Yesterday afternoon I sent the following message to the Wesleyan community:
Welcome back from spring break! As we move toward the end of the year, I want to report back on two important developments in our Equity and Inclusion work: the external review of Wesleyan’s Title IX policies and procedures, and our plans to open a student Resource Center.
I want to express my appreciation to the Victim Rights Law Center (VRLC) for providing us with a comprehensive assessment of the ways in which our Title IX policies and practices affect students, faculty, and staff. The VRLC addresses three major themes: reorganization, training, and communication. We must ensure that staff roles are appropriate and clear; offer additional training to help all members of our community better understand our processes; and assure that our policies and procedures are clear and easy to find. The report offers much more detail that I hope will stimulate robust discussion and actions by the relevant offices.
The VRLC suggests several improvements. We need to build trust in our people and processes and reduce complexity wherever possible. We are working with appropriate committees on specific recommendations. The report also notes that our students have strong peer support, faculty members are committed and engaged, our partnerships with community agencies are strong, and the campus community, in its culture and conversations, understands the importance of Title IX related issues. We have work to do, but we can build on these strengths.
Another important step in our efforts to enhance inclusiveness on campus is the creation of a student Resource Center to advocate for students through a mission grounded in social justice with an awareness of what students require to thrive. I want to thank the members of the Equity & Inclusion Steering Committee for envisioning how the Resource Center, as their report notes, will help to meet the needs of students who are most vulnerable, maintain awareness of matters related to intolerance and inaccessibility, and empower collective work to address root issues of injustice and inequity. In this regard we will be helped by our new Dean for Equity & Inclusion, Teshia Levy-Grant, who has extensive experience in anti-bias education in and out of the classroom.
We will soon begin a search for a director of the Resource Center, and we have identified a space (the current Shapiro Creative Writing Center) that we will renovate for opening next fall, a year ahead of the original schedule.
Finally, I would like to solicit comments on Beyond 2020, the addendum to our strategic plan. The document is organized around the three overarching goals of our 2010 plan—energizing the distinctive Wesleyan education experience, building recognition of the university, and maintaining a sustainable economic model. The current draft has greater specificity about investments in faculty, financial aid, and facilities—investments made possible by the success of our THIS IS WHY campaign.
As the semester comes to an activity-filled close, I look forward to welcoming admitted students during WesFest, cheering on our spring athletic teams, and celebrating the many student performances and exhibitions. Commencement will be here before we know it!
Michael S. Roth