From: "Alison Williams and Michael S. Roth" 
Date: Thursday, July 30, 2020 at 3:43 PM
Subject: Cultivating Equity and Building an Antiracist Community

Dear Colleagues, 

Wesleyan is stepping up its efforts to build an antiracist environment and create a community where everyone, regardless of identity and background, can thrive. This involves unraveling the ways in which personal and structural biases limit our ability to be truly equitable and inclusive. Our mission states that “The university seeks to build a diverse, energetic community of students, faculty, and staff who think critically and creatively and who value independence of mind and generosity of spirit.” And while Wesleyan has long been made up of people with diverse backgrounds and experiences, we recognize that, despite good intentions, our practices sometimes are not as equitable or inclusive as we would like them to be.    

Below we share information about activities being undertaken to help us live up to our values of inclusion and equity. Our hope is that you will participate in these efforts as you are able. Suggestions for other such efforts are welcome.   

Recruitment  

We seek to increase the diversity of our staff in order to more closely mirror the diversity of our student population.  To reach this goal, since early 2020, Human Resources (HR) has conducted seminars on increasing the diversity of applicant pools and on writing inclusive job descriptions. These will continue, and a Process Advocate program for staff searches will be implemented. Beginning in 2021, each search team must have at least one member who has participated in the Process Advocate training. The goal is to eventually have all participants on search teams complete this training. We will soon be asking for volunteers to undergo training in order to help search committees minimize bias in the review of applications. Search committees will also receive implicit bias training, and we will continue to strengthen efforts to diversify applicant pools with particular focus on applicants from under-represented groups. 

WesEq Team 

We will ask each office to designate a person to act as a liaison with the Office for Equity and Inclusion (OEI). This role will serve to improve communication and collaboration across campus. Our goal is that these advocates will share information on best practices for equitable and inclusive work environments.  

Reading Groups 

Beginning on August 6, we will read “How to Be An Antiracist” by Ibram X. Kendi together. Over nine sessions, on Thursdays from 11 a.m. to noon, we will discuss two chapters at a time (virtually). Sessions will begin in a large group, and then discussions will take place in smaller cohorts of 5-6 people. All are welcome.  We hope that these conversations will be a chance for us to explore overt and subtle ways in which racism impacts our lives, as well as how we can counter the harm it causes. The first session will cover the introduction and first two chapters. If you do not have access to the book but would like to participate, please email awilliams@wesleyan.edu

Courageous Community Conversations 

Beginning in the fall, we will have a series of events and town halls examining antiracist work from a number of perspectives. Both the Wesleyan and greater Middletown communities will be invited to participate. The kickoff event will be a student-led Black Lives Matter virtual event during the first week of classes. The Center for the Arts has an exciting lineup of programs. A collaborative group is working to create a town hall event on racism, mental health, faith, and depression with hip hop artist Nii Addy.  Other topics we hope to address include racialized violence in policing and disenfranchisement efforts in the upcoming election.   

Supervisor Trainings 

HR and OEI have hosted two supervisor roundtables on the topics of race and racism in the workplace. Such roundtables will continue, providing supervisors with more opportunities to learn how to approach these important conversations with employees.           

Exit Interviews 

HR has begun using an online survey that allows staff who leave the University to provide feedback on their experience at Wesleyan. The information gathered from these surveys is shared with Cabinet members and analyzed in order to identify issues demanding attention or policies that need to be revised. 

Success at Wes 

OEI will be increasing the diversity-, equity-, and inclusion-focused trainings offered for all staff through Success@Wes. 

Curricular Initiatives 

A number of academic departments are already undergoing a thorough review of their curricula, with an eye toward ensuring the presence of diverse voices, not just those of privilege. In addition, initiatives are being aimed at eradicating barriers to full participation in departments. 

Student-Facing Activities 

Students are stepping up as well. There are new peer mentoring programs for first-generation and low-income (FGLI) students and queer people of color (QPOC). Exciting collaborations between the Wesleyan Student Assembly (WSA), Ujamaa, Student Athletes of Color, and administrators and faculty are also underway. Notable activities include:  

  • Two virtual dialogue spaces for supporting students are forthcoming: 
    • August 1 at 4 p.m.:  Black FGLI Student Dialogue Space (facebook link
    • August 8 at 4 p.m.:  POC FGLI Student Dialogue Space (facebook link
  • The Resource Center, led by Demetrius Colvin, will be following up with student le​aders on creating a white ally dialogue space as well. 
  • We continue to offer ongoing annual training of Student Affairs staff on a variety of equity and inclusion issues. Given the close interface of these staff members and our diverse student body, it is important for them to stay abreast of current issues and challenges. Student staff also have mandatory pre-service training in this area. 
  • This year’s orientation programs specifically for diverse populations are underway, including new student-initiated mentoring programs for underrepresented groups. 

Coordination of Efforts Going Forward 

We would like to know if your office is planning any activities aimed at improving equity and inclusion. Please send an email to inclusion@wesleyan.edu and we will highlight your efforts on the OEI website.  

We appreciate the ways in which many of you have gone above and beyond the call of duty in offering creative solutions to the problem of racism. We have received a number of constructive suggestions on how to improve. We strive to always do better and to stand out as an institution that goes beyond the talk and walks the walk. This takes a collective effort. Only together can we make real progress in building an antiracist environment. Join us! 

 

Best wishes, 

Alison P. Williams 
Vice President for Equity and Inclusion/Title IX Officer 
 

Michael S. Roth 
President