Establishing the Office of Equity at Western

Dear WWU Community,

A couple of weeks back, Provost Carbajal and I shared with you some reflections on our Diversity, Inclusion, and Equity (DEI) work, including an update on several facets of our collective work in advancing DEI at Western.

In our update, we acknowledged the considerable energy and thinking going into a more sustainable framework for supporting diversity, equity and inclusion activities across Western. I want to again honor the many voices who have been speaking for some time to the need to build more position-dedicated ADEI leadership into our organizational structure, in particular to better coordinate this work across campus. (The “A” in ADEI represents Accessibility and reflects the importance and need for accessibility work.) I have had conversations with many of you recently as I have tried to understand how we can better coordinate work across the institution and facilitate community development. I am grateful for the perspectives you have all provided and to the individuals with whom I have consulted for being my thought partners in this process.

In addition, our university conversations have been unfolding against the backdrop of work happening at the state level. You may have seen recent news from the Governor’s Office naming Dr. Karen A. Johnson as director of the newly created Office of Equity. The Office of Equity will work with state agencies, including universities, to increase access to equitable opportunities in order to bridge opportunity gaps and reduce disparities, and to help agencies apply an equity lens to everything we do.

The interest from many members of our Western community for us to create a central coordinating position, together with the creation of the new state Office of Equity, has caused me to think about a change to the structure of our current Office of Civil Rights and Title IX Compliance (CRTC) and the leadership portfolio of that office. 

What I have come to envision is a WWU Office of Equity with a cabinet-level Executive Director who would report to the president and work with the campus community to implement more coordinated and comprehensive ADEI policies and practices, besides serving as the liaison with the State Office of Equity. In this structure, Western’s Office of Equity will oversee a civil rights compliance department and a separate department focused on an organizational and community development function leading to proactive equity and diversity work. Of course, there are many details that need to be worked out, particularly regarding the organizational and community development function.

The intent of creating the Office of Equity is to evolve our personnel and operational infrastructure so we can deepen our focus on inclusive success and the goals of our Strategic Plan. I have previously stated the importance of ADEI as a fully integrated element of our work, being tied to the institutional activities and performance metrics, and the recognition that it is everyone’s responsibility to advance this work.

As always, I invite your thoughts and suggestions about moving in this direction. I look forward to hearing your thoughts and I will keep you apprised of our progress on this front.

Sincerely,

Sabah Randhawa