On Feb. 14, the mid-February Equity Task Force Interim Report was released. The report was submitted by the Task Force tri-chairs: Shardonay Pagett ’18, Vice President for Equity and Inclusion and Title IX Officer Antonio Farias, and Professor of Anthropology Gina Athena Ulysse. In addition, the six Task Force members—Caroline Liu ’18, Henry Martellier, Jr. ’19, Director of Student Activities and Leadership Development and NSO Elisa Cardona, Director of the Patricelli Center for Social Entrepreneurship Makaela Kingsley, Associate Professor of English Matthew Garrett, and Professor of History William Johnston—also contributed to this report.
“Since this is an ongoing historical issue and in effort to not recreate the wheel, the Task Force delved into the past to read previous reports that sought to address issues of exclusion, discrimination, and racial tensions on campus that impeded students, faculty, and staff from marginalized groups from having an equal experience at Wesleyan,” Ulysse wrote in an email to The Argus. “What we have found thus far is that these attempts were temporary solutions that did not go far enough and/or have not been sustained.”
This task force was created to explore the establishment of a multicultural resource center as part of the broader effort to improve equity and inclusion at the University. According to its website, Equity@Wesleyan, its mission is reinforced by the Board of Trustees’ Statement on equity and inclusion as a blueprint to enact institutional change.
“[Our recommendation is to create] an integrative educational experience that will continue to reach across all parts of campus life including students, staff, and faculty, through a physical center and institutional initiatives for the indefinite future,” the website reads.
This report includes three early recommendations for the University to improve equity issues on campus, a history of issues faced at the University surrounding inclusion and discrimination, its renewed institutional commitment, ideas for how to move toward a more integrative education, and the next steps for the task force.
The first recommendation states that the University should establish a new center that focuses on intercultural development and literacy; second, the University should commit resources toward redressing the concerns affiliated with the Is This Why protest through long-term campus-wide initiatives with concrete action plans; and third, continuation of the task force to work in tandem with members of the larger University community in an attempt to create institutional changes.
“Ultimately, this task force should evolve into a standing institutional committee comprised of students, faculty, and staff,” the report reads.
Furthermore, the report addresses the task force’s next steps. This includes their discovery phase and conducting field research. The goal is to meet with various stakeholders across campus to elicit suggestions and also to continue to look into the feasibility of an innovative multicultural and intercultural center at peer institutions.
Johnston spoke to the most crucial aspects of this task force.
“One of the most important things that the Task Force has done so far is to reflect on the history of racial, cultural, ethnic, and sexual diversity and inclusion on campus and get a sense of ways in which minority students in particular are experiencing problems and issues that are similar to what students experienced over twenty years ago, and in what ways improvements have been accomplished,” Johnston wrote in an email to The Argus. “What is most apparent is the need to create an integrative educational system in which students, staff, and faculty engage in a way that is ongoing and sustainable to address problems of diversity and inclusion.”
Johnston further added that it is a goal of the group to have the University considered a place in which everybody has a sense of belonging.
“During the rest of the semester we are engaging with a broad diversity of representatives from student groups, staff, and faculty with the goal of looking for the concrete ways in which we can work toward creating such an integrative educational system,” he wrote.
Ulysse further spoke to how crucial it is to engage with others in fixing these concerns.
“It has been unequally humbling and disappointing to read versions of the same recommendations being made over and over again,” Ulysse wrote. “Since the student uprising in November, Wesleyan and other colleges and universities in this country and abroad have had to confront what exactly do they want their relationship to the past to be and how do they want to respond to the current historical moment….Structural racism, gender, and other types of discrimination are not going away, it will take everyone willing to work on these to commit towards changing them if we are at all concerned with having a campus that cultivates greater belonging.”
Farias added how this report represents some of the ways in which progress is being made.
“I believe the efforts of the task force are but one of several efforts on campus to make sense of the opportunity for sustainable dialogue and change that is before us as a community,” Farias wrote in an email to The Argus. “For the next 70 [plus] days, we’ll continue to engage with various campus constituents in an effort to answer the charge given to us by President Roth in a way that provides him and the campus with recommendations that are actionable and sustainable in our efforts to create a more equitable and inclusive living-learning community.”
The task force will hold an open forum for faculty and staff on Tuesday, March 1 in Downey House at 12 p.m. There will be another forum offered for students with details still to come. Additionally, final recommendations will be sent to University President Michael Roth by May 1 with a clear statement of the problems, solutions, and meaningful policy changes required with regards to this collaborative Center.
“In terms of ultimate objectives it is my hope that the task force shares some practical and optimistic approaches to ensuring that campus and all of its community members feel like they belong here at Wesleyan,” Cardona wrote in an email to The Argus. “There are communities that have lived on the margins for far too long, and I hope that through the work we are collectively doing that we will all work towards making Wesleyan home for our entire community.”