Diversity Week: Moving From Words to Action

Remarks by President Denise Trauth

Diversity Week Virtual Welcome

November 9, 2020

Hello. I’m Denise Trauth, President of Texas State University. It is my honor to welcome you to Diversity Week.

This week represents the collaboration of many organizations and units across Texas State. Thank you to everyone on the Diversity Week Steering Committee who worked to host this event.

Just like last year’s inaugural Diversity Week, I know this will be a memorable and moving experience. I appreciate everyone who will participate throughout the week sharing their voices, knowledge, and talent.

At Texas State, we believe in the power of a diverse and inclusive community. We see our differences as a source of strength. Diversity Week gives us the forum to celebrate and explore who we are as a community, and as individuals.

This year’s theme, “Moving from Words to Action,” resonates with me. Taking bold action has been essential as we build a culture of equity and inclusion at Texas State.

During the summer, we held a university-wide Day of Reflection and Solidarity, three listening sessions with students, faculty, and staff of color, and two restorative justice town halls.

We listened and learned as our students, faculty, and staff told their stories, shared their concerns, and expressed their pain. These words – your words – make a difference. They move us to action and shape our path forward.

But listening is not enough as we work toward equality and justice for marginalized people. At Texas State, we choose action.

As an institution, I believe our actions to support an inclusive and welcoming climate must be loud and clear.

We have many talented and passionate diversity, equity, and inclusion leaders across the university. They have been instrumental in laying a strong foundation of excellence at Texas State.

We made two major organizational changes within the last year that set us up to accelerate our progress.

Beginning in January, we elevated the position of Chief Diversity Officer to the President’s Cabinet. What does this mean to have our Chief Diversity Officer on my Cabinet? It means that we examine everything we do through multiple lenses -- one of which is diversity, equity, and inclusion.

Our other major organizational action took effect in June -- We centralized Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion units that were previously separate.

Bringing these teams together in the new organization titled Institutional Inclusive Excellence has amplified the transformational work being done by D-E-&-I professionals on our campuses. 

With their guidance, we have taken a number of steps to make our university more inclusive.

We commissioned a permanent LGBTQIA Advisory and Resource Network; and opened the Texas State Monarch Center to support Immigrant Students. 

We convened a Task Force to rename our two newest residence halls, and two streets on the Round Rock Campus -- naming them for distinguished members of the Texas State family who are Black, Hispanic, or Latin-X.

We launched a new Diversity and Inclusion Certificate Program for faculty and staff; and appointed a task force to explore even more training opportunities.

Using our Bias Response Protocol, we now have a tool and process to document and respond to incidents of discrimination, bias, and prejudice.

We know hiring and retaining diverse faculty is critical. We created a toolkit to help search committees and academic programs implement more inclusive hiring practices.

In June, I charged a work group to develop a holistic plan to build and repair equitable relationships across multiple university groups. I look forward to sharing more information on this initiative soon. 

The inaugural Inclusive Excellence Showcase, featured dozens of equity and inclusion programs – including some I’ve mentioned today. This is one of many events we’ve held to celebrate diversity in our community,

I am proud of all that we have accomplished -- but there is more to do. And, there is an urgency in our mission. Now, more than ever, our community needs the strength that comes from our diversity.

It is hard to find words adequate to describe the last eight months. We face a global pandemic, economic challenges, and political unrest.

Watching the courage of so many as they stand up for equality and justice, especially young people, is inspiring.

It takes courage to strive for unity among people who are different. Unity does not mean that we all agree, or have the same political predispositions.

It means we stand united -- against hate, racism, bigotry, and all that seeks to fracture us. We commit to expanding our capacity for diversity and inclusion.

We work together to give all students, faculty, and staff the same, unfettered access to opportunity, success, justice, and safety.

The college experience is truly life-changing. It opens doors -- and opens minds by exposing students to a wide array of perspectives.

That is particularly true at Texas State, because we are home to such a diverse group of students -- diverse in terms of ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, political affiliation, gender identity, and many other factors.

This means it is vital that we co-create discussion and debate and that we do this with passion, dignity, and respect for our fellow Bobcats.

When a diverse group of people comes together, they bring with them not only their talents and achievements, but also their history and struggles.

We cannot expect these different voices and experiences to converge without bringing about change.

Unity has the power to move us to even greater action. We work hard, and we work together, to turn challenges into triumphs.

Collectively, we make our world, and our university, stronger. Our celebration of diversity won’t end when this week’s schedule of events is over.

Inclusion does not entail molding people to fit the dominant culture. It entails expanding our university’s culture  to welcome all members of our community.

Texas State is committed – I am committed – to doing everything in our power to make each person feel valued, welcome, and at home, here.

In closing, I have never been more proud of our students, faculty and staff. You have faced the challenges of the last eight months with grace and resilience. You’ve shown the world what it means to be a Bobcat.

Thank you for joining us this Diversity Week, and for being a member of this vibrant Bobcat family.