In response to the Is This Why protests at the end of last year, the University created an equity task force to explore the establishment of a multi-use resource center for students. Tri-chaired by Vice President for Equity and Inclusion and Title IX Officer Antonio Farias, Shardonay Pagett ’18, and Professor of Anthropology and Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies Gina Athena Ulysse, the task force will work to prepare recommendations and a report to President Roth by May 1.
“This is important work, and I thank the members of the task force for their participation,” Roth wrote in a campus-wide email on Jan. 7.
The primary goal of the task force is the establishment of the multi-use resource center. The task force has plans to create a comprehensive report containing recommendations for the multi-use center, outlined in detail in the newly established equity.wesleyan.edu website.
“[Our] purpose [is to] review and provide timely recommendations to the president based on expressed need by undergraduates for a multi-use center (Multicultural, 1st Gen, Gender) and staffing to support living and learning experience of marginalized communities on campus,” the website reads.
Pagett elaborated on the purpose of the proposed center.
“The role of the center is to provide support and resources to allow a more equitable student experience on campus,” Pagett said in an email to The Argus.
Another major issue that the task force will be taking on is the issue of transparency. The establishment of the website, according to Farias, will help keep the task force accountable.
“One of the other issues that student activists had was that we need to put things up transparently, so we did create an active website that will stay there forever,” Farias said.
Pagett also added that the task force will be a community effort, and she encouraged students to check the website or email the task force directly with questions.
In total, there are nine people on the task force, including three students, three faculty members, and three staff members. Pagett stated that her role is to serve as a liaison between students and the administration.
“My role on the task force is to reach out to the student body and act as a voice for the students who will be using the multicultural resource center in the future,” Pagett said. “I will be reaching out to students to gain input and hear ideas and even concerns about our work on the center because nine committee members cannot create a center for 3,000 people without the help of the community.”
A key point of the task force is to listen to what the community has to offer. The members are hoping to run forums this semester where members of the community can voice their opinions.
“The goal is to have an initial meeting for the entire community to come in; it’ll probably be a chapel meeting,” Farias said. “The tri-chairs and the committee will be there, it’s a call to the community so that as many people as possible can come in. It’ll be [an opportunity] to engage with the task force and also we can explain what we’re doing and taking questions.”
The task force also has a direct email line that reaches all nine members that they welcome students to message with questions.
The task force is running on a short time frame, with the report expected to be given by the end of this semester. The short time frame, according to Farias, is to build credibility and trust within the community and create a sense of urgency around these issues.
“We want to make sure we build credibility and we build trust, because there is some broken trust with certain parts of the community,” Farias said. “The way you build that is, well, words are great, but words are just words and people want action, especially the Wesleyan community. So the whole purpose [is] making sure that whatever end goal is made, nobody graduates without knowing what decisions were made.”
The tri-chair structure of the task force also allows for faculty and staff to have a say in the discussions and also plays a part in ensuring the center’s longevity.
“That’s why we’re making sure that faculty and staff have a say in that process, not because it shouldn’t focus on students, [but] because it’s critical in a living and learning process that faculty and staff have a say because they’re going to be the ones here after you all graduate,” Farias said. “If you think of it as anchor points, and if these anchor points are lodged into the faculty apparatus, and into the staff apparatus, regardless of student turnover, there will always be anchor points that make sure that the center stays in place.”
The task force will also serve as an aggregation vehicle for several programs already being worked on in the community, including an FGSS teach-in scheduled for the first week of February, and programs being developed by the Student Advisory Committee to the Office of Equity and Inclusion.
“The task force is basically a sounding board and an aggregation vehicle,” Farias said. “As all these conversations are happening, the task force is engaging with different parts of the community, and they’re aggregating the information in a report to the president, so [that] there’s one message that takes in the various conversations that are happening.”
Farias discussed how important it was that the administration begin to help students be heard this semester.
“[Student activists] feel like they’re not being heard, and this is a response to that,” Farias said. “I think about those things a lot, as to what does it mean to be heard and to be supported. And I think they have to do with a lot of things like to be included…to be respected and to be valued.”
In the campus-wide email, Roth also wrote about listening to different viewpoints and learning from them.
“I very much look forward to hearing from the task force as it engages in this important work,” Roth wrote in an email to The Argus.
Farias commented on how these were not easy problems to solve as they are intersectional and require multifaceted solutions, but that complex problems like these present an opportunity.
“What I value about activism on this campus is that it’s very good at showing mirrors to ourselves, and that’s the tough thing,” Farias said. “We have to look in the mirror and we have to say, ‘Are we doing our best?’ That’s the challenge and that’s the amazing opportunity.”
To find out more about the task force, the community is encouraged to check out equity.wesleyan.edu, or to email the task force directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.