As I promised a few weeks ago in my last blog post on recent conversations with student groups, we have posted an updated Diversity, Equity and Inclusion website (www.wwu.edu/diversity). On this page, you’ll see a timeline that captures a list of the major projects completed, currently underway, and to be addressed in response to urgent needs put forth by various student groups.
This is not an exhaustive list, but represents the most pressing and actionable items that have been identified to date. I know there is frustration that many of these issues have been proposed, discussed and debated over the past several years. We need to collectively address these issues in a way that is sustainable, accountable and transparent.
I also want to acknowledge that we don’t always have clean answers to complex issues and, in some cases, the resources to immediately affect change. This web page is one way in which the University community can monitor progress and contribute ideas for future projects. I encourage you to check back often for updates. In fact, in the next couple of weeks we expect to post longitudinal data on retention rates for faculty of color and female faculty.
Culture is hard to change, and that’s really what we’re talking about with all of these initiatives. Because culture is embodied in the countless practices, exchanges, and relationships in which a community of individuals engage, it isn’t something that can be dictated or controlled centrally. Culture on a campus is even harder to change or control, given the constant flow of people in and out of the institution who bring with them values they have learned from their families and communities. Colleges, like cities, states and nations, are also made up of imperfect people coming together in a place where some of their values are likely to be challenged and come into conflict. Central to the mission of a university is facilitating an environment where a diverse and rigorous exchange of values and ideas can occur, while ensuring dignity, security, and a sense of belonging for all community members.
We can create new programs and address urgent needs, but to create real, systemic and long-lasting change we must work together, and see the work of culture change as our shared work. We must all take responsibility for confronting unacceptable behaviors and attitudes. No individual at Western has, or could have, the power to singlehandedly create culture change for the simple reason that culture is the totality of community members’ behaviors. There is, unfortunately, intolerance all around us, and it is up to everyone who chooses to join the Western community to commit to creating a culture in which the respect and dignity of each individual is at the very core of everything we do.
I look forward to continuing my conversations with students, as well as with faculty and staff, in the coming weeks and months. Again, I want to express my gratitude to the students, those who are here now and those who have attended Western in the past, for leading our efforts to be a more inclusive, equitable and respectful place. Thank you for being active partners in this journey.