According to the Yale phone directory, Nydia Gonzalez can be found at her desk in 155 Whitney Ave., leading the Office of Human Resources’ Office of Diversity and Inclusion as its chief diversity officer.
There is just one problem: she is no longer a Yale employee. And she has not been at the University for weeks.
Gonzalez — Yale’s first-ever chief diversity officer — left in late August to take care of her ailing mother, a year and a half after her appointment in February 2007. She handed her resignation to Associate Vice President and Chief Human Resources Officer Robert Schwartz, who, in turn, told the News on Sunday that he plans to leave in December. While news of Gonzalez’s departure and Schwartz’s imminent departure has not been publicly announced, their tenure marked a pivotal time in the University’s overarching diversity initiative, which the two of them helped lead.
University President Richard Levin confirmed last week that Gonzalez had left and that a search is underway for a replacement chief diversity officer. Yale’s Organizational Development and Learning Center Director Deborah Stanley-McAulay, who is not an ODI official, currently serves as the interim chief diversity officer as administrators look for a new diversity leader.
It remains unclear, however, whether another person will replace Schwartz, an expert at human resources management who has worked at Yale since December 2003.
Gonzalez did not respond to requests for comment during the last week.
These departures mark a series of reshufflings at the Office of Human Resources, further evidenced by the recent appointment of Vice President for Human Resources and Administration Michael Peel.
Schwartz and Gonzalez have been key labor relations and human resources officials at Yale since they were appointed in 2003 and 2007, respectively. Gonzalez came in at a time when the University was trying to establish both student and faculty diversity initiatives similar to those in place at rival institutions.
At the time, University administrators heralded both Gonzalez and Schwartz’s positions as means for increasing diversity in the administration and improving accountability for key labor relations and human resources issues.
Peel’s appointment in August created a new senior officer-level position for the University and bumped Schwartz to the most senior position in the human resources office.
Meanwhile, Gonzalez resigned at an important time for Yale diversity efforts. Formerly the director of diversity programs at the University of Texas’ M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, she came to Yale to spearhead administrative staff diversity efforts and work with Deputy Provost of Faculty Development Judith Chevalier on Levin’s seven-year diversity initiative. Announced in 2005, Levin’s diversity initiative aims to bring 30 minority and 30 women faculty to the University by 2012.
Until she left, Gonzalez was also working on a long-term staff “Diversity Yale 2010 and Beyond” plan that she started last year. So far, no details of the plan have been announced to the public.
And one year ago, two incidents of hateful graffiti appeared on campus, rousing a University-wide push for greater racial diversity amongst Yale senior administrators — of whom none is an ethnic minority — and racial awareness.
Asked how Gonzalez’s departure affected the diversity office, ODI Senior Administrative Assistant Merieta Bayati put it bluntly: “We hate it.”
“We really liked her for what she’s done,” Bayati said. “She was a perfect person to be in the [ODI], and a lot of people thought so too.”
Peel said Gonzalez originally took a caregiver leave of absence in the beginning of the school year in order to take care of her mother. A Caregiver Leave, which is unpaid, would have let Gonzalez leave the University for four months in order to take care of a family member who has as “disabling physical or mental condition,” according to Yale’s Personnel Policies & Practices handbook.
Peel and Stanley-McAulay have been working together to search for potential candidates to fill Gonzalez’s role. But Peel said that they are only looking for candidates within the University because it would take too long to complete an extensive national search and a Yale candidate would have a “rapid start” as chief diversity officer.
“I started Oct. 1, and one of my key priorities was to not leave the diversity job vacant,” he added.
An internal announcement for who will replace Gonzalez will be made Monday to the Yale human resource office.