Black UA students protest on steps of Old Main

UA President Ann Weaver Hart, seen here speaking with members of the school’s Black Student Union in November, recently announced a new task force to tackle student concerns about diversity.

The University of Arizona has doubled down on diversity by hiring two top people instead of one and paying each of them more than the previous person earned.

Faced with choosing between two finalists for the recently advertised post of chief diversity officer, UA officials decided to hire both, creating a new, unadvertised position in the process.

Jesús Treviño will be paid $214,000 a year as the UA’s new senior diversity officer, and Rebecca Tsosie will be paid $215,000 as a law professor and special adviser to the provost on diversity.

Previously, the UA paid $118,000 to an assistant vice president in charge of diversity. But that person’s duties were more limited in scope than those of the two new hires, UA officials said.

The median salary for a chief diversity officer at a U.S. research university is less than $165,000, according to a March salary survey by the College and University Professional Association for Human Resources, the national association for human-resource professionals in higher education.

The hirings come on the heels of a publicly announced ramp-up of UA’s efforts to combat racism and other forms of discrimination on campus. It was driven in part by recent feedback from minority students who recounted racial epithets and other problems they faced while pursuing a UA education.

Allison Vaillancourt, the UA’s human-resources chief, said the chance to hire both finalists was too good to pass up.

Each was so well-received during the interview process that participants wished aloud they both could be hired, she said, so Provost Andrew Comrie found a way to make it happen.

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Treviño, who has more than two decades of experience in the diversity field, comes to the UA from the University of South Dakota, where he serves as the school’s senior diversity officer at an annual salary of $131,000.

By hiring Tsosie, the UA hired away a renown expert in tribal law from Arizona State University, whose law school is more highly-ranked than the UA’s James E. Rogers College of Law.

Tsosie, who is of Yaqui descent, according to ASU’s website, is a regents professor of law and vice provost for inclusion and community engagement at the Tempe school, where she earns virtually the same salary the UA will pay.

The UA created the post for Tsosie without opening it up to competition under a rarely used section of its employment policy that permits noncompetitive hirings for candidates of high caliber who have expertise the UA needs, said Vaillancourt.

Treviño and Tsosie will work closely with Comrie, the UA’s provost, “to help make the UA a national leader in diversity and inclusion,” a UA news release said. Both are to start work in August.

Contact reporter Carol Ann Alaimo at calaimo@tucson.com or

573-4138.

Reporter

Carol Ann has been with the Star since 1999, but has been an investigative reporter for more than 30 years. She's won numerous awards in the U.S. and Canada. In 2003, she was a war correspondent in Iraq and was a Knight-Wallace Fellow in Michigan in 2008.