ATHENS, Ga. -- University of Georgia President Michael Adams is promising the school will soon have minority representation throughout his administration.
"I pledge to you that when we finish this administrative restructuring, you will see minorities at every level of the administration here at the University of Georgia," Dr. Adams told a crowd of about 300 students, faculty and staff who attended a rally Thursday at the university's Tate Student Center.
The event, titled the "1,000 Student Rally For Cultural Diversity," was organized to support Dr. Adams' recent statements and pledges to protect programs that promote cultural diversity at the school.
Although the rally fell short of its 1,000-person goal, about 300 people of all races and backgrounds attended to hear speeches by Dr. Adams; Leslie Bates, the university's director of minority services and programs; Dezso Benedek, head of the university's Japanese and Korean language programs; and several students.
The university ranks 11th in the nation in the number of black faculty members, Dr. Adams said, quoting a recent ranking from Black Issues in Higher Education.
The number of black applicants at the university is 14 percent higher this year than during the 1996-97 school year.
Legislation aimed at eliminating racial preferences in admissions was defeated by the House Judiciary Committee during the 1998 General Assembly session, but only after a long, politically charged debate.
The bill's defeat is important to efforts to improve diversity at the university, Dr. Adams said.
"What we need at the University of Georgia is to retain the flexibility to consider more than just board scores in the selection process," he said.
About 14 percent of the university's students are minorities in a state with a minority population between 26 percent and 27 percent, Dr. Adams noted. Many of the school's minority faculty members are concentrated in a few schools and departments, he added.
"I want the University of Georgia to be a place where everybody of every background, every nationality and every race feels welcome," Dr. Adams told the crowd, which held signs with slogans such as "President Adams, Our Eyes Remain on the Goal of Achieving a Diverse Campus" and "Dr. Adams, We Support You! -- Alpha Phi Alpha."
Although speakers and crowd members voiced support and appreciation for Dr. Adams' efforts, many also said more than words are needed.
"We are all part of this thing that we call diversity," Ms. Bates said. "When you start talking about affirmative action, these are ways we can make diversity happen. Now we need to put the action plans with the talk, and that takes all of us."
Mr. Benedek, who recently held a hunger strike to protest what he called a lack of support for the university's Korean language program, was more pointed in his speech.
"I'm here to support our president, but I don't want to support him by praising him for something he hasn't done yet," Mr. Benedek said. "It will take quite a bit of courage for him to do everything we expect him to do."
Some people who attended the rally said it was a starting point for future efforts to improve diversity on campus.
"It's always good to have a diverse group of people together for a common goal," said Darius Pattillo, a junior from Atlanta. "I think it's important for people to understand and emphasize that while we've made progress, we have a long way to go."