.”

OSU even goes to the BCA for advice if the organization thinks there are quality minority candidates to interview, De Carolis said.

When any coach, head or assistant, is hired, each step is coordinated with the Affirmative Action arm of the human resources office, and HR gets the final say.

The job description is reviewed, who’s interviewed, the interview process and language of the job offer.

“Our job is to make sure everyone understands bias,” said Anne Gillies, an Affirmative Action associate at OSU. “We are an awareness program. It’s to everyone’s benefit to have an outside look.”

That’s right, there’s an office called Affirmative Action to oversee this process to make sure no one discriminates. It’s 2006, and this is still an issue.

“This is important for African-Americans and females,” Wagner said. “Unfortunately, the world is not always fair. That office is needed because not everyone is treated equally.”

Frequently, it’s common knowledge when someone has been offered a coaching job and accepted unofficially, but must wait for final approval that everything was fair.

That’s when OSU officials say it’s in Affirmative Action’s hands. Technically, that’s old language, Gillies said. It’s really human resources that reviews the hiring process while Affirmative Action just looks over everyone’s shoulder along the way.

And it goes beyond race and gender. There’s a check and balance to avoid hiring relatives and friends who are not qualified.

There hasn’t been an issue where human resources kicked back the hire and said no, according to Gillies.

It’s a short process, but like all big governmental agencies there are many reviews from all departments to get through. With a small group of people to do them, it sometimes takes a long time.

“Bottom line we are always looking for the best person, but you want to make sure that everyone who is qualified gets a good look,” Stansbury said. “We are committed as a department that we want a diverse group of professionals who can serve as role models to our very diverse student body.”

Time will tell if OSU is making the grade when it comes to a BCA review, but there’s at least something in place to be reviewed.

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