Jun. 2, 2020
Time for Action: Message from the Vice President of Inclusivity & Diversity
Dear CWU Community,
Like many of you, the events of the past few days have made me angry, indignant and saddened. I have struggled with sending out another response saying the same thing, with just names and places changed. It is critical for us to move beyond talking, being indignant, angry, and move to action. In the midst of a devastating pandemic, what has occurred in this country has exposed what has been central to this country since the beginning.
We mourn the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery as incidents of violence, much in the same way as we did after the deaths of Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Freddie Gray, Trayvon Martin and the presence of Neo-Nazis in Charlottesville. Yet, it seems as if many white people in our country are surprised each time this happens. These deaths and the following protests highlight what people of color have always known. The pandemic and our country's response has laid bare an enduring legacy of institutional racism. It has underscored the continuing struggles of the African American community, the police violence, the lack of response, the school-to-prison pipeline, redlining, the lack of economic opportunities, and the resulting achievement gap in virtually every aspect of life in America.
But it is critical that we take what we are feeling at this moment and use it to guide us as we move forward as an institution. Central's role must be to use our expertise and methodologies to pursue and disseminate knowledge and truth. We must commit our time, intellect, and resources to address racial injustice and to learn how we might be acting to sustaining the structural factors that support and maintain racism.
As a sociologist, I believe racism is sustained by perceptions and sense-making that are based on biases and attitudes nurtured by the social construct of race itself. I also know that institutional structures perpetuate inequity.
With that in mind, it is essential that we should first attend to the structures that maintain racism. We must identify and change them and, in doing so, set an example for others. This work will be difficult and controversial, but most change is so.
As a start, I set for myself the following goals, and I ask that you consider setting your own.
- I will work with the academic leadership, faculty senate, and departments to integrate the topics of equity, bias and discrimination, structural racism, and restorative justice throughout their curricula (work they have already been doing, but that has more importance than ever).
- I will work with the Faculty Senate’s General Education core to more directly address issues of race and equity, not as simply an academic course, but as an ethos that runs throughout CWU education.
- I will work with a team of faculty and staff to work on equity across the full breadth of our activities, from academic programs to hiring to systems and processes.
- I will collaborate across campus to work with the most underserved populations in the country. I will commit to aiding communities of color by fostering affordable degree programs that are tied to opportunity, culturally informed, and responsive to the trauma of those communities.
- I will ask you to think about the work you do for us and how it can address issues of race and inequity more directly. I will work with faculty who are experts in the field of racial equity to develop opportunities to address white fragility, white privilege and white awareness.
- I will encourage you to think hard about the systems and policies you work with every day and flag those things that may have inadvertent consequences for people or, worse, latent biases.
- I will help you find the training that helps you better understand your own biases and ways to serve colleagues and students of color better.
- I will demand that you dig deeper when you see students of color at risk, fight harder for them, and let them know it matters to you that they are part of CWU.
As we do this work, we will also treat everyone equitably, have respect for differences, create and sustain greater inclusion, and stand with those who are experiencing difficulty. We will also become increasingly aware of our privilege and how we can use it to make intentional changes in our institutions.
Please join me in making institutional changes that can only make us stronger as a people and as a culture.
Vice President, Inclusivity & Diversity