At student-led forum, chancellor candidate talks diversity, recruitment


Chancellor candidate Carl Pinkert speaks at a forum on the morning of Thursday, April 27, 2017, in Guyon Auditorium. (Jacob Wiegand | @jawiegandphoto)

By Luke Nozicka

SIU helped Carl Pinkert get his first job that paid more than minimum wage.

If it hadn’t been for two mentors he had while completing his master’s degree in animal science in 1977, Pinkert said, his career would have been “totally different.”

Now, vying to become the next permanent chancellor at SIU’s largest campus, Pinkert said he wants to pay back the university that assisted him in achieving his long-term objectives.


During a student-led forum Thursday evening, Pinkert, vice president for research and economic development at the University of Alabama, answered questions about diversity, recruiting efforts and campus safety, among other issues. The crowd consisted of about 25 students, most of whom said they were working on graduate degrees.

Asked about how he would address the concern that minority students on campus feel “accepted but not welcomed,” a term that was chanted by students as they marched through campus May 2 during a protest against racism, Pinkert said SIU should be welcoming to all students.

If he were chancellor, Pinkert said, the campus would host events where students, faculty and staff learn about new cultures. He said these are especially helpful for students who come from communities that are not diverse.

For example, he said, at Alabama’s Crossroads Community Center, members of the campus community discuss ethnicity, religion, socioeconomic differences and other social issues.

“You show that there’s a sense of appreciation for diversity, because at the end of the day, we’re going to be far better and more productive than other institutions that are not as diverse,” he said.

Later asked about a racist video that called for lynchings at SIUC, Pinkert emphasized that he does not tolerate hate speech or crimes. More than once at the forum, he said he is surprised when federal judges describe hate speech as free speech.

“The issues arise out of ignorance or not knowing anything about other cultures,” he said. “Different viewpoints are why we’re in an academic setting.”


Mentioning the video that called for lynchings, Lauran Schaefer, a graduate assistant in communication studies, asked Pinkert what he would do beyond sending an email to the campus when students feel threatened.

The candidate said immediate action must be taken. He said students involved in similar incidents at Alabama were dismissed, expelled or put in various programs.

Later, Pinkert said he would have no problem firing administrators, faculty or staff who were found guilty of being involved in racism or sexism.

“That type of activity should never be allowed,” he said. “It’s a problem.”

Chancellor candidate Carl Pinkert speaks at a forum on the morning of Thursday, April 27, 2017, in Guyon Auditorium. (Jacob Wiegand | @jawiegandphoto)

During the morning forum, he said SIU is “ahead of the curve in higher education” in terms of its diverse student body. But when it comes to faculty, “not so much.”

Asked about how diversity correlates with recruiting efforts, Pinkert said he would recruit from Chicago, where 40,000 graduates live, and surrounding states. He also said the university could better recruit from diverse communities that are heavily populated by alumni, such as Los Angeles, Dallas, Fort Worth, southern Florida and Nashville, Tennessee.

It is the job of the chancellor, he said, to not just fundraise and speak at alumni events, but to visit with prospective students in these other areas.

The crowd burst into laughter as Pinkert began to talk about climate change and sustainability when answering a question about the administration “being passive in regards to climate.” Johnathan Flowers, who will take over as president of the Graduate and Professional Student Council next year, stopped Pinkert to tell him the question from another student was about safety and the well-being of all students.

“My apologies,” he said, adding that he spoke with environmentalists last week. “With that said, I want to reiterate that … everyone should feel safe on this campus.”

MORE: Pinkert makes case for chancellor spot at morning forum 

Asked about funding for international students, Pinkert said the university under his leadership would be transparent about what assistantships and scholarships it can and can’t offer. He said while the university touts that students come to the campus from nearly 100 nations, he noticed SIU has no alumni constituent groups or clubs in other countries.

SIUC sees a large percentage of its international students come from Saudi Arabia, India, China and Brazil, according to university data.

The candidate said having clubs that gather for university sporting events, among other things, becomes part of a worldwide recruiting effort.

Answering one of the last questions, Pinkert said he was surprised by how many chancellors have come and gone at SIU. In the past 20 years, the university’s largest campus has had 11 different leaders. If chosen, he said he would be at SIUC for the long haul.

“I’m going to ride it out,” he said. “I’m going to be all in.”

Staff writer Luke Nozicka can be reached at 618-536-3325, [email protected] or on Twitter @lukenozicka.

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