Get breaking news alerts via email

Click here to manage your alerts
2nd University of Utah diversity officer resigns, cites lack of trust in leaders
Education » Former assistant V.P. says he has lost confidence in the university leadership.
First Published Apr 10 2014 09:33 am • Last Updated Apr 11 2014 07:13 am

A University of Utah professor says he’s leaving the diversity department because he can’t trust U. leaders.

Enrique Alemán resigned as assistant vice president for student equity and diversity last week, days after his boss, chief diversity officer Octavio Villalpando, left.

Join the Discussion
Post a Comment

"I have no confidence in the ability of the senior administration to lead on the issue of equity and diversity," said Alemán. "When that trust has been violated, it’s really hard to do this kind of work."

Alemán said he was accused in November of leaking a letter to The Salt Lake Tribune from the Ute Tribe, which sought more benefits from the U. for use of the Ute name, and was told his email would be searched. Though he denies sending the letter, Alemán said the incident cast unfair suspicion on him.

Another breaking point came the next month, when Villalpando was on a research leave. His temporary replacement, Ed Buendia, told other faculty and staff that Villalpando was being investigated for human resources issues and asked to resign, along with his wife, also a professor, said Alemán.

"You ask yourself, ‘How can they treat people this way, people who have done great work here?’ " he said.

"If I stay on board, am I opening myself up to this kind of treatment? It becomes too risky for me."

In December, students protested the apparent ouster of the couple, vocal advocates for minority students on campus, and said it was part of a negative environment for underrepresented groups. They arranged a sit-in outside the office of U. President David Pershing, who denied the diversity chief had been asked to leave.

Villalpando returned to the post this semester, only to resign a few months later. He declined to comment on exactly what happened, saying only the incident was "unfortunate."

Pershing said this week that he and Ruth Watkins, senior vice president for academic affairs, tried to persuade Alemán to stay.

story continues below
story continues below

His resignation was "certainly not under any pressure from us," he said. "Diversity is critical. If you look at the demographics of this state, it’s just so clear that we have to do more about outreach."

Alemán will return to his position as an associate professor of educational leadership and policy. His replacement will be the director of first-year programs, Tricia Sugiyama, whom he called "a great person, and she really cares."

As one of the principal supporters of the Diversity Scholars program, which is designed to recruit and keep students of color, during his two years in the office, Alemán said he hopes that the Office for Equity and Diversity continues in that direction.

"I’m sure they’ll find talented people who care about students to take the mantle ... and welcome diverse populations," he said. Still, "I worry about the students and I worry about the staff. I just want students and staff to be supported."


Twitter: @lwhitehurst

Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Top Reader Comments Read All Comments Post a Comment
Click here to read all comments   Click here to post a comment

About Reader Comments

Reader comments on sltrib.com are the opinions of the writer, not The Salt Lake Tribune. We will delete comments containing obscenities, personal attacks and inappropriate or offensive remarks. Flagrant or repeat violators will be banned. If you see an objectionable comment, please alert us by clicking the arrow on the upper right side of the comment and selecting "Flag comment as inappropriate". If you've recently registered with Disqus or aren't seeing your comments immediately, you may need to verify your email address. To do so, visit disqus.com/account.
See more about comments here.
Staying Connected
Contests and Promotions
  • Search Obituaries
  • Place an Obituary

  • Search Cars
  • Search Homes
  • Search Jobs
  • Search Marketplace
  • Search Legal Notices

  • Other Services
  • Advertise With Us
  • Subscribe to the Newspaper
  • Access your e-Edition
  • Frequently Asked Questions
  • Contact a newsroom staff member
  • Access the Trib Archives
  • Privacy Policy
  • Missing your paper? Need to place your paper on vacation hold? For this and any other subscription related needs, click here or call 801.204.6100.