The search committee for a new Vice President of Equity and Inclusion solicited student input on the search at a group visioning exercise held last Thursday in Usdan. The committee, which is led by Vice President for Student Affairs Mike Whaley and Associate Professor of African American Studies Nicole Stanton, is eager to establish a line of communication between the University administration and student body as it develops a position description and begins its search.
Whaley sat down with Director of the Resource Center Demetrius Colvin and Diversity and Community Engagement Intern at the Resource Center Mya Valentin ’19 in an effort to gain insight into what the Wesleyan community hopes to see in the next VP of Equity and Inclusion. Former VP Antonio Farias left the University over the summer to serve as Chief Diversity Officer and Senior Advisor to the President at the University of Florida.
The position of VP of Equity Inclusion has evolved over the years.
“Originally it was the Dean for Diversity and Community Engagement,” explained Whaley. “The center for community partnerships was part of it, and all of the pipeline programs. [Most of those are in the sciences] to increase the number of underrepresented groups you know, moving on through grad school and for the Ph.D., and how that manifests here at Wesleyan.”
Those who attended the event discussed how Wesleyan’s next VP of Equity and Inclusion has to be a strong individual who understands the responsibilities of their position. Valentin expressed that the VP will need to further community engagement and truly listen to what students are feeling regarding the administration, professors, and student body.
“Thinking about the things the last VP did…we had brunches and that was basically it,” Valentin said. “There were…these one-off events in an attempt to create some type of community, but nothing really resulted from that. So what I hear from other students and would like to see myself is a genuine attempt at community building.”
Students and staff alike also hoped that the new VP prioritizes their role as a student advocate. According to Valentin, there are students who do not fully feel that they have access to the administration’s decisions. She hopes that the new VP will advocate for a diverse range of voices in decision-making.
Colvin commented that students also need a mediator when it comes to expressing their desires to the faculty as a whole.
“[It’s not] just staff members but also faculty too, because there really isn’t a mediator right now when it comes to the students and really anybody other than students,” Colvin said.
In an honest analysis of the position, Whaley explained that the new VP will be in charge of Wesleyan student policy and its implementation.
“You need these relationships and [the ability] to listen enough and interact enough to understand what issues are at play in order to be an effective policy maker,” Whaley said.
Before the new VP begins knocking down barriers between the administration and student body, Valentin hopes that they will remember the work that past generations of Wesleyan students have put into making this community the best it can be. She considers the recognition of this work as building legacy and memory among Wesleyan classes. She feels it has been difficult in the past for seniors to pass down initiatives to underclassmen.
“I think a lot of students, especially seniors…get the sense that the administration is just waiting for us to leave so that they don’t have to listen to us anymore,” Valentin explained.
As a senior, she wants what her class thinks is valuable to continue to hold importance in the coming years, as Wesleyan strengthens its equity and inclusion program.
The meeting last Thursday was an opportunity for three people from three different parts of the University to openly express their desires regarding the new VP. Though Valentin is a student, Colvin a prominent staff member, and Whaley an administrator, this talk was an one of honesty and inclusion as well as a space for the attendees to discuss the skill sets, competency levels, and training that each group hopes to see in the new VP.
Looking ahead, Whaley and Colvin are planning to create a forum in which people in the Wesleyan community are given the chance to come together and review the agenda currently directing the actions of the search committee for the new VP. Whaley emphasized that any suggestions, comments, concerns, and questions regarding the position will be seriously considered.
Calia Christie can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.