This article is from the archives of the UB Reporter.

Questions & Answers

Published: September 9, 2004

Loyce Stewart is director of the Office of Equity, Diversity and Affirmative Action Administration.

What is the mission of the Office of Equity, Diversity and Affirmative Action Administration?
The mission of the office of EDAAA is to promote a campus environment that values the tenets of a democratic and pluralistic society; an environment that supports the intellectual, personal and professional development of each individual; an environment that generates understanding, attitudes and perspectives that create an atmosphere of civility, collegiality, appreciation and mutual respect for diversity and cultural differences. The office is committed to ensuring, for all individuals, a work and educational environment that is free of discrimination and harassment. What are your responsibilities? The office's primary responsibility is to ensure that the university is in compliance with state and federal non-discrimination laws and executive orders, and related university policies. This includes preparing mandated federal reports on university hiring, promotion and termination practices and workforce profiles, as well compiling a variety of other federal and state workforce compliance-related reports. Other broad categories of responsibilities include but are not limited to:

  • Resolution of allegations of discrimination. We receive, review and investigate allegations of discrimination based on: race, religion, ethnicity, national origin, sex, sexual harassment, sexual orientation, disability, accessibility/accommodations, age, harassment, marital status, Vietnam-era veteran status, veterans with disabilities and other eligible veterans. The community we serve includes faculty, staff, students, visitors, vendors and contractors of the University at Buffalo, the Research Foundation and UB-affiliated organizations>

  • Training and education. The office provides assistance to search committees, deans and chairs on matters of recruitment, retention and promotion. We conduct training and educational modules on the prevention of discrimination, harassment and sexual harassment, and present seminars and workshops on cultural differences, diversity and understanding the EO/AA laws and the EO/AA debate. We maintain an extensive lending library of films on EO/AA topics.

  • Diversity initiatives and program development. Individually and in collaboration with other divisions and units, our office develops and implements programs and activities that support and promote a positive campus environment; support and promote the recruitment, retention and promotion of eligible women and protected class members, and support and promote educational equity and academic excellence.

What do you consider to be the most important service your office provides?
The most important service our office provides is the resolution of allegations of discrimination. It is critical that we provide and protect the right of every member of the university community to work and study in a hostile-free environment. Beyond that, although it is a less-publicized aspect of our services, the office is often called upon to offer guidance and assistance with issues that do not fit neatly within the definition of a complaint or a grievance or discrimination of any type. We often serve as an impartial listener, provide direction, advice or referrals, offer options and/or solutions to difficult human relation situations and, in some cases, we serve as a mediator and/or an advocate in non-official situations.

Is sexual harassment a serious problem at UB?
Sexual harassment is illegal; therefore it is a serious issue whenever and wherever it occurs. Unfortunately sexual harassment does occur in educational institutions and work environments across the nation. UB is not an exception. UB does not have a higher or lower incidence rate of sexual harassment than other universities of our size; however, it should be noted that one incident of sexual harassment is one too many. Counting the number of incidents for comparison purposes or national rating is not the objective. Our objective is to educate the university community in sexual-harassment prevention with the idealized goal of eradicating the problem here at UB. We have a responsive complaint procedure and an institutionalized approach to education and prevention. We recently completed the initial phase of a campuswide education and training program aimed at the prevention of sexual harassment. Each decanal area and major administrative unit will have trained personnel within their respective units who will be responsible for educating their constituents.

Have the events of 9/11 had an impact on your work?
Yes, to the extent that UB is part of the larger society and the campus community is comprised of individuals who had varying emotional responses to that tragedy. We saw in the immediate aftermath a heightened level of stress and anxiety, which can translate to increased tensions on the campus. Over time, however, we did not see the type of bias-related incidents reported in some communities. What we have seen is a decrease in the number of international students and scholars coming to UB, which has had a severe and negative impact on UB's ethnic and cultural diversification.

You have worked in UB's affirmative action office for more than a decade. Have you seen any change over the years in how members of the university community view these issues? Have we become more aware or enlightened?
Although some positive changes have taken place, such as a slight increase in female faculty and the rise of a few women into leadership positions (chairs, deans and senior or mid level administrative and professional staff positions), there has been very little change in our effort or success in diversification of faculty or staff from an ethnic or racial perspective. There has been an increased awareness and implementation of legislation such as the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Family Medical Leave Act. Campus-wide understanding of non-discrimination laws and the necessity for them still leaves a lot to be desired. Educating the campus community and monitoring campus culture in compliance with these laws remain on-going tasks for this office. While there has been more discussion of affirmative action/equity issues and some on campus appear more aware of such issues, they are not necessarily more enlightened. Enlightenment requires an accompanying change in consciousness and in behavior, based on recognition that difference is what makes us human. Difference is something to be celebrated, something to be embraced, rather than feared. At this point in time, I think we are headed in the right direction. We may have quite a way to go, but with capable and committed leadership, I have confidence that advancements will be forthcoming.

What is the greatest challenge your office faces?
The greatest challenge is trying to dispel the negative myths surrounding the phrase "affirmative action."

What question do you wish I had asked, and how would you have answered it?
Where can members of the campus community get information on equity, diversity, affirmative action and related topics? Visit our Web site at