Building an Antiracist Community

President Michael S. Roth and Vice President for Equity & Inclusion Alison Williams sent the following messages to the campus community on June 24, 2020:

To the Wesleyan community:

The virulent and deeply entrenched racism in American society is antithetical to the mission of Wesleyan University, and we pledge to redouble our efforts to combat that racism – on campus and beyond.

In thinking about how best to do this, we recently conducted a public conversation that included a panel of distinguished alumni with important experience in this area. The panel challenged the University to examine the barriers that prevent people of color on our campus from truly thriving and to think more critically about how we empower our students to become change agents – with respect to themselves as well as others. Many of us, especially if we belong to the cultural majority, have never had to think hard about race and are uncomfortable even talking about it, especially with people whose racial identities are different from our own. This can change. We can and must educate ourselves.

Human Resources (HR) is conducting interviews of departing faculty and staff to find out where we are falling short in creating an inclusive community. We are also interviewing African-American students to follow up on survey results that show that they feel less included as members of the Wesleyan community.

In order to create space for open and honest dialogue, the Office for Equity and Inclusion (OEI) and HR will be sponsoring workshops for supervisors on how to talk about race and racism.  Many on campus have already taken advantage of OEI resources to examine their own roles and positionality, and a number have explored their own implicit biases by taking the Implicit Bias Test.  Later this summer we will implement reading groups on antiracism for all who are interested.  The goal is to help participants understand how to combat racist behaviors – be they their own or those of colleagues.

Academic Affairs, in partnership with the OEI, is implementing new procedures for faculty searches to increase the diversity of both the applicant pool and finalists for positions – and to minimize bias in the vetting of candidates.  Departments, programs and offices across campus are working towards being more inclusive and antiracist; Cabinet members have already committed themselves to a process of self-reflection, study and action. Scores of STEM faculty, staff and students met recently to discuss the impact of race in their fields and how to better support one another in ways that are meaningful and sustaining. The Student-Athletes of Color Leadership Council has been in conversation with the coaches and administrators of the Athletic Department and has proposed a number of actions to make that department more inclusive. Students are planning several events including student forums in June and an action to support Black Lives Matter during the first week of classes in the fall.  Finally, the OEI will soon revitalize its Advisory board, offer intensive workshops to those who would like to become equity advocates, and launch a new web page with resources for those who want to do more to help Wesleyan become as inclusive as possible.

We have much work to do and the energy and will to do it. More announcements are forthcoming about further steps we’ll be taking to truly build, in the words of our mission statement, “a diverse, energetic community of students, faculty, and staff who think critically and creatively and who value independence of mind and generosity of spirit.”

Michael S. Roth
President

Alison Williams
Vice President for Equity & Inclusion/Title IX Officer