Equity and Inclusion Plans for Coming Year

From: Antonio Farias
Date: Monday, September 4, 2017 at 4:25 PM
Subject: Equity and Inclusion Plans for Coming Year

Dear Wesleyan Community,

After four years at Wesleyan as the Vice President for Equity & Inclusion/Title IX & Sec.504 Officer, I continue to be encouraged by the desire of our living-learning community to expect an educational environment that values and respects everyone and is attentive to those most at risk by the rise in bigotry. I am equally encouraged by the willingness of students, staff, faculty, and alumni to be active partners in the change-making process. Over the years, I’ve gained an increased understanding of the complexity of the Wesleyan community’s needs and aspirations to move the equity, inclusion, and social justice agenda forward in practical, meaningful ways.

Here I offer a brief sketch of what the Office for Equity & Inclusion (OEI) is planning in the coming year. Our goal is to strengthen student support, to establish a clear direction for progress, and to create space for continuous, actionable feedback on how we are doing. We aim to be a more equitable and inclusive living-learning-working community that fully embraces “independence of mind and generosity of spirit,” without forgetting historic and persistent inequality.

What follows is a brief summary of changes that seek to enhance OEI’s ability to serve the campus.

  1. The current criminalization of undocumented students in our country leaves me speechless, but not without hope. Although the fate of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program’s nearly 800,000 beneficiaries is uncertain, our policies and practices are in place to support students, regardless of citizenship status. We have made legal consultations available to students directly impacted by immigration policy changes and we will continue to do so. Please review President Roth’s recent reaffirmation of our continued support of undocumented students here.You can find updated resources here. In addition to chairing the Undocumented Student Support Committee, I will be hosting a Connecticut Students for a Dream (C4D) UndocuAlly training for staff and faculty on September 29 in order to continue to infuse practical competencies in the educational workforce that serves our undocumented students. I am also in the planning stage of bringing back the C4D Educator’s Conference in early December, so stay tuned for more information on how you can attend and participate. Staff and faculty are encouraged to sign up by clicking here. I encourage all who wish to demonstrate their support for those who continue to be marginalized because of citizenship status to continue to make your voices heard. Let’s create a united front with university efforts to create a more equitable environment at Wesleyan and beyond our campus.
  2. In collaboration with and building on the Student Affairs #NotAtOurWes campaign, a team from the Anti-Defamation League’s A WORLD OF DIFFERENCE Institute Rwill facilitate a student-focused peer advocacy training titled #HowNotAtOurWes during the last week in September. The purpose of this skill-building workshop is to equip students and staff to facilitate dialogue using action-oriented strategies based on the bystander intervention model. Sign-up information will be forthcoming. As a reminder, I previously posted available resources (and welcome your additions) to combat discrimination and bigotry here.
  3. This year, in collaboration with Human Resources, we will run three 2-day Crucial Conversations workshops designed specifically for faculty and staff to learn practical techniques that allow us to have productive, outcomes-based discussions, when emotions are high, views are opposing, and the stakes are high. Those dates are set for October 23/24, January 8/9, and March 19/20. Staff and faculty can click hereto sign-up for a session.
  4. Tailored climate and culture surveys will be sent out to students, faculty, and staff this fall as the initial step in assessing a baseline of where we find ourselves. This data will then be augmented through focus groups, and finally, under the auspices of the Equity and Inclusion Steering Committee (EISC), as well as following the bold pathway set forth by the Equity Task Force Report, will be the basis for developing a comprehensive and timely equity and inclusion campus strategy.
  5. The Annual Report on Sexual Violencewas released early this year, and includes links to a new website as well as information about changes in investigation and adjudication of student cases.  In keeping with past practice, we will be hosting briefing sessions dedicated to explaining the significant changes in policy, new initiatives, as well as what the data is telling us. The dates and locations are:
  1. Tuesday, September 12 (11:45 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.), Judd 116
  2. Wednesday, September 13 (12:15 – 1:00 p.m.), Judd 116
  3. Thursday, September 14 (6:00 – 7:00 p.m.), Judd 116
  4. Tuesday, September 19 (6:00 – 7:00 p.m.), Judd 116
  1. Sixteen months ago, I created a campus-wide accessibility committee dedicated to scanning the campus for continued accessibility barriers in the digital, physical, and educational domains. This committee has representation from staff, faculty, and students, who will, come the fall, be working on creating a comprehensive accessibility strategic plan and accompanying policy changes designed to move us increasingly closer to the principles of Universal Design.

Ultimately, the work of making Wesleyan a more equitable and inclusive community rests on our shared values and willingness to work toward common goals. However imperfect the outcomes may be, what matters is our commitment to continuous improvement, seeking what will work best for us on this unique campus. I very much look forward to continuing to work with you. Even in these troubled times, I’m excited about what is possible at Wesleyan.

 

With gratitude,

Antonio Farias

Vice President for Equity & Inclusion/Title IX & Sec. 504 Officer

 

Title IX Campus Update

From: Michael S. Roth
Date: Friday, August 25, 2017 at 11:53 AM
Subject: Campus Update

Dear friends,

As the new academic year gets underway, I am writing with several important updates in regard to Title IX, the law governing sex discrimination in higher education.

Although I regret having to return to this issue, I begin with the university’s investigation of former Associate Dean Scott Backer’s work at Wesleyan. As many of you are aware, we terminated Mr. Backer after learning that he had concealed his inappropriate sexual conduct at his previous employer. I want to say again that I am pained that Mr. Backer ever worked here at all, and that I am very sorry that his presence on campus and subsequent revelations about him have caused anguish to many members of our community. After Mr. Backer’s arrest in the spring, we engaged an outside firm to extend an earlier audit of his work at the university. That independent review has just been completed. The audit did find some inappropriate (and anonymous) photographs in his backup files, and we turned those over to the proper authorities. They found that the images warranted no further action. In regard to student disciplinary cases in which Mr. Backer was involved, the review found his work in keeping with the university’s policies and procedures.

Second, I’m pleased to announce that in response to feedback from faculty and staff, we have hired an ombudsperson—an informal, independent and confidential resource for employees dealing with Title IX and other workplace conflicts. You can read more about Israela Adah Brill-Cass and the services she provides on her website, and can contact her at iabrillcass@gmail.com or 508-889-2675. She will be on campus one day a week beginning in mid-September, and will work out of Russell House.

We have also implemented several important changes to our Title IX policies, practices, and structure as a result of the year-long work of the Title IX committees in conjunction with the recommendations of the Victim Rights Law Center’s review last year. You can read about these improvements and updates, which fall into the categories of reorganization, training, and communication, in the full VRLC report.

The full Clery report on campus crime statistics will be available on the Public Safety website by mid-September. In advance of that, you can find the 2017 Annual Report on Wesleyan’s Response to Sexual Violence, which reports sexual misconduct as well as the outcomes of cases from 2009–2016.

Finally, I invite you to visit this new website, which provides resources and support for survivors of sexual misconduct. It provides a definition of sexual violence and advice for what to do in the immediate aftermath, outlines reporting and non-reporting options, and lists a variety of support services and resources, including CAPS, the campus SART intern, chaplains, and others.

I want to thank everyone for the suggestions, expressions of concern and hard work in helping us make progress in this challenging and crucial area. When we listen to one another, take care of one another, we build a more inclusive and equitable community.

Yours truly,

Michael S. Roth
President

 

 

UPDATE: Title IX external review firm identified and anonymous external reporting link is live

Cozen O’Connor is the external firm conducting the expanded review. They’ve set-up a webpage where anyone wishing to report inappropriate interactions anonymously may do so by clicking here.

 

From: Michael S. Roth
Date: Tuesday, May 23, 2017 at 5:35 PM
Subject: Campus Update

Dear friends,

Since the news last week that former Associate Dean of Students Scott Backer had been arrested, we’ve sought and received feedback to guide our next steps. Though the alleged incident leading to this arrest occurred some time after Mr. Backer had been terminated from Wesleyan, it has nevertheless created anguish among survivors and prompted renewed scrutiny of his conduct here. As I’ve said before, I am sorry that Wesleyan ever hired this man, and that had he not lied about his previous conduct, the university never would have done so. I deeply regret the pain that this has caused many members of our community.

Last year when we became aware of Mr. Backer’s history and promptly fired him, we brought in a leading national outside firm to audit the Title IX cases with which he had been involved. The auditors found that he had followed the university’s policies and procedures in his handling of thesecases. Given recent developments, we’ve decided to extend the independent review by professionals in the field.

Again, we also want to hear from any member of the Wesleyan community who wishes to report inappropriate interactions with Mr. Backer. Wesleyan community members will have the option of reporting to the firm, either anonymously or not, or to Debbie Colucci in the Office for Equity & Inclusion. Contact information and updates will be posted on the Equity@Wesleyan website. Information gathered from these interviews, in addition to the recommendations from the Victim Rights Law Center, will help us to improve our policies and procedures going forward. We will also share information with law enforcement as appropriate. The resulting report will be made public, while protecting individual confidentiality, in the fall semester.

I take our responsibility to protect our students and employees extremely seriously, and I am fully committed to promoting a campus free from sexual assault and harassment. You may direct any questions about the review to me or to Debbie Colucci at dcolucci@wesleyan.edu.

Yours truly,
Michael S. Roth
President

Next Steps: Title IX

Dear campus community,

The Title IX assessment previously posted on the Equity & Inclusion website has been converted into a working flow chart that parses out each individual recommendation or area of concern and assigns responsibility and timelines.  Please note, this is a working document subject to changes in priorities as the various campus offices and Title IX committees continue to work on the recommendations. Faculty, staff, and students continue to be part of this thoughtful and deliberative process, as they have from the beginning.

If you have questions, please don’t hesitate to reach out directly.

Sincerely,
Antonio Farias
VP for Equity & Inclusion/Title IX and Sec 504 Officer