Regarding Yesterday's Student Demonstration: I Hear You

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Dear Western Campus Community:

Yesterday, approximately 200 students of color and other students of marginalized identities, along with their allies, conducted a sit-in for about six hours in the President’s office and the hallway of Old Main. Although I was in Seattle attending to other duties during the day, I joined them last night for about three hours of tough, but important, dialogue. 

Much of what these students said about their experiences at Western was heart-breaking, especially the words of seniors who have experienced many of the same issues since they first set foot on campus as first-year students. It was extremely disheartening to hear that issues of racism, sexual violence, homophobia, and other oppression affecting marginalized communities have plagued our campus for far too long, and have too often been met with less than effective responses.

As I have reflected on yesterday’s dialogue with students, I think it is important to share with the entire Western community what I heard from the students:

Take our safety seriously. Remove the student now facing criminal charges from campus while the student conduct process proceeds. Revisit institutional policies so that students who commit egregious acts are not allowed to be on campus while the due process is completed.

Take our success seriously. Increase academic support services needed to be successful at Western.

University administrators need to come to students with more solutions-focused dialogue on important issues, rather than students feeling forced to take actions like yesterday’s sit-in. Engage us in the dialogue.

Diversify faculty, bringing in more faculty of color, and recognize the faculty of color who are at Western for their workload in providing mentoring and support for students from underrepresented and marginalized identities.

Provide support staff who are experienced in addressing issues facing marginalized communities on campus.

Establish a program/department/college in Ethnic Studies and develop a related general education course.

Address faculty and staff training and accountability pertaining to unacceptable use of language in classrooms and interactions.

Increase and improve effectiveness of communication as related to hate-related incidences.

Establish an Anti-Hate Task Force.

I may not have captured all the issues that came up in yesterday’s conversation. There will be a follow-up dialogue this Friday, where we can identify issues that I may have missed and discuss ways to meaningfully engage students, while recognizing that it is the university’s responsibility to more urgently address these challenges. 

This message is not intended to suggest solutions or to list the work that we are doing to advance equity and diversity at Western. It is to make us all aware that a significant group of Western students feel unsafe and not part of Western’s community. We, collectively, need to change this.

My commitment to you is that we will do all in our power to make Western the kind of place that truly exemplifies inclusion and success and dignity for all.  We will learn together, of that I am sure.