Wesleyan’s Vice President for Equity and Inclusion and Title IX Officer, Antonio Farias, will leave the University on June 29, announced President Michael Roth ’78 in an all-campus email.
Farias will serve as the University of Florida’s Chief Diversity Officer and Senior Advisor to the President. In his email, Roth wrote that Debbie Colucci, Equity Compliance Director and Deputy Title IX Officer, will temporarily assume Farias’ role and that the University will begin the search process for a permanent replacement in the fall.
Farias was hired by Wesleyan in 2013 after having served as the Chief Diversity Officer at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy since 2005. At the Academy, he chaired the Inclusive Excellence Council and established recruitment and retention programs for students from underrepresented backgrounds. During his time at Wesleyan, Farias created a Board strategy emphasizing the centrality of equity and inclusion in collaboration with Trustees. Additionally, he furthered efforts to hire faculty and staff of color, developed training programs, and played a role in the creation of the Resource Center, which opened in September 2017.
“My highlights reel would include the deeply caring work students, staff, faculty, alumni, and trustees conducted around efforts to eradicate sexual violence and to make equity and inclusion a function of the university’s leadership and lived practices,” Farias wrote in an email to The Argus. “We didn’t always see eye to eye–and in a truly diverse community we shouldn’t–but by any objective measure we’re in a better place than we were when I arrived in 2013, and the credit goes to the wide array of caring souls that were both critical of status quo and put in the sweat equity to make change possible.”
He also addressed times when he felt he failed to adequately address the needs of the Wesleyan community.
“I fully own the failures along the way–and some of them were epic and necessary if you understand organizational culture change is about cycles of continuous improvement that build on lessons learned from failure,” he wrote.
Looking ahead to his position at the University of Florida, Farias is planning to address similar problems of inclusion using the same community-based mentality with which he has approached his work at Wesleyan.
“The University of Florida has been steadily and systematically working on how to weave questions of belonging, authenticity, and excellence into the fabric of everyday life and I have the distinct honor of joining a community of committed students, staff, faculty, alumni, and trustees ready to put in the sweat necessary to make lasting change for the benefit of the university and the great state of Florida,” he wrote.
Rachele Merliss ’19, the University’s Sexual Assault Response Team (SART) intern, has worked with Farias on the Title IX Education Committee and spoke about his role in the Office of Equity and Inclusion.
“Basically his role is a little more hands-off and higher up than people realize,” she said. “He wasn’t dealing with actual cases or actual Title IX investigation, that was all Debbie [Colucci] and the other Title IX investigators. He was actually more of the face of the office and the person who interacted with other administrators rather than a person who interacted with students.”
Looking ahead to Farias’ replacement, Merliss highlighted that whoever follows Farias should understand the importance of effective collaboration within the administration.
“It’s definitely a position that has to interact with a lot of different groups of people on campus,” she said. “It needs to be someone who can work well within the administration but also has a good relationship with the faculty and staff and the students…. Being able to go between those different groups and communicate effectively with everyone is super important.”
In an email to The Argus, President Roth indicated the qualities and skills a permanent replacement should possess.
“We’ll be looking for a highly skilled and experienced strategic thinker who will help us drive this important work forward,” he wrote. “This person should be community-oriented in order to collaborate effectively with students, staff, faculty, alumni and trustees.”
Roth addressed the future of the Office for Equity and Inclusion and continuing initiatives under its new leadership.
“The Office for Equity and Inclusion will build on the important work it has accomplished under Antonio over the past several years, particularly in the critical area of eradicating sexual violence, as well as diversifying the faculty and staff,” he wrote. “We will continue to create opportunities for all students to flourish at Wesleyan by reaping the full benefits of our educational resources.”
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