As I wrote in my blog about Western’s top priorities for winter quarter, one of our top priorities for Winter 2019 is to understand and address the concerns and needs of students from marginalized identities.
Over the past couple of weeks, members of my administrative team and I have had conversations with several groups, including students representing some of Western’s LGBTQ+ clubs, and leaders from the Black Student Union, the Afro-Caribbean Club, the LatinX Student Club, the Native American Student Union, Undocumented students’ Blue Group, and multicultural students in the College of Science and Engineering. These were the first of an ongoing and recurring series of meetings that Vice President Huskey and I will have with marginalized student groups to hear directly from them about their unique needs and concerns.
I am deeply appreciative of the time that students have taken to have these conversations with me. I understand that this is not the first time that many of our students have been in these conversations with administrators and I can only imagine how frustrating it is for them to revisit these issues. I have appreciated how meaningful our conversations have been and the willingness of students to engage in a collaborative approach. We have discussed a wide range of issues, ranging from physical and emotional security, attracting more diverse students and faculty, to ensuring their success with additional support services. I am also appreciative of the fact that student representatives with whom I met understand the areas where change may take time, while demonstrating passion and interest in advancing work where we can make effective progress in the short term.
There are two aspects of our conversations that I particularly took to heart:
One, the need to provide clarity, including timelines, on what specific activities can be advanced during the rest of the 2018-19 academic year, while identifying areas which require a longer-term focus, along with a clear plan for advancing them.
Two, the need to build community, to ensure that issues like safety, success, and diversity, are not one group’s issue—these are institutional imperatives that we need to collectively work to advance. As I have said previously, this is also central to successful advancement of our strategic plan.
We are developing a web page that will help in addressing the first item mentioned above—an action plan with timelines. I don’t want my blog to be a list of things to be done. Within the next couple of weeks I will share our web page designed to provide information on projects, timelines and milestones.
I look forward to continuing my conversations with students, as well as with faculty and staff throughout the winter and spring. Again, I want to express my appreciation to student representatives for generously giving of their time. And, thank you all for being active partners in this journey.