On Support, Action and Next Steps

Dear College of Wooster Community, 

Since the murder of George Floyd on May 25, crucial work has been accelerating across the US, as well as globally, to dismantle racism and begin to redress its harms.  At the same time, though, we have seen a continuation of the terrible anti-Black violence that has persisted in this country for so long – including in the horrifying shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha on Sunday.  Racist violence, and racism in all its forms, are inhumane and appalling.  They have gone on far too long and created immeasurable harm to individuals and communities across generations.  We must come together, now, to end them. Black lives matter, and progress is urgently needed – across the country, as well as here, on our own campus.   

The staff of the Center for Diversity and Inclusion (CDI) and our Chief Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Officer (CDEIO) will host a virtual gathering on Wednesday, September 2nd, from 8- 9:30 pm, to provide a space for solidarity, discussion and support. They will share an invitation and more details for this gathering in the next few days. Students are also welcome to contact any of the CDI or Dean of Students’ staff or the Wellness Center for individual conversation, and our CDEIO, Dr. García, is available to support staff and faculty, as well as students. 

On July 2nd, I wrote to you to share a set of antiracist actions and commitments the College has been developing this summer.  Since then, my cabinet colleagues and I have continued to talk with Black alumni, students, staff and faculty, and read the experiences that students and alumni have shared on social media. It is clear that Black staff, students and faculty continue to experience bias, racism, stereotyping and exclusion on our campus. This is completely unacceptable. We are opening formal investigations of specific concerns regarding discrimination that have been raised (through the filing of reports or through other mechanisms, including social media), and also continuing to act with urgency to create a campus that is just and deeply welcoming for all.  In this letter, I will provide brief updates on the central commitments and actions for change we shared in July as well as on new efforts.  

Like so many people on our campus, Wooster’s Board of Trustees is also committed to ensuring that Wooster lives up to its founding mission as “a place of studies for all.”  The Board has convened a task force with a focus on anti-racism, equity and justice, and will be communicating with the campus community soon about its charge, membership and plans. 

Below are our the current updates on commitments and actions announced July 2nd This list is a summary of actions taken so far and upcoming next steps.  We know that there is much more that is needed, and are continuing discussions with staff, faculty and students to find the best ways forward.  We will keep updating the community regularly.     

1.      Build an inclusive and anti-racist campus culture. 

  • Required training for all staff, students and faculty, focused on understanding structural racism and on the actions that create an inclusive equitable community.  Anti-racism trainings of the Board of Trustees and of Security and Protective Services as well as for RAs took place in July and August.  Faculty workshops this summer also included these areas of focus.  Anti-racism trainings will continue through the year and on an ongoing basis, and we will hold multi-day trainings for staff and faculty next summer. The faculty has voted to require antiracist training of all academic departments annually.  
  • Contributions to diversity, equity and inclusion will be part of professional assessments for all faculty and staff.  Building and supporting a diverse team, proactively creating an inclusive culture, ongoing learning and action will be part of the training, expectations and evaluations of all campus managers and leaders.  Expectations have been set in cabinet and will be conveyed broadly through trainings at the start of the academic year, and assessed in this year’s reviews.  
  • Review and revise our bias incident-reporting and response process, including increased support resources for those bringing forward concerns, for example, a trained individual serving as an ombudsman, and accountability for acts of racism or discrimination.  We are contracting with an Ombudsperson and have interviewed those holding this role at peer colleges to develop the most effective structure.  In addition to their resource role, this individual will also support assessment of our draft bias incident-reporting and response processes to make them more effective in achieving just outcomes.  The draft process will be shared with the campus for review and comment by Oct. 1. 
  1. Grow the diversity of our student body and of our faculty, staff and campus leadership.
  • Continue to build proactively-inclusive hiring practices for staff and faculty, and ensure equity in evaluation, compensation and promotion; The training, oversight and roles of diversity advocates in faculty hires and promotion decisions are being reviewed and strengthened, and equivalent processes for staff hiring and evaluation developed.  We will ensure that diverse student voices are included in promotion and tenure reviews of faculty members, and that all external reviews of academic and administrative departments include assessments of equity and inclusive practice.  Our ombudsperson will collaborate with the CDEIO and human resources to strengthen practices ensuring equity in evaluation, compensation, promotion and response to concerns for staff. 
  • Sustain and broaden the new faculty mentoring program and other actions enacted this year as a result of the faculty retention study.  The new faculty mentoring program is being continued,  and further strengthened based on feedback of participants. We will also conduct interviews for staff and for faculty who were not part of the original retention study and use those to further develop plans to support the thriving of faculty and staff of color throughout their careers at Wooster. 
  • Continue to develop opportunities for students, staff and faculty of color to build connections on campus and beyond it.  Dr. García is continuing this work, which has included the formation and support of a Black Staff and Faculty Caucus as well as other campus groups, and as well as workshops through the Ohio Five Consortium. 

3.      Strengthen resources for students to learn about of issues of racial justice, and to develop capacities to lead, collaborate and make a difference in their work after graduation   

  • Immediately enact targeted fundraising for Africana studies, CDI and other academic programs and co-curricular programs which focus on racism and justice. This work is underway, and Africana studies will hire several tenure-track positions over the next two years. 
  • Develop resources for faculty teaching in courses that meet the Diversity, Power and Privilege, Global Engagement and Social Justice/Religion requirements. (To be completed this academic year, along with an initial review of the diversity, power and privilege requirement, as recommended both by students and by the faculty who initially developed the proposal for this requirement.) 
  • Revise new student orientation and leadership training for RAs and student organizations to strengthen learning about racism, cultural competency and creating inclusive community. Dr. García and members of the Dean of Students’ office revised the new student orientation training and programming to focus on inclusion and antiracism, and additional trainings are being enacted now.  RA, ARCHer and other trainings have also included extended antiracism components. 

4.      Ensure safety and broaden support for student wellness and thriving.  

  • Collaborate with outside experts on equity, race and justice to find ways for our campus security and protective services team to become an even better resource for the safety and well-being of our campus community.  Effective August 17th, Security and Protective Services is being led by Joe Kirk. Director Kirk has been associate director for 9 years and is looking forward to developing a community- based approach including a board of students, staff and faculty with whom SPS will collaborate.  Director Kirk will continue to work with Dr. García and others to strengthen the department’s regular training, policies and practice in equity and inclusion, and to provide clear information about the circumstances in which the local police department must be called to campus. 
  • Increase the availability of counselors of color for students. We are working to make it possible for a new counselor of color to be available to Wooster students early this fall. 
  • Access and equity as regards accommodations. We will review our processes for ADA accommodations to ensure they are equitable for all students, including those who may have difficulty accessing medical assessments, and that they are broadly and proactively communicated.

5.      Increase support and opportunity for students. 

  • Immediately undertake focused fundraising for the Black Student Equity Fund, Black Legacy fund, funds for DACA students and First-Generation students, as well as for scholarships, emergency funds, and funds for opportunities such as internships and study away.  This fundraising is underway.  
  • Clarify and ease access to resources, support and housing. Following the guidance of students, we will make sources of funding for individual students and student organizations clearer and easier to apply for.  We will create a transparent website, and ensure that faculty advisors, student org advisors and others who may be helping students are aware of the funds available and how to access them.  We will also work with Scot Council to make it easier for student organizations that support Black and other historically marginalized students to receive funding for their activities, including events that are designated specifically for organization members.  We will clarify the roles of Deans and CDI staff so that students and student organizations know where best to seek support.  We will make it easier for those student organizations in the historic houses (Men of Harambee, Women of Images, African Students’ Association) to access and sustain housing that supports their mission. 

6.      Engage with the community in the City of Wooster.  

  • Collaborate with local leaders on anti-racist initiatives and on work to create an intentionally welcoming community.  The CDEIO is working with local leaders, including the local NAACP chapter, on possible collaborations and areas for action this coming year. 

My thanks go to every member of the College of Wooster community who is working hard to make our community better.  Special thanks to those students, staff, faculty and alumni who have shared their experiences and ideas, providing crucial insights into the painful experiences and harms of racism at Wooster and ways to address them.  We will work together, relentlessly, to create change everywhere on our campus, so that those harms end, and Wooster becomes the truly just and welcoming place for learning to which our mission calls us.     

Sincerely, 

Sarah Bolton