Final Report of the Equity Task Force

This message was sent to the Wesleyan faculty, staff, and students earlier today:

From: “Michael S. Roth”
Date: Tuesday, May 3, 2016 at 2:07 PM
Subject: Final Report of the Equity Task Force

Dear friends,

This past weekend I received the final report from the Equity Task Force. One can clearly see how much hard work and engaged thinking went into the committee’s deliberations, and I am very grateful for the efforts of all its members: Gina Athena Ulysse (Faculty and Tri-Chair), Elisa Cardona (Staff), Antonio Farias (Staff and Tri-Chair), Matthew Garrett (Faculty), William Johnston (Faculty), Makaela Kingsley (Staff), Caroline Liu (Student), Henry Martellier, Jr. (Student), and Shardonay Pagett (Student and Tri-Chair).

The report is labeled an intervention in history, and it is vital that we seize this moment to improve the educational experience for all Wesleyan students, most especially those who have felt marginalized by practices of this institution, past or present.

You will see that the main body of the report has three major recommendations. The first is to develop a Center with an “intellectually grounded mission in Social Justice and a focus on intercultural development and literacy.” The Appendix on a Gender Resource Center (important in its own right) gives some idea of what such a center might look like. The second recommendation is to devote significant resources toward redressing long-term issues of discrimination and marginalization, especially as this affects the composition of our faculty and staff as well as the development of the curriculum. The third recommendation calls for a standing institutional committee to coordinate, communicate and support change in these areas.

Although I have only had a short time to digest the report, I can say that we will move forward immediately on all three recommendations. We will plan a Center within the time frame suggested that will enable students to deepen their education and enhance their ability to thrive on campus – especially those groups of students who have struggled against legacies of discrimination. This will build on the accomplishments of student activists, and also of professors and staff members who have worked hard to make this university a more equitable and inclusive place. Of course, this means a place that thoughtfully engages with different ideas of what constitutes justice, diversity, individual rights and political freedom. Our differences can make us stronger.

As per the second recommendation, we will add to the considerable resources we have already dedicated to recruiting and supporting students, faculty and staff from under-represented groups. Through the efforts of VP for Equity and Inclusion Antonio Farias and Provost Joyce Jacobsen, we will continue to aggressively pursue opportunities to diversify the faculty. Furthermore, by doing things like replacing loans with grants for low-income students and improving employment conditions for student workers, our goal is to ensure that all students have every opportunity to excel in all sectors of the curriculum and co-curricular activities. As called for in the third recommendation, we will establish a committee to coordinate our efforts and measure their outcomes.

In news very much related to issues of inclusion, we are announcing today that in future admissions cycles Wesleyan will consider undocumented and DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) applicants who have graduated from a U.S. high school as if they were U.S. citizens or permanent residents. You can read more about that decision here.

Please do read the report and its appendices. It is an important intervention in Wesleyan University’s history. We will build on this good work to make our campus an educationally empowering place for all who live and work here.

Michael S. Roth

President

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This link provides the complete Final Report, pp. 1-10 as well as Appendix A: A Proposal For Wesleyan University Gender Resource Center, pp. 11-28 and Appendix B: Reports from Previous Committees: 1989, 1991, 1998, pp. 29-70.

An Intervention in 185 Years of Wesleyan History: Final Report of the Presidential Equity Task Force

April 30, 2016

Part I

Introduction

The student movements that swept the nation and parts of the world in 2015 left educational institutions reeling. While one tendency has been to cast this reawakening as the persistent power of racism, another sees it as both a reckoning with the inheritance of the civil rights struggles of the twentieth century and a response to structural changes in higher education itself.

In the fall of 2015, a group of concerned Wesleyan students created the #IsThisWhy? campaign to address what they identified as a neglectful University administration and to, in its words, “fight back against the daily effects of white supremacy in academia.” A march of 500 students, staff, and faculty members ended with the release of demands on November 18, 2015 in solidarity with a National Day of Action across U.S. universities.

As educators, many among us are too aware that some students have the social luxury to be contemplative, while others by virtue of their differential positions, and hence preparation, are caught bearing the Sisyphean burden of effecting institutional change. By the time our students reach Wesleyan, they only know—and have only been rewarded for—juggling, balancing, and oversubscribing. This volatile environment is a reality for all students at Wesleyan. Negotiating historical marginalization exacerbates the problem for some.

Part II

Wesleyan’s History, 1831-2016

In 1832, the second year of Wesleyan’s existence, the University faced its first crisis of diversity. That year, Wilbur Fisk, then the President (as well as Chief Admissions Officer) of the University had admitted Charles Bennett Ray, Wesleyan’s first African American student. Fisk had known Ray as a student at the Wesleyan Seminary in Wilbraham, Massachusetts, where he had obtained his secondary education. Ray had dedicated himself to becoming a Methodist minister, and Fisk saw him as a serious student. At the same time, Fisk did not want to alienate Methodists in the Southern states, and had consulted a Southern student’s parent from Georgia, Josiah Flournoy, who himself was a slave owner. Flournoy saw no objection to Ray’s admission.

Yet within weeks of Ray’s admission, objections began. Once he came to take meals with the other students on campus, many of the Southern students, as well as some from the North, objected to his presence. A number threatened to withdraw from Wesleyan unless Ray was thrown out. At that point Ray declared that he no longer wished to remain at Wesleyan, but Fisk asked him to stay, and called on the Board of Trustees to make a final decision. The Board voted against “Mr. Ray’s continuing [as] a member of this institution.” Subsequently, Ray went to New York City and became co-owner and editor of an abolitionist newspaper, The Colored American, among other accomplishments.

Wesleyan’s Board of Trustees voted in 1835 to allow African American students admission to the University, but there is no record of any graduating before 1859. The damage had been done, and until the 1960s only very small numbers of Black students graduated from Wesleyan.

That first crisis of diversity has been repeated, in different iterations, throughout the University’s 185- year history. Founded as a men’s college, Wesleyan first admitted women in 1872, when Jennie Larned, Phebe Almeda Stone, Angie Villette Warren, and Hannah Ada Taylor enrolled as students. The University provided no housing for women until 1889, and the campus became increasingly hostile to their presence. In 1909, the Board of Trustees voted to end coeducation, and a student publication proclaimed, “The Barnacle is at last to be scraped from the keel of the good ship Wesleyan!” Women were admitted again provisionally in 1968 (as exchange or transfer students), and coeducation as such returned in 1970, nearly a century after the University’s first gesture toward gender equality.

As our account of these early chapters in Wesleyan’s long, incomplete history suggest, the University has repeatedly faced the challenge of dealing with matters of inclusion and discrimination. In our historical narrative, the Fisk takeover of February 21, 1969 is a turning point, marking a sea change in campus affairs. In February 1969, black students at Wesleyan requested that classes be cancelled in recognition of the assassination of Malcolm X four years earlier; the University administration rejected the request. In response, a group of black students, faculty, and staff occupied Fisk Hall, shutting down University business, and broadcasting Malcolm X’s speeches from the Language Lab to the audience outside the building. The occupiers issued a statement indicating that “we seek to dramatically expose the University’s infidelity to its professed goals and to question the sincerity of its commitment to meaningful change. We blaspheme and decry that education which is consonant with one cultural frame of reference to the exclusion of all others.” They also issued a list of demands, including the establishing of distinct housing and a cultural center for black students, the introduction of Black Studies classes to the curriculum, and an increase in the number of black students and faculty. Within a day, the takeover had ended, with the University administration agreeing to consider the demands. The reader of the present report will notice that the administration has taken a long time to consider them.

If we are going to progress beyond the repetition of these cycles in which crises are addressed with what in retrospect have been only temporary and incomplete measures, we need to have a better sense of what our history has been—both the histories that have been told, and those yet to be written that must be reclaimed. We cannot cultivate belonging without understanding how the past continues to configure the present.

In 1969, Wesleyan—along with colleges and universities across the nation—was so deeply segregated and saturated with tensions that it was characterized in the New York Times as “Two Nations.” The naive expectation that without active institutional interventions students would “automatically assimilate…into this historically white landscape,” as the late Edward Beckham put it, was eventually displaced by slightly more direct, proactive methods. To be sure, in the last three decades, Wesleyan has made attempts to recognize and address issues of difference based on race, ethnicity, sex, gender, class, and more. Yet, too often these have been merely ad hoc, with limited success at best. Undeniably, the same problems keep recurring. To begin to understand why, the Task Force examined relevant documents from University Archives and Special Collections dating from 1989, 1991, and 1998. We include these as Appendix B to this report.

In 1989, the University’s Committee on Human Rights and Relations examined specific problems of inclusion and discrimination on campus. Many of the problems articulated in the committee’s report are the same as those that students, as well as faculty and staff of color, still experience today.  As a result of this historical reality, and the fact that numerous subsequent attempts to tackle these issues have not been successful, it is clear that we need to take action that both creates immediate improvement and establishes an infrastructure that will be nimble, responsive, and enduring.

Below, we comment briefly on these earlier reports and their key results. Our comments are far from comprehensive; our timing was limited and additional research will help to corroborate and nuance these findings.

In 1989 a report was produced by the Committee on Human Rights and Relations, which was formed in May 1980 to address sexual abuse on campus and discrimination faced by GLB (gay, lesbian, and bisexual) students. Almost immediately (by the Fall of 1980), this work was combined with issues of race, referencing both minority students and faculty. The report recommended that measures be conducted using established institutional channels (deans, faculty, and the Educational Policy Committee) to address ongoing problems. Specific problems recorded included concerns regarding curriculum, the hiring and promotion of minority faculty and staff, and tensions among students that reflected a hostile campus climate. It was noted that “[m]embers of the Wesleyan community seem poorly prepared for open discussion, reciprocal learning and intellectual growth through exploration of racial issues.”

As the report indicates, in 1989 an institutional framework for addressing these issues existed in the form of the Committee on Human Rights and Relations, which appears to have been the hub for reporting the status of ongoing initiatives. But around 1990 (that is, at the very moment when the committee’s report required action), that group seems to have been dissolved. As a result, the report’s recommendations were made without an ongoing point of accountability.

Our view (outlined in our recommendations, below) is that there is a strong need for a standing committee integrated within the University’s governance structure. As the 1989 report noted, ameliorating the campus situation “requires sustained attention and periodic review on an institution-wide level.” This need for continuous assessment of institutional efforts was a recurring point in later reports; it is also a point of great value to the Wesleyan community moving forward.

In February 1990, Wesleyan President William Chace formed the Presidential Commission on Racial Relations (PCRR); in August 1991, after seventeen months, the Commission presented its full report, which was printed and circulated to the entire campus at the start of the fall 1991 semester under the title “The Quality of Life of Persons of Color at Wesleyan: Recommendations for Its Enhancement.” The report noted, with some ambivalence, that Wesleyan had long been characterized by a tradition of “autonomy and fragmentation”; while these might be laudable traits in some cases, they had also worked “against reform.” The committee identified four areas in which attention was needed: recruitment and retention of faculty of color, curricular reform, and quality of life for staff, faculty, and students. We advise that the recommendations of the 1990 PCRR report be reviewed in relation to the current state of the university.

In 1991 a Multicultural Center Committee (comprised of faculty and staff) produced a report in response to issues similar to those raised in 1989. The committee recommended not a Multicultural Center, but instead a Multicultural Coordinator: a point person who would provide recommendations and guidelines, and who would work with an advisory committee comprising one additional staff member, two members of the faculty, and five students. Our understanding is that this recommendation was not implemented.

The 1998 Report followed on the tail of the Initiative on Racial Legacy and Learning for the AACU (American Association of Colleges and Universities); it placed emphasis on community partnerships (Wesleyan and Middletown relations). The report points to a persistent and often deleterious divide between the campus and the Middletown community.

From these reports and their recommendations, we surmise that while some progress has been made on past demands to address concerns of inequality, Wesleyan has yet to make sustained and measurable gains in this regard. More specifically, this institution has not committed to responding fully and sufficiently to the documented unequal experiences of the historically marginalized and underrepresented. This is most evident in the recurrence of these same issues among students, faculty, and staff of color, in relation to recruitment, retention, and lived experiences on campus throughout the years. The failure of these institutional efforts to ameliorate the stated problems is revelatory in their assertions of continuities that actually become obstacles to further development.

Much has changed since the 1990s. In many ways, Wesleyan is an entirely different, and better, university. Yet our successes have been limited. Periods of progress have been counterpointed by phases of retrenchment, and changes have been realized unevenly across the various parts of the campus. While some of our institutional habits and practices have been adapted to our times, others remain anchored in pedagogies that impede our collective ability to thrive.

One outcome of this limitation to recognize our institutional tendency to improve in some areas while neglecting others is a campus that is highly skeptical of the work being done by the present Task Force. Cynicism pervades, among new arrivals to campus as well as those who have witnessed and participated in cycles of change over the years. Generally, there is little or no confidence in the administration’s commitment to the quality of life of Wesleyan’s entire community.

Yet today there is renewed institutional willingness to address and rectify this. Prior to the wave of protests that captured the nation and beyond, Wesleyan’s Board of Trustees had worked over a two-year period to develop a set of principles concerning the University’s commitment to Equity and Inclusion. On June 1, 2015, President Roth presented this statement to the entire community on his blog. It read:

The Wesleyan University Board of Trustees is committed to a campus culture characterized by diversity, equity, and inclusion. We believe that in order to meet the University’s educational mission and provide a thriving educational environment, the University’s governance, curriculum, and operations should be regularly reviewed and renewed to ensure that they reflect and address the broad diversity of the Wesleyan community.

The members of the board commit to conversations regarding diversity, equity and inclusion, and to monitoring progress in promoting equity and inclusion in all aspects of University life, including: eliminating the comparative disadvantages in educational experience that may separate student groups on the basis of race, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, and/or other factors; and encourage honest conversations, openness, and metrics regarding diversity, equity, and inclusion and evidence reflecting student success, faculty and staff recruitment and retention, and institutional performance.

The Board’s statement provides the directions for this Task Force to address impediments to the realization of the University’s educational mission, and it commits the institution’s resources to the recruitment and retention of faculty and staff. This statement also directs us to use a combination of qualitative and quantitative bases for reforms; this will require a transformation in our institutional culture (to cultivate “honest conversations”) and a consideration of our institutional research capacity (to provide “metrics regarding diversity, equity, and inclusion and evidence reflecting students’ success, and faculty and staff recruitment and retention”).

The current Task Force was created by the President in December 2015, and began to work in late January 2016. Our charge was to respond to #IsThisWhy’s specific demand for a Center and also consider ways to address the impoverishment of both the learning and living experience of historically marginalized groups on campus. We have prepared recommendations for a set of institutional changes—physical, procedural, and practical—that will enhance and strengthen Wesleyan’s educational practice and, in so doing, realize the Board of Trustees’ goals.

We submitted an interim report based primarily on archival research in February 2016, and then began our discovery phase and the conduct of field research. We have held dialogues with members of the campus community, including some alumni, both to maintain openness to its many points of view and to provide evidence of action. We began to investigate and evaluate the feasibility and operations of innovative multicultural and intercultural centers at peer institutions, and we considered the practical and operational aspects of establishing one on campus.

Our final recommendations provide a basic plan for the development of this type of collaborative Center. We also emphasize that to address persistent problems of inequality and structural racism that are endemic both in our society at large and at Wesleyan, the Center must be only one part of a university-wide transformative initiative. We outline our vision below.

Part III

Responding to Current Needs

Our recommendations are meant to rally the entire Wesleyan community to recognize and confront our impediments and take concrete steps toward improvement. Our actions must be deliberate rather than merely reactive. Simply put, the University needs to commit fiscally to a new initiative.

More specifically, to make progress beyond our predecessors, especially in previously ignored areas, our institutional will requires a bold and ongoing effort. The rectification of inequalities across campus should be a discrete area of fundraising during regular capital campaigns. In addition, the University should commit to raising funds for the Center and related initiative work, so that the initiative may operate as an addition to the University budget, rather than a drain on already allocated financial resources. Wherever possible, the University should avoid pitting this new and necessary initiative against other entities on campus in zero-sum fashion.

 

Recommendation 1

In direct response to our charge, it is recommended that the University respond positively to the demand for, and establish, a new Center that has a clear, intellectually grounded mission in social justice and a focus on intercultural development and literacy, which integrates students, faculty, and staff in its core operations at the developmental stage to sustainably work towards a deeper commitment to inclusion campus-wide.  

Note: We strongly recommend that planning for the new Center rely heavily on the existing thorough proposal for a Gender Resource Center. We include this proposal as Appendix A to this report.

Timeline: The #IsThisWhy students demanded a fully operational Center by Fall 2018. In order to keep to this timeline, we recommend that a new committee comprised of students, staff and faculty from across the divisions who are dedicated to the Center’s core mission be established that will work specifically to plan the Center during the academic year 2016-17.

Space: The Center must be ADA compliant (and hopefully LEED certified) and located on central campus, spatially able to accommodate groups on campus that should include a Student of Color (SOC) Resource Center, First Generation Student Resource Center, Queer Resource Center, and Gender Resource Center.

Administrative structure: The Center should be co-directed by a tenured faculty member and a full-time member of University staff with expertise in, or commitment to, social justice. Given their proposed integration, our view is that the two directorships might ideally be jointly housed within the offices of Academic Affairs and Student Affairs.

Organization: We recommend that the Center’s governance structure consist of an advisory board of faculty, staff, and student leaders dedicated to its mission.

Vision: The Center should provide a convivial space for the integration of curricular and co-curricular activities, led by students, faculty, and staff. It should provide support and programming that will enhance the quality of life of historically marginalized groups on campus. In addition (and in response to concerns raised as far back as the 1998 Initiative on Racial Legacy and Learning for the AACU), the Center should foster community building both within and beyond the Wesleyan campus.

Student life resources: The Center will be a resource and hub for supporting relevant student organizations in their co-curricular planning and implementation of campus-wide programs. In an effort to create a year-long theme and continuity the office will specifically support Affinity Months and Awareness weeks for the campus community.

Intellectual engagement: The Center should host lectures, discussions, and various kinds of co-curricular programming. Given the Center’s commitment to an ongoing and holistic improvement in campus intellectual life, it should also provide faculty fellowships and residencies, similar to existing programs at, for example, the Center for the Humanities and the College of the Environment. Faculty with research and teaching interests connected with the Center’s core mission should work with the Center’s leadership to coordinate courses and co-curricular planning, and perhaps consider opportunities for scholarly initiatives (collaboration with students on research projects, but also support for reading groups and the like). We hope that Center programing will attract members of the larger Middletown community, in addition to members of the University.

Coordination of resources: The Center should be both a host and a hub for resources; some will be housed or managed elsewhere, and the Center will support, benefit from, and help students navigate curricular and co-curricular programs. Institutions of higher learning are historically and notoriously “siloed,” leaving students, faculty, and staff (especially across institutional divides), unaware of the myriad resources available and the ways they intersect.

Potential Problems: Most importantly, we emphasize that the transformation in the campus culture that Wesleyan needs so badly will not result from this Center alone. Center planners must be mindful that bricks and mortar must not be valued over people: the physical space will not solve the institutional problems; this is all about people, interactions, and relationships. Furthermore, efforts must be made to sustain ongoing student use of the space through dynamic programming and thoughtful planning. Finally, it is crucial that the Center be both a space for historically marginalized groups and a welcoming space for the entire campus community, a site for the exploration of the inequalities that unevenly shape our relationships. In a word, we must avoid the isolation of this space. 

 

Recommendation 2

In order to recognize and address the broader historical and structural conditions perpetuating cycles of student protests and demands along with continuous patterns of inequity and retention problems among faculty and staff on campus, we recommend the University commit much-needed resources towards redressing these concerns and embark on a long-term, comprehensive, campus-wide initiative with concrete action plans to be fully incorporated in Wesleyan’s current and future strategic visions.

 

We recommend a campus-wide initiative to rectify longstanding problems of inequality and retention of faculty and staff of color at the University. This initiative will require substantial commitment of University funds, as well as a sustained commitment on the part of the administration, the faculty, the staff, and the students. We envision an initiative comprising of several interrelated parts that are immediate and longer-term in scope.

 

Given the perceived problem of hiring and retaining faculty and staff of color across the University as a whole, we recommend a university-wide inventory and longitudinal study, including all academic units and all staff. We are mindful of the fact that some of this information exists but is currently unavailable, while other parts of this study will require substantial research by a University body. Aspects of this work include: histories of departments in terms of faculty composition, history of chairs, and perhaps relevant curricular details; histories of faculty committees, including the Chairs of the Faculty and the various ad hoc faculty committees; a current inventory of department and overall staff and faculty demographics across all offices; histories of staff offices; a current inventory of staff demographics as expressed in the annual Equity Compliance Plan; and greater use and communication of the annual Equity Compliance Plan (formerly EEO Plan) to recognize progress and identify areas where more work is needed to advance. The establishment of a historical base line in this way will make concrete measures of progress in coming years possible.

 

A bold and clearly articulated strategy for demographic diversification of the faculty is necessary and overdue. We recognize that diversification of the faculty has been uneven across disciplinary divisions and that each division faces disciplinary-specific challenges. Wesleyan’s existing collaborations on this front include the joint Liberal Arts Diversity Officer (LADO)/Research I University initiative (consortium of chief diversity officers at 24 liberal-arts institutions with a mission of diversifying faculty, staff, students, and curriculum). The University also should take a deeper look at further initiatives: for example, the Southern Regional Educational Board (SREB), which aims to create a faculty pipeline from strong southern Research I state universities, and the Consortium for Faculty Diversity (CFD), whose mission is to increase the diversity of students, curriculum, and faculty. In addition, Wesleyan should reevaluate its current academic communities of excellence (Freeman Asian Scholars Program, McNair Program, Mellon Mays University Fellowships, WesMaSS [Wesleyan Mathematics and Science Scholar Program], Posse Veteran Scholar Program, Upward Bound Math/Science Program) in order to work strategically with other liberal arts colleges in a long-range effort to increase the talent pool, particularly in key areas such as mathematics and the natural sciences.

 

With shifts in the composition of University personnel, the campus climate too will transform. The University should establish a means of periodically assessing the campus culture and climate. Our view is that the University standing committee (see Recommendation 3) may be the body responsible for establishing benchmarks for accountability on this front. We further believe that it is important that assessment and reporting on the campus climate be a means for campus-wide self-awareness, geared toward inspiring further engagement. Ongoing exercises in evaluating the campus culture should enable and empower the campus to see itself, not merely to provide metrics for administrative use.

 

Wesleyan should conduct an external assessment to eventually write and implement a campus-wide strategic plan (following the model established at the University of Michigan) specific to each academic division.  Each division should submit  a plan for identifying, recruiting, and retaining faculty, students, and staff who will enhance an environment of inclusion and diversity at Wesleyan. In addition, the University should expand programs to support underrepresented groups in mathematics and science. The University might also establish a steering committee to implement curriculum reform where it is needed: for example, encouraging first-year and sophomore seminars related to issues of power, privilege, inequality, and social justice; and supporting pedagogical initiatives in math and science. The University should also enhance its seed funding for critical scholarship and course development.

 

At a university, engagement means intellectual immersion. As we embark on the structural work of institutional change, the initiative should encourage and support student, faculty, and staff work in areas that merge correlated social and intellectual concerns.  This will keep the issues visible and living across campus and in our extended communities. Examples of such work might include (but are not limited to): public history projects on the history of the University, public science projects, historical, anthropological, and artistic works on the relation between the University and Middletown, collaborative course clusters, and senior capstones in related areas. Concomitantly, this approach reinforces institutional awareness that our work and relations in the advancement of knowledge have myriad implications.

 

As is evident from past and future plans, Wesleyan can better channel its resources to address concerns that reflect our community’s interest in social transformation. One example of a program that promises much on this front is the 2016-17 First Year Matters (FYM) curriculum around The New Jim Crow, which ties into a series of classes and lectures, and sustained dialogues on mass incarceration.

 

 

Recommendation 3

In conjunction with the aforementioned, we recommend a transformation of the task force to work in tandem with members of the larger Wesleyan community to create effective mechanisms to coordinate, centralize, communicate, and support ongoing institutional change efforts. Ultimately, this task force should evolve into a standing institutional committee comprised of students, faculty, and staff.

 

We recommend the creation of a nine-person ad hoc University steering committee, comprised of three members each from the faculty, staff, and student bodies, to direct and oversee the work of the initiative. The three faculty members should represent the three academic divisions (Arts and Humanities, Social Sciences, and Natural Sciences and Mathematics). Our view is that this committee should originate through faculty governance procedures, with the expectation that staff and student members will be brought onto the committee as voting representatives.

 

The present task force ought to be dissolved and reconstituted after its deadline of May 1, 2016. Eventually, various distributed and representative committees ought to be established, each constructed specifically to carry out the aforementioned recommendations. The Center will require its own planning committee (as described above, under Recommendation 1) that can see through the next steps to the launch.

 

Part IV

Wesleyan’s Future

In recent years, due to the increasing corporatization of universities across the nation, and the pressures of the economy, campus cultures have become more fragmented as students negotiate learning, professionalization, and community engagement. Wesleyan’s mission as a transformative liberal arts education begins with a “holistic review” of potential applicants who are, in many ways, already fragmenting under these pressures. Moreover, the well-being of students is increasingly affected. We need a sustainable and integrative educational approach that is mindful of the uneven impact of these pressures. The overcommitted student does not have time for thinking. In Spanish there is a saying, “Hay que darle tiempo al tiempo,” we must give time the time. Learning is a process and contemplation is an integral component. Our institutional pedagogy should recognize and inspire a more present, civic-minded, and active learner. It may also serve to counteract the academic, personal, and social dissonance in students’ lives.

 

Considering this as we forge ahead, it is imperative that we reassess our scholastic values. Indeed, after a period of capitulation to the market, the University must reaffirm and recenter itself on our source of pride, our intellectual mission. Although it is a sign of our times, opting for digitization and screen culture has only encouraged students (and not only students) to view faculty as “resources,” reducible to delivery mechanisms; the result is no longer contemplative learning, but the passive quantifiable consumption of information without attentiveness to pedagogy. This growing trend, doomed to become our Achilles’ heel, grossly undermines faculty-student relations and the creativeness and possibilities in the exchange of knowledge. An educational mission is not the provision of consumer-centered services. The consumer model that has allowed the institution to compete is leading us astray from our very educational standards. Students are not partners in transactions, and faculty and staff also require work environments with boundaries, protection, and inspiration. We must work diligently together to reconcile the disjuncture between our branding and reality as we recommit to an integrative and non-instrumental style of learning, based on the twin strengths of Wesleyan’s scholar-teachers and its dynamic staff.

 

Moreover, it should not be taken for granted that Wesleyan’s known history of activism (especially during the 1960s-90s) continues to determine the campus climate or that it gives students the same sense of belonging as their non-activist peers.  Although students have demonstrated over the years and waged campaigns such as Diver$ity Univer$ity, AFAMIsWhy, Trans/Gender Group, and WesDive$t more recently, in the last decades, evident commitment to social justice on a global scale has been waning on this campus, just as it has nationally. While recent events indicate a resurgence of some awareness, we must admit and confront the shifting generational tendency towards insularity and the interpersonal, which threatens to diminish cognizance and interest in international matters.

 

Global strife resonates at all levels, and as such is not unrelated to political struggles at home. And with the pervasiveness and persistent power of structural racism, Wesleyan needs the institutional will and commitment from members of its community to ongoing reflection and engagement.  Therefore, effective and sustainable solutions will not arrive from above. Students, staff, and faculty together must create a campus environment of mutual respect. That environment depends on shared and deliberately articulated community principles. In this regard, on the one hand, the Office of Equity and Inclusion needs to better define, articulate, and communicate the institutional commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion. That office should also provide a clear policy framework. On the other hand, that environment will be shaped most powerfully by our collective community practices.

 

As we reel in the wake of the 2015, we must ask ourselves what we want our relationship to this historical moment of crisis to be. Our view is that we must seize this time as an opportunity to intentionally shape Wesleyan’s future narrative. Reflecting on the Trustees’ decision in 1832 alongside the 2015 Trustees’ statement, we should consider which aspects of our history continue to serve our progress, and which condemn us to repeat the past.

 

Respectfully submitted,

Task Force Tri-Chairs:

Antonio Farias, Staff

Shardonay Pagett, Student

Gina Athena Ulysse, Faculty

 

Task Force Members: 

Elisa Cardona, Staff

Matthew Garrett, Faculty

William Johnston, Faculty

Makaela Kingsley, Staff

Caroline Liu, Student

Henry Martellier Jr., Student

 

update on inaugural E&I report

Members of the Wesleyan community,

This past November, I outlined prior equity and inclusion work completed regarding staffing and strategy development.  I also mentioned an inaugural Equity & Inclusion report would be completed in the spring of 2016. This was prior to the creation of the Equity Task Force (ETF), which was charged by the President with delivering a report on or about May 1st.  Because of the significance of the ETF report, I will defer from publishing the Equity & Inclusion report until fall 2016, in order to incorporate key aspects and concerns brought forth by the ETF report.

Sincerely,
Antonio Farias
V.P. for Equity & Inclusion/Title IX Officer

The Listening Tour Continues…

Equity Task Force Listening Tour Updates:

  • 2/10/16 (12pm-12:15pm) The Administrators & Faculty of Color Alliance (AFCA) Lunch– Usdan 108
  • 2/11/16 (1:30pm-1:45pm)  The Division of Student Affairs Meeting – Usdan 108
  • 2/16/16 (4:15pm) Faculty Meeting –Shanklin 107
  • 2/17/16 (10am) Administrative Assistant Support Staff – Usdan 108
  • 2/26/16 Board of Trustees Campus Affairs Committee
  • 3/1/16 (12:00pm-1:30pm) Faculty & Staff Forum – Downey House
  • 3/1/16 (7:30pm-9:30pm) Student Forum – Usdan 108
  • 3/3/16 (12:00pm) The Equity and Inclusion Student Advisory Group – Usdan 108
  • 3/24/16 (12pm-12:20pm) First Class, 1st Gen and Low Income Student Coalition – TBD
  • TBD Senior Administrative Staff
  • TDB Faculty of Color Caucus
  • TBD Concerned Faculty Caucus
  • TBD Faculty Executive Committee

Mid-February Equity Task Force Interim Report Posted

Presidential Task Force Interim Report

Submitted to President Michael Roth

Submitted on February 14, 2016

Submitted by:  Task Force Tri-Chairs:  Shardonay Pagett (student), Antonio Farias (staff), and Gina Athena Ulysse (faculty).  Task Force Members:  Caroline Liu, Henry Martellier, Jr. (students); Elisa Cardona, Makaela Kingsley (staff); Matthew Garrett, William Johnston (faculty).

Executive Summary:

History: Reports of previous committees and task forces show that Wesleyan has made multiple attempts to address issues of difference and racial tensions, but to limited success at best. The same problems keep recurring.

Mission: The Presidential Task Force is reinforced by the Board of Trustees’ Statement on equity and inclusion as a blueprint to enact institutional change and our task is to facilitate that goal as best as possible.

Recommendation: The creation of an integrative educational experience that will continue to reach across all parts of campus life including students, staff, and faculty, through a physical center and institutional initiatives for the indefinite future.

 

Early Recommendations: 

  1. In direct response to our charge, we recommend that the university establish a new center that has a clear, intellectually grounded mission focusing on intercultural development and literacy, which integrates students, faculty, and staff in its core operations at the developmental stage to sustainably work towards deeper commitment to inclusion.
  1. In order to recognize and address the broader historical and structural conditions that generated the IsThisWhy? protest and demands along with continuous patterns of inequity and retention problems among faculty and staff on campus, we recommend the university commit much-needed resources towards redressing these concerns and embark on a long-term, comprehensive, campus-wide initiative with concrete action plans to be incorporated in Wesleyan’s current and future strategic visions.
  1. In conjunction with the aforementioned, we recommend continuation of the task force to work in tandem with members of the larger Wesleyan community to create effective mechanisms to coordinate, centralize, communicate, and support ongoing institutional change efforts. Ultimately, this task force should evolve into a standing institutional committee comprised of students, faculty, and staff.

History

Throughout its long history Wesleyan has consistently faced the challenge of how to deal with issues of inclusion and discrimination. In the last three decades, the university has made multiple attempts to address issues of difference based on race, ethnicity, sex, gender, class and more, but with limited success at best. The same problems keep recurring.  With the Fisk Takeover of February 21, 1969 as a notable turning point in campus affairs, the university has worked more explicitly to address issues of racial and other forms of discrimination since the 1960s, albeit far too often on an ad hoc basis. The Task Force examined relevant documents from Olin Special Collections dating from 1989, 1991, and 1998 that supported this.

In 1989, the University formed a committee to examine specific problems of inclusion and discrimination on campus. Many of the issues articulated in this document are exactly the same as those that students, as well as faculty and staff of color, experience today.  As a result of this historical reality and the fact that numerous subsequent attempts to address these issues have not been successful, it is clear that we need to take action that creates immediate improvement and establishes an infrastructure that will be nimble and responsive indefinitely. Below, we comment briefly on a few earlier reports and their key findings. This is far from comprehensive as our timing was limited and additional research would help to corroborate and nuance these findings:

This report was produced by the Committee on Human Rights and Relations, which was originally formed in May 1980 to address sexual abuse on campus and discrimination faced by GLB students. Almost immediately (by the Fall of 1980), this work was combined with issues of race, referencing both minority students and faculty. The report recommended that measures be conducted using established institutional channels (deans, faculty, and the Educational Policy Committee) to address ongoing problems. Specific problems recorded included:

  • Concerns regarding curriculum.
  • Concerns regarding the hiring and promotion of minority faculty and staff.
  • Concerns regarding tensions among students as an indication of a hostile campus climate. It was noted that “[m]embers of the Wesleyan community seem poorly prepared for open discussion, reciprocal learning and intellectual growth through exploration of racial issues.”

It is clear that institutional frameworks for addressing these issues once existed. For example, the Committee on Human Rights and Relations appears to have been the hub for reporting the status of ongoing initiatives, though it seems to have been dissolved around 1990. Hence, recommendations were made without an ongoing point of accountability, which strongly indicates the need for a standing committee integrated in the university’s governance structure. As this report noted, ameliorating the campus situation “requires sustained attention and periodic review on an institution-wide level.” This need for continuous assessment of institutional efforts was a recurring point in later reports.

In 1991, a Multicultural Center Committee comprised of faculty and staff also produced a report in response to issues similar to those raised in 1989. The recommendation was not for a Multicultural Center per se,  but a Multicultural Coordinator—a point person who would provide recommendations and guidelines, but would not necessarily have any institutional power. The 1998 Report followed on the Initiative on Racial Legacy and Learning for the AACU placed emphasis on community partnerships (Wesleyan University & Middletown relations).

From these reports and their recommendations, we surmise that while some progress has been made from past demands to address concerns of inequality, Wesleyan has yet to make sustained gains in this regard. More specifically, this institution has not committed to responding fully and sufficiently to the documented unequal experiences of marginalized and underrepresented students, faculty, and staff. This is most evident in the recurrence of these same issues among students, faculty, and staff of color, in relation to recruitment, retention, and lived experiences on campus throughout the years. The failure of these institutional efforts to address the stated problems are revelatory in their assertions of continuities that actually become obstacles to further developments.

As a result, campus response today among those with longer institutional memory is one of skepticism toward the work being done by the present Task Force.  Generally, there is little to no trust in the administration vis-à-vis its commitment to matters pertaining to equity and inclusion of marginalized populations.

At this point, part of the work of the Task Force is to ensure a sustained dialogue among members of the campus community that maintains both openness to its many points of view, and evidence of action. That said, to address persistent problems of inequality and structural racism at Wesleyan, a multicultural center would need to be only one part of a larger, university-wide initiative with concrete action plans.

Renewed Institutional Commitment  

On June 1, 2015, President Roth noted that at its annual meeting in May 2015, Wesleyan’s Board of Trustees’ Equity and Inclusion Task Force presented the full Board with a statement of principles. It read:

The Wesleyan University Board of Trustees is committed to a campus culture characterized by diversity, equity, and inclusion. We believe that in order to meet the University’s educational mission and provide a thriving educational environment, the University’s governance, curriculum, and operations should be regularly reviewed and renewed to ensure that they reflect and address the broad diversity of the Wesleyan community.

The members of the board commit to conversations regarding diversity, equity and inclusion, and to monitoring progress in promoting equity and inclusion in all aspects of University life, including:

Eliminating the comparative disadvantages in educational experience that may separate student groups on the basis of race, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, and/or other factors; and encourage honest conversations, openness, and metrics regarding diversity, equity, and inclusion and evidence reflecting student success, faculty and staff recruitment and retention, and institutional performance.

  • The Board’s statement provides the directions for this Task Force to address the core educational mission of the University.
  • The Board’s statement also emphasizes a commitment to utilizing the institution’s resources in hiring and retention of faculty and staff.

This Task force, which was created by the President in December 2015, to address current and ongoing concerns on campus takes as its goal making recommendations towards the establishment of institutional changes—physical, procedural, and practical—that will make, in the process, the Board of Trustee’s goals a reality. The Board’s statement directs us to deploy a metrics-based decision making process, which will require an assessment of our current institutional research capacity.

Towards a More Integrative Education

With the increasing corporatization of universities across the nation and pressures of the market economy, current campus cultures have become more disparate as students negotiate learning, professionalization, and community engagement.  These pressures have definitive impact on students, faculty, and staff interactions that further fragments, and especially strains, the educational experience of those who are most marginalized.  Indeed, to better achieve Wesleyan’s mission of a transformative liberal arts education, which begins with a “holistic review” of potential applicants, a sustainable and more integrative educational model mindful of the uneven impact of these pressures is necessary to inspire a more present, civic-minded, and action oriented learner, and minimize the academic, personal, and social dissonance in students’ lives.

Hence, it should not be taken for granted that Wesleyan’s history of activism, especially between the 1960s and 1990s, continues to influence campus climate and offers students the same sense of belonging as their non-activist peers. From the early 2000s, interest in social justice declined on this campus, as it did nationally. Moreover, existing university centers tend to have a singular focus, whether it be exclusively on scholarship and teaching, or service-based learning. There is a need for a Center that integrates student interest in educational outreach, social justice programming, and advocacy, along with academics.  Indeed, without an intellectually robust component through faculty presence and curricular innovations to anchor it, such a center would eventually fall by the wayside in the same ways as previous efforts to address inclusion and discrimination on campus. This is also due to the inherent transience of students. To that end, this Presidential Equity Task Force comprised of students, faculty, and staff shares leadership, while forming opinions and working in cohesion from different viewpoints and modalities of work styles, with the goal of making informed decisions that benefit all parties. This model is valuable and should become precedent-setting for future campus initiatives.

Lastly, it must be noted that given the pervasiveness and persistent power of structural racism, alleviating these problems require both institutional will, and commitment from members of the larger community.  All solutions, however, should not be directives, and stem from administration. Indeed, students, staff and faculty have distinct and overlapping areas of concern that demands we generate collective initiatives that will be instrumental to create a more inclusive, equitable and responsible campus environment.

The Equity Task Force’s Next Steps

Following this interim report, we will embark on our discovery phase and conduct field research. In the coming months, we plan to meet with various stakeholders across campus to elicit their input concerning the Task Force’s charge. We will investigate and evaluate the feasibility and operations of innovative multicultural and intercultural centers at peer institutions, as well as consider the more practical and operational aspects of establishing one in terms of physical space, staffing, etc.  Upon completion, we will submit final recommendations to the President and the campus community by May 1, 2016 that will, as requested, provide a clear statement of the problems and solutions offered in developing this type of collaborative Center, and highlight meaningful policy changes required to support and sustain such a Center.  As previously stated in the recommendations, with an emphasis on social justice, the Center has the potential to be a space that better integrates and enhances the educational experience of students from marginalized and underrepresented groups. We believe it is imperative that the university undertake a broader, long-term initiative aimed specifically at fostering new policies formulated to produce practices that are transformative, and as a result change the campus landscape into a more equitable and inclusive one in praxis.

 

We value and welcome your feedback. Contact us at: equitytaskforce@wesleyan.edu

What in the world is the task force up to?

We’ve met three times since the beginning of the semester and like any new group of people, we are getting to know one another – the strengths and talents we bring to the team, and most importantly, we’re breaking down our charge, establishing timelines, scheduling meetings with a wide swath of concerned constituents on campus – all while remembering that change is a process and many many folks who are no longer on campus have been part of the change process that got us to this unique opportunity to make a difference.

We’re hear to listen before we make recommendations and to help that process we’re opening up standing office hours between now and Spring Break so that you can come to any of us with concerns, constructive criticism, and ideas!  Be aware that when you present ideas – as awesome as they are to you, we’ll ask you Why?  and we’ll keep asking you Why?  so that we can better understand in order for us to make better recommendations in a timely way.  The clock is ticking – tic…toc…so don’t stay silent – let us know what you think – we’re one email away! equitytaskforce@wesleyan.edu

Task Force Office Hours:

Elisa Del Valle Cardona, Director, Student Activities and Leadership Development, New Student Orientation,
Office Hours: Monday 12pm-2pm, USDAN 124

Antonio Farias, Vice President for Equity & Inclusion, Title IX/Sec. 504 Officer, Posse Veteran Scholars Liaison (Tri-Chair),
Office Hours: Thursday 8am-10am or by appt. North College 317

Matthew Garrett, Associate Professor of English, American Studies, Director Certificate in Social, Cultural & Critical Theory,
Office Hours: Wednesday 11am-1pm, or by appt. 285 Court St, Rm 309

William Johnston, Professor of History, East Asian Studies, Science in Society, Environmental Studies,
Office Hours: Wednesday, 2-4pm or by appt. PAC 135

Makaela Kingsley ’98, Director, Patricelli Center for Social Entrepreneurship,
Office Hours: use link http://bit.ly/1OaLilK

Caroline Liu ’18,
Office Hours: Friday, 10:30am-12:30pm PCSE Boardroom, Allbritton

Henry Martellier ’19,
Office Hours: Tuesday/Thursday, 2-3pm USDAN 1st Floor Court

Shardonay Pagett ’18, (Tri-Chair),
Office Hours: Wednesday/Thursday, 4-5pm, USDAN 126

Gina Athena Ulysse, Professor of Anthropology, Feminist, Gender & Sexuality Studies (Tri-Chair)
Office Hours: Tuesday, 2:30pm-5:30pm, 281 High St, Rm 4

 

Listening Tour:

  • We will meet with the following key stakeholders for 15-20 minutes to begin our discovery phase of the work.
  • 2/2/16 (12pm-12:20pm) Usdan 104D– Gender Resource Center Group
  • TBD – The WSA & The Equity and Inclusion Student Advisory Group
  • 2/10/16 (12pm-12:15pm)– Usdan 108 – The Administrators & Faculty of Color Alliance (AFCA) Lunch
  • 2/11/16 (1:30pm-1:45pm) –Usdan 108 – The Division of Student Affairs Meeting
  • TBD   – Faculty Meeting –Shanklin 107

In our own words: Why we serve on the task force

 

Elisa CardonaElisa Del Valle Cardona, Director, Student Activities and Leadership Development, New Student Orientation

Being a member of this Task Force is not just about my work here at Wesleyan, it’s about my life. It’s about how my own experiences with racism, sexism and classism have hurt me in profoundly deep ways; it’s about how my privilege with heterosexism, skin color and ability level has consciously and unconsciously hurt others. It’s about being a part of something that will create sustainable change to not just make Wesleyan a more equitable and inclusive place, but to also make it home for so many students, faculty and staff who feel like guests. I will bring everything I have to this Task Force including the Brooklyn hustle I learned from my dad, the unyielding courage that I learned from my mom and the raw honesty that Wesleyan students hold me accountable for each and every day of my work. This task force for me is about liberation

 

a_fariasAntonio Farias, Vice President for Equity & Inclusion, Title IX/Sec. 504 Officer, Posse Veteran Scholars Liaison (Tri-Chair)

I came to Wesleyan two years ago because it was an opportunity to work with highly motivated students, faculty, and staff who care about changing the world as we find it – unequal, inhospitable, uncaring, broken. It’s been a long ride from the Bronx of the ‘70’s to where I find myself now as the institution tries to evolve beyond “diversity university,” by trying on a new set of threads that must be meaningful and sustainable. My world of work is dynamic and morphs from day to day given that 3500+ human beings on the campus that at times, intentionally or not, make others feel anything but included, respected, and valued. The task force is an experiment in collaborative problem solving on a public stage and beyond the specifics of the charge, it’s a test of how the friction generated by difference can be put to work for a more equitable Wesleyan of tomorrow.

 

Matt GarrettMatthew Garrett, Associate Professor of English, American Studies, Director Certificate in Social, Cultural & Critical Theory

My learning and experience have taught me that social equality should be treated as a fact of nature rather than a lofty ideal. To the extent that this university refuses or is unable to recognize that fact of nature and to shape itself accordingly, things need to change. I agreed to serve on this task force because I have some measure of confidence that it might help in changing things. To do that, the task force will require sustained pressure from, and serious exchanges with, faculty and students. In particular, I think the collective intelligence of the faculty—its historical perspective and critical edge—will need to play a central role. When people have a lot to learn, it’s a good time to be an educator. But teachers also need to be taught, and on that front I hope this task force will work intensively with the students, as well.

 

William Johnston, Professor of History, East Asian Studies, Science in Society, Environmental Studies

My first encounter with racism hit me hard. While in primary school, my best friend and I listened to Bill Cosby’s records and laughed hysterically at his stories. I loved him. When I was 12, I was able to buy a poster of him and put it on my bedroom wall. Later that day, my father came in and said, “Take that down. I’m not having the picture of a black man on a wall in my house.” I was angry and hurt and knew he was profoundly wrong. And I wanted to do all I could that would prevent people from judging others on the basis of their skin color. Another encounter that hit me hard came many years later, in the fall of 2000, when Max Roach, the great jazz drummer, played at Wesleyan. Racism had become a focus of attention on the Wesleyan campus during the ‘90s, and I wanted to believe that the situation had improved. But somehow, when I had a chance to talk with Mr. Roach, he said, “You know, racism is as bad in this country now as it ever was. It just takes different forms.” And when I started to look closely and to listen to my friends, I knew he was right. Now, the mandate we have received has created an opportunity to initiate genuine change here at Wesleyan. It is time to begin a genuine and ongoing dialogue about race that, I hope, will be part of a seismic shift not only here at Wesleyan but in American society.

 

Makaela Kingsley ’98, M_KingsleyDirector, Patricelli Center for Social Entrepreneurship

I believe that Wesleyan is uniquely equipped to navigate the tough stuff — but we have to roll up our sleeves and get into the weeds. So let’s do that. I’ll bring to this role: a deep commitment to human-centered design, transparency, and context; 22 years of institutional (Wes)memory; recognition of my privilege; recognition that people I care for are hurting; anger about legacies of injustice; and optimism about the future. Tackling social problems with sustainable solutions is my day job. As a member of this Task Force, I’ll do my best to practice what I preach.

 

Caroline LiuCaroline Liu ’18

I’ve never considered why equity, inclusion, and diversity matter so much to me because it always made sense that they did. When there are people in pain because of who they are rather than what they’ve done—when you see these people everyday as your classmates, colleagues, or closest loved ones—it doesn’t make sense that they should inherently deserve, expect, or receive less than others. As a daughter of Chinese immigrants, a woman of color, and a low income student, I have experienced what it is like to receive less, but by attending a private liberal arts institution I have also learned the ways in which I have received and continue to receive more from a biased system. What makes sense to me is that when we recognize these inconsistencies between opportunity, between access, between quality of life, we are critical of why they exist, and we hold ourselves accountable to make positive changes for ourselves, for our loved ones, and for those who are still hurting.

 

H_MartellierHenry Martellier ’19

My name is Henry Martellier Jr, and I am just a freshman at Wesleyan. As an African-American, first generation, low-income student, I can identify with struggles many minority students face on campus. Furthermore, despite my short time as a college student, I can feel the pain from the stories of upperclassmen that have desired change for years. It is clear that despite Wesleyan’s commitment to diversity, there is much work to be done to give everyone the best opportunity to be successful. We are having conversations about issues of race, gender, and other important identifiers that make people unique in their own way. But are we taking the proper steps to establish long lasting change that will ultimately make Wesleyan a better institution for present and future students. I am here on this task force because we can no longer be passive. Too many students have waited for change during their four years here to see nothing get done. Students who feel disadvantaged should have a place to express their concerns and receive the support they need. Ultimately, I want the voices of my peers to be heard and their ideas to finally become part of Wesleyan’s culture.

 

s_pagettShardonay Pagett ’18, (Tri-Chair)

Growing up, I was constantly told that education was the only way to “make it out” of the hood. I was raised in the Brooklyn projects where schools are old prisons and where education is put on the back burner because education does not pay the bills. As a black, low income, first generation college student, there are often mments when I am reminded that Wesleyan is an institution created not to cater to individuals like myself. These are the moments when I feel alone and silenced in my academic and social pursuits, as well as, the moments when I am asked to be the voice of my race in a classroom where I am the only black face. I am a member of the Equity Task Force because I am dedicated to disrupting the working systems that continue to isolate numerous students on campus. I want to work to bring attention to our needs and to help to establish a sense of belonging for all students.

 

Gina Athena Ulysse, Professor of Anthropology, Feminist, Gender & Sexuality Studies (Tri-Chair)

My reasons for serving on this task force are simple. In June 2015, the Board of Trustees issued a very strong statement on Wesleyan’s commitment to equity and inclusion that shows they were already thinking about issues raised by students’ IsThisWhy protest. Coupled with the national movement/uprising in universities and colleges across the country, I believe we are in a moment full of opportunity that requires those of us concerned with making institutional changes to become more consciously active in this process. So, I decided to step up to the plate, if you will, ready to participate, inspired by young people eager to learn and who refuse to accept their marginalization and unequal education as status quo. I am also motivated by colleagues (faculty and staff) who are enthusiastic about contributing to expanding and reshaping our campus, while committing to a place where greater belonging is possible. I often ponder Alice Walker’s great title, “If the present looks like the past then what does the future look like?” Indeed, what exactly does it mean that in the 21st century, this institution appears as though we are from a previous era? Wesleyan has fallen way behind in matters of “diversity”. We need to take bold and rather giant leaps to catch up before even thinking of leading. As a Black woman who has successfully made her way through academia, being committed to inclusion has been a non-option for me. It has been a difficult road as I negotiate racism and live with codes and devaluation I inherited from history every single moment of every day. As a student activist then, and as an academic activist now, my goal remains the same: I want a different experience for new generations. I still dream of a more socially just world for everyone.

 

 

 

Presidential Equity Task Force Established

From: Michael S. Roth
Date: Thursday, January 7, 2016 at 10:28 AM
Subject: Equity Task Force

Dear friends,

At the end of last semester I indicated we would be creating a task force to explore the establishment of a multicultural resource center as part of our broader effort to improve equity and inclusion on campus. This task force will be tri-chaired by Professor Gina Athena Ulysse, Shardonay Pagett ’18, and Antonio Farias, Vice President for Equity and Inclusion. Their initial report is expected next month and final recommendations by May 1.  You will be able to find updates on their work and related events, including a community dialogue to be held early this semester, at http://equity.wesleyan.edu. This is important work, and I thank the members of this task force for their participation.

It need hardly be said that making our campus more equitable and inclusive is a communal goal and must be a communal effort. In the course of this work we will be challenged to truly listen to differing viewpoints and to learn from them.  In 2016 let’s each and every one of us do what we can—be it personal, political, or intellectual—to contribute to equity and inclusion at Wesleyan.

Michael S. Roth

President

—————————————————–

Charge to the Presidential Equity Task Force

Purpose: To review and provide timely recommendations to the president based on expressed need by undergraduates for a multi-use Center (Multicultural, 1st Gen, Gender) and staffing to support living and learning experience of marginalized communities on campus.

Recommendations to the President will be presented on an ongoing basis, with an initial report by February 14, 2016 and a more comprehensive report by March 4, 2016, to include the following:

  • Provide clear statement of the problems and solutions offered in developing a Center,
  • Highlight meaningful policy changes required to support and sustain a Center,
  • Create effective mechanism to coordinate, centralize, and communicate change efforts,
  • Consider broader issue of Cultivating Belonging and
  • Submit final recommendations to the President and the campus community by May 1st, at which time, unless reauthorized, the task force will conclude its charge.

Three broad areas the center is expected to contribute to overall campus efforts:

  • Enhance lived experience of students
  • Advise on inclusive curricular reform
  • Reinforce and encourage faculty scholarship pertaining to marginalized communities, social justice, and sense of belonging.

Tri-Chairs:

Gina Athena Ulysse  (Faculty)

Shardonay Pagett (Student ’18)

Antonio Farias (VP E&I)

EQUITY: NEXT STEPS

Members of the Wesleyan community,

In these troubling times, when campuses across the nation are grappling with institutional racism, I continually ask myself what more we can do to ensure that the lives of all of our students, and in particular our students of color, are free from discrimination that harms their experience at Wesleyan.

Two years ago, I was hired as Vice President for Equity and Inclusion and Title IX Officer, stepping into a position that President Roth created in 2008 when he recruited Sonia Mañjon to Wesleyan.  My first task was to reorganize our operations into a new Office of Equity & Inclusion, whose efforts extend to the entire campus community. Our intention from the start was to expand our focus from sexual violence to encompass all discriminatory behaviors that affect members of the Wesleyan community.  We hired a full-time senior Director for Equity Compliance and a part-time Dean was made full-time. Both Dean and Director serve as equity advocates and have done a great deal to support students of color and marginalized communities. My hope is that students, faculty and staff will become more aware of this work and actively join us in these efforts.

All our staffing and reorganization efforts have resulted in a strong foundation for advancing equity and inclusion goals. Following President Roth’s recent message to the campus community on next steps, I briefed the Board of Trustees, the faculty, and student organizers on how the Title IX Core Team will be expanding its purview to include oversight over all discriminatory behavior and the creation of a positive social climate that enables all students, faculty, and staff to thrive in our community.  We will be scheduling recurring community town halls, forums, and focus groups in order to take a robust accounting of current needs as well as to tap the vast community expertise we possess in the service of creating sustainable and significant changes designed to enhance our individual and collective ability to thrive. This Equity Next Steps webpage will be updated on a recurring basis in order to keep the campus community informed as to progress and will serve as a historical record of change efforts.

We cannot fix what we cannot see, and it is apparent from the heartrending stories I’ve heard from marginalized students that our system of documenting and investigating instances of discrimination is not sufficiently understood and used across the campus. Reporting is an essential first step to get at the root causes of discriminatory behaviors that are caustic to the learning process. We currently have a draft bias protocol designed to educate the community about keywords, definitions, and expectation of process and outcomes pertinent to our anti-discrimination policies. We also have developed an incident reporting database we call Maxient. Our Equity Compliance Office has investigated all reports of bias incidents and allegations of discriminatory behavior, and will continue to do so.

To make these efforts more visible, I have discussed with members of the OEI Student Advisory the desirability of creating an annual report to the campus community similar to the Annual Report on Sexual Violence, beginning in April 2016.  The report will detail our efforts regarding policy, education, investigations, and initiatives. This document will be available via our public website.

We anticipate filling the open position of Dean for Equity & Inclusion in February. The Dean will continue to engage with students from historically marginalized communities, with a particular mandate of increasing underrepresented and gender equity in STEM fields.

I look forward to working with the entire Wesleyan community to address the damage caused by prejudice, discrimination and marginalization and to build on achievements characterized by openness, courage and perseverance. As many of you know, my staff and I have an open door policy, and we encourage everyone to take advantage of it even as we proactively reach out to our broad and diverse community.

Sincerely,

Antonio Farias

V.P. for Equity & Inclusion/Title IX Officer