Q&A with Darron Turner, TCU’s First Chief Inclusion Officer

From TCU Magazine

As chief inclusion officer, Darron Turner will collaborate with faculty, staff and students to ensure everyone’s voice is valued.

How do you think TCU has changed since the early ’80s, when you were a student-athlete on Coach Jim Wacker’s football team?

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Whether you look at it from gender, geography or socioeconomic status, the number of students representing each group has drastically changed. There are more international students than what we had in the ’80s. I think the willingness to have more conversations and the willingness of students to stand up and address these issues about diversity is a major step forward.

How did your experience as a student-athlete prepare you to become the champion of inclusion at TCU?

It helped me learn to work in a team and work with people who bring to the table a number of characteristics and skill sets and ways of understanding. I thank athletics for exposing me to a variety of people, but also for exposing me to different environments and pushing me beyond my comfort zone.

What does the title chief inclusion officer mean to you?

It means looking at how we, as a university, are addressing the issue of inclusion. Whether we’re talking about it from an academic point of view, the mission standpoint, or from a hiring standpoint, what does it mean for us to be in a place where people really engage with one another and feel like their voice is being heard and that they are part of a larger community? My job is to help that interaction occur in the university.

What is your vision for a better TCU?

If a student walks out of here never having had a conversation about the topic of inclusiveness, then we’ve failed. Because they’re going to walk into an environment of mixed gender, race, religion, orientation and social economics, they’re going to have to interact with those issues both where they work and where they live. We should be helping students look at what their values are, but also challenging those values.

How do you intend to make this vision a reality?

Part of the vision is of all of us working together. If this position comes down to Darron Turner by himself, then we’ve lost. There’s a place for everybody to be involved, so my job is to help bring everybody to the table to begin that conversation on diversity, equity and inclusion. We have a committee of faculty, staff and students called the diversity, equity and inclusiveness committee. There will be a larger committee to help create a diversity plan for the university. It will take us about a year to put in place.

What student feedback on the subject of diversity has sparked your interest?

I think there are two schools of thought in this. There are those students who see themselves as not being in a diverse community, and there are students who see themselves every day in terms of diversity. What interests me most is how do we make all students feel a part of a larger community?

What is your experience with diversity at TCU, both as a student and as a staff member?

During my early years, in terms of athletics, it was very diverse. In the classrooms, it was less diverse. But there are people who I connected with across a variety of spectrums, particularly across ethnic groups. In terms of my doctorate, we’ve gotten much better than what it was in the ’80s, but we’re always looking at how we continue to diversify around race, geography, gender and every other area.

How do you intend to initiate a dialogue about diversity in a classroom setting?

We want to have conversations that are appropriate for specific majors. Having conversations around what it means to work in a diverse environment is an important part of education. We’re working with faculty members to bring those conversations into the classroom. There are faculty members who have already been doing this for years. So for some, it’s a continuation. For others, it’s going to be new.

Some students have been recipients of hate speech. What is your plan to address this problem?

We will have a bias response team where students know they can report their issues and concerns, but there are also mechanisms already in place. Inclusion and Intercultural Services addresses these issues, and the affirmative action officer addresses these issues. So there are ways which we already address those issues, but we will expand it to make sure people know where they can go and who they can talk to. We’re looking at it not just from an individual perspective, but from a community perspective.

Do you believe your prior role as vice chancellor of student affairs will be in any way similar to your new position?

The experience will help me, but the job I just came out of was more program-related. My new position will look at the various systems with which we engage people in the university. But I do think all that experience in the programming piece, and working with various departments around a variety of things, is going to be invaluable.

Greek life plays a major role in TCU campus. What is your position on these organizations in regards to diversity and inclusion?

We tend to look at diversity in terms of race, particularly black and white. When we talk about the Greek system, we often think in terms of black and white. I think the Greek system provides some diversity in a variety of ways. Are there some things we need to look at? Absolutely. But I think they know that as well, and they’re doing some programming around diversity and inclusion. I don’t think we have one group that is “the” issue; I think there are a variety of ways in which we have to address these concerns around diversity. Greek life is a big part of campus, and we need to make sure we utilize that expertise as well as opportunities to address diversity.

— Nick Ferrandino

Editor’s Note: The questions and answers have been edited for clarity and length.