On Friday, April 29, a fourth candidate was considered for the position of Dean for Equity & Inclusion. The University brought in this fourth candidate after an offer could not be finalized with the three candidates that were interviewed in March.
“The Dean for Equity & Inclusion search continues,” a campus-wide email announcement reads. “The committee is pleased to present a fourth candidate to the community during a daylong interview process culminating with a community presentation.”
The fourth candidate considered is Gregory Bernard, the University’s Associate Director for Alumni and Parent Relations, who works with alumni councils including the Alumni of Color Council. He is also the founder and CEO of The Bernard Group, which focuses on leadership development, developing career opportunities, and inspiring and empowering young men and women of color.
At the forum, the candidate had to give a presentation on a specific topic, in this case, addressing faculty, staff, and students on developing core competencies to help historically underrepresented students thrive.
“In my travels, throughout the country, one of things that I really wanted to do is meet with alums of color…to talk about the Wesleyan experience,” Bernard said. “A lot of people said that although they were accepted, they still dealt with marginalization, isolation, and lack of support and services. They have this mixed relationship and angst with the institution. They were challenged academically…but there’s so much more to your education than just the academic part. It’s your experience, it’s feeling like it’s your institution, that you belong here. That you’re not a visitor. That’s what a lot of alums feel, and this is systematic.”
At the forum, Bernard, who has been at the University for five years, also stated that he felt that one of his strengths in moving to this position would be his knowledge of the University community, both in understanding the student body as well as the alumni.
“When I first came on board [at the University], one of my duties entailed being a liaison with the undergraduate community…and it really allowed me to have a good understanding of the Student of Color community and the student body,” Bernard said.
Bernard was chosen from a pool of candidates after the initial search process could not yield a candidate.
“We had three previous candidates do a campus interview and made an offer but for personal reasons the candidate declined the offer,” said Vice President for Equity and Inclusion and Title IX Officer Antonio Farias. “We went back to the pool, and we found Greg Bernard, who had applied after the other candidates had been screened.”
The search is being conducted and candidates are being considered by the Dean for Equity & Inclusion Search Committee, which consists of faculty, staff, and a student.
“We are going to take in input from the community, [which are the] faculty, staff, students that have met with the candidate throughout the day and were also a part of the forum,” Farias said.
An integral part of the process is the input that the community can give to the committee. Input was submitted through the firstname.lastname@example.org email address.
“It’s critical that people give us their opinions, as we take that into account in our deliberations,” Farias said.
After input from the community is considered, the committee will come together to make a decision on whether it will be necessary to move ahead with the search for candidates.
“We’ll deliberate, like we did with the first round, and we’ll either make a determination of moving ahead or continuing with the search process,” Farias said.
The expected timeline for the hiring of the new dean was June 1 with the initial series of candidates. Farias is still optimistic that this deadline can be reached, with the committee meeting this week to decide on the candidates.
“We’re still optimistic that we can fill the position, and if not then we’ll pause and continue into the summer, taking advantage of the faculty, student, and staff that are here at the time,” Farias said. “Summer is a very busy season for the office, so I’ll also consider an interim solution as part of a larger search strategy.”
Farias was also optimistic that if a new search would be necessary, this would be successful.
“I’m confident that we have enough students from all parts of the community, from faculty and staff, that if we had to re-advertise and get another pool, that we would be able to do that successfully,” Farias said.
University President Michael Roth spoke to the importance of the position.
“It’s a very important position because it’s a position that is an interface between policy makers and administration, and students, especially students from underrepresented groups,” Roth said.
Roth said that the importance of the position meant that the process of finding the right person should not be rushed.
“It’s most important that we find the right person for the job. It’s not, to my mind, that important that we find that person next week as opposed to September 1, October 1,” Roth said. “I think we should just take our time and find the right person… I’ve told folks involved in the search, don’t think you have to rush to the end of the semester; if you have to keep looking and build a new pool, that’s fine. It’s more important to get the right person than to say, ‘Oh, we finished the search because it’s an important position.’”
The position was vacated when the previous dean, Renee Johnson-Thornton, moved to the position of Dean for the class of 2018 in the fall 2015.