After pushback from Cal Poly students, faculty and community members, Paulette Granberry Russell rescinded her offer for Vice President of Diversity and Inclusion. 

President Jeffrey Armstrong addressed the negative community response to the hire decision in a campus-wide email Wednesday night. 

“I am disappointed that our campus will be deprived of more than two decades of expertise from a national leader in the field of higher education diversity, equity and inclusion,” Armstrong wrote. 

Concerns about Russell’s presence on the university leadership team arose due to her previous history as Title IX coordinator at Michigan State University (MSU). Russell held the position when former athletic doctor Larry Nassar sexually abused female MSU students. 

The Cal Poly community started a petition for Russell’s rescindment, which has over 11,330 signatures as of Wednesday night. A demand letter from faculty and staff also asked Armstrong to rescind Russell’s offer and for clarification of the hiring process for her position. The letter was signed by faculty, staff, alumni, students and parents.

The university wanted to hire a new Vice President of Diversity and Inclusion as quickly as possible after Jozi De Leon retired in June, Armstrong wrote. Russell was a finalist for the Vice President of Diversity and Inclusion in 2017, which meant she was already vetted by the committee, he added.

“Given Paulette’s impressive qualifications and the fact that she was a known entity and had already been through the interview process on our campus, we moved forward with the emergency hire,” Armstrong wrote. 

The university will consult students, faculty and staff to select the next Vice President of Diversity and Inclusion, Armstrong wrote. 

Ethnic studies department chair Denise Isom will resume leadership of the Office of Diversity and Inclusion in the interim as the university continues to search for a new hire.

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