Dear Western students,
Our nation has reached a somber anniversary—one year since George Floyd was killed in Minnesota. I reflected on that event, and the unrest that followed it last summer, in messages to you regarding the ongoing need to address the societal challenges of inequality and systemic racism that also are reflected in our community. As a step forward in that process, we later announced the establishment of the Racial Justice Advisory Committee, or RJAC.
You are a big part of the reason this topic has remained an important area of emphasis—your desire to make progress, see us improve our campus and call for continued effort in these areas. This includes those of you who worked through student government, through Registered Student Organization leadership and those of you who became the first students to represent your peers as members of the RJAC. Thank you for your engagement.
The Racial Justice Advisory Committee includes faculty, staff, students and alumni representing all areas of our University. They have been working since October, prioritizing topics and preparing recommendations related to such important areas as recruiting and retaining faculty, staff and students of color; providing diversity, equity and inclusion training for faculty and staff; and developing equitable policies and practices. We’ll launch a new webpage soon that further highlights the RJAC’s progress. I appreciate the nearly 60 individuals—including members of the student body—who are taking time to contribute to this effort in making our campus a stronger community.
While the RJAC was getting underway, we were also working with an outside firm to conduct a campuswide diversity climate survey, which was sent to all students, faculty and staff. I’m grateful to all those who took the time to participate (60% of employees, 12% of full-time students) in the frank assessment of our climate on campus. Its results underline the fact that we have a lot of work to do, but they also reinforce some of the first outcomes the RJAC subcommittees are sharing with us. The data show many areas for improvement.
- For example, at most, 50% of the faculty, staff and students who completed the survey felt multiculturalism or inclusion are core values of WMU’s mission.
- Respondents felt campus is most welcoming to Caucasian/white individuals and men. For other groups, including people from communities of color and undocumented students, less than 70% of respondents described the campus as welcoming.
- About half of employees and nearly 60% of students who responded felt WMU promotes racial/cultural interaction between diverse groups.
- Safety on campus was a strength among the employees and students who completed the survey; 86% of employees reported they feel safe on campus, as did 76% of students.
Both the survey results and multiple RJAC subcommittee reports noted that we need to make progress in creating a campus environment that is welcoming to faculty, staff and students of color. They recommend we consider policies that effectively support diversity and inclusion and that we also look at our institutional policies related to bias, harassment and discrimination. You can read the full campus climate report on the Office of Diversity and Inclusion’s website.
These are all vital topics that require ongoing attention. They reflect inequities that developed over time, and they require time to address—and not only time but unwavering dedication and commitment by leaders and the entire campus community. By making these investments together, we can make lasting change on our campus, demonstrating that discrimination and intolerance have no place at Western. As we together make progress on the initiatives identified, we will continue to keep you informed of the efforts and outcomes.