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