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Meeting one of the demands that concerned Coe College community members raised last fall in the wake of controversy that enveloped the board of trustees and resulted in the resignation of a Black member, Coe on Monday unveiled a new dean of diversity, equity and inclusion.
In addition to serving as the private Cedar Rapids college’s lead diversity officer, Donald Jaamal will function as its Title IX coordinator — a dual role making him part of Coe’s “senior staff,” a stipulation Coe community members included among their demands issued in November.
“We demand that the Coe board of trustees approves and hires a DEI director by the fall of 2022,” according to the letter, signed by “committed individuals” to diversity, equity and inclusion at Coe. “First and foremost, we require that this position falls under the provost and is appointed to be a part of the senior staff leadership.”
Jaamal — the fourth diversity officer in Coe history, after it established an Office of Diversity and Inclusion in 2015 — was hired following an extensive national search, according to a Coe news release Monday. He started work Aug. 8.
In a statement, Jaamal called the Coe job an “incredible opportunity.”
“I already feel like a part of the Kohawk family, and I’m excited to continue to meet new colleagues and engage with the Coe community,” he said in a statement.
Jaamal will guide Coe’s diversity, equity and inclusion efforts “in an expanded capacity and purpose.” That will include leading the DEI office, coordinating campuswide diversity initiatives, developing education and information sessions and representing Coe’s DEI mission in the community and across higher education.
Coe community members demanding a new hire last fall wanted a DEI leader to — among other things — meet monthly with diverse student organizations; participate in senate and board meetings; work with orientation organizers; craft training opportunities; and design and recruit DEI student ambassadors.
The group also wanted a new DEI director or dean to participate in hearing complaints from faculty, staff and students “as it is important that students of color know there are people who look like them who they can speak with in regards to such situations.”
Jaamal praised in earlier jobs
Before Jaamal started at Coe, he served as dean of student success at the Art Institute of Atlanta, according to a Coe news release. He also served as executive director of the Warrior Center for Student Success, Equity and Inclusion at the Texas A&M University-Central Texas from 2018 to November 2021.
“In his position at Texas A&M University-Central Texas, Jaamal oversaw the development and implementation of programs that promoted student success and fostered student retention,” according to the Coe release.
Jaamal was responsible for a number of programs addressing educational barriers for underserved students, according to Coe.
“He also served as a Title IX investigator at Texas A&M University-Central Texas, and will have related responsibilities at Coe,” according to the news release. “As Title IX Coordinator, he will coordinate the college’s compliance and training related to Title IX.”
In April 2021, Texas A&M University highlighted him on Facebook as its Warrior Center director, touting his 13 years of leadership experience in higher education and student affairs.
Before entering the higher education arena, according to a Texas A&M and his LinkedIn profile, Jaamal worked as an intelligence operations analyst for the U.S. Air Force for eight years.
“Jaamal is also a veteran, having served as a member of the United States Air Force,” according to Coe.
He holds a master’s of science in counseling and psychology from the University of West Alabama and a bachelor of science from Mississippi State University.
Coe — last fall and in the months since — has faced questions and criticism over its handling of diversity, equity and inclusions issues after former trustee Darryl Banks resigned over a closed-door dispute among board members leading up to their selection of new Coe President David Hayes.
Banks, a Coe alum who spent more than 40 years on the board, said he raised diversity-related concerns with the presidential search but that a fellow trustee called him a liar. Banks sought a reprimand, apology and a retraction, but never got them.
Board leadership disputed aspects of Banks’ account and months later turned accusations back on him.
In the wake, both Banks and fellow trustee Alan Anderson resigned, and concerned community members — including “Coe College Black Alumni” — sent the board its list of demands.
In addition to hiring a new diversity head, community members and alumni demanded — among other things — new positions on the board and the creation of a committee to address and consider issues of bias, discrimination, racism, diversity and inclusion.
Vanessa Miller covers higher education for The Gazette.
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