A Message from President Denise M. Trauth
January 27, 2022
Dear Texas State University Community,
As you know, February is Black History Month, a time for us to focus on the lasting and profound contributions that Black Americans have made at Texas State University, in our state, and across our nation. It is a cherished time for our university community to come together and celebrate African American heritage, culture, and achievements. It is a time for honoring Black change-makers, history makers, and dream makers.
Many of our Texas State students, faculty, and staff are working together to host a variety of activities and recognitions to celebrate Black History Month. Be sure to monitor Texas State’s Black History Month website for more information to come.
We had the opportunity and pleasure to honor courageous Texas State Black trailblazers this past fall with the renaming of First Five Freedom Hall on the San Marcos Campus, and the naming of Dr. Elvin Holt Drive on the Round Rock Campus. First Five Freedom Hall reflects the extraordinary women who -- with courage and persistence -- were the first Black students to enroll at Texas State in 1963. Dr. Holt was the first Black tenured professor in the Department of English and remains an active community leader today.
Every day our lives are positively impacted by Black Americans who have come before us and those shaping the future today, whether on the world stage or at our university as mentors and inspiring leaders.
As we celebrate Black History Month, our commitment to inclusive excellence pushes us to continue to deliberately and collaboratively build a community that brings our values of equity, justice, inclusion, and belonging to life for everyone.
Together, we have accomplished much toward this goal. However, it is work that is never finished and must be pursued with boldness and persistence. Today, I want to update you on where we are with four main diversity, equity, inclusion, and access (DEIA) initiatives at Texas State and what it means for our community.
Vice President for Institutional Inclusive Excellence Search
Thanks to the hard work of the university search committee, we are moving forward in our national search for a Vice President for Institutional Inclusive Excellence to lead the Division of Institutional Inclusive Excellence. Finalists will be visiting the university in February, and the university community will have an opportunity to attend their presentations.
Building Equitable Relationships Across the University
In partnership with the organization Life Anew, starting in January 2021, over 100 students, staff, and faculty, including myself and all Cabinet members, engaged first in individual, then in integrated, dialogue sessions. These conversations focused on racial injustice and restorative justice with the goal of producing a report that reflected the interests, concerns, and voices of our Texas State community.
The resulting Life Anew report provided a framework to create a long-term strategic plan for building and maintaining equitable relationships across the university. I want to thank members of the Council for Inclusive Excellence (CIE) for their work to identify themes and recommend actions related to the report. The President’s Cabinet is reviewing the CIE recommendations and will provide a response during this semester.
Because equity and inclusion are foundational principles for Texas State, we will include DEIA as one of the university’s five institutional goals in our next strategic planning process. The information gleaned from the Life Anew report and the CIE recommendations, in part, will be used to inform the strategies for this goal and ensure Texas State stays focused on a forward trajectory for DEIA initiatives.
Renaming of a Residence Hall
In February 2021, I convened the Scholars Task Force, comprised of scholars in history, sociology, political science, and library studies, to undertake a scholarly analysis of the historical facts about and contexts of the lives and careers of Sallie Ward Beretta, the namesake of Beretta Hall on the San Marcos Campus, and John Garland Flowers, the namesake of Flowers Hall on the San Marcos Campus. The task force produced a report titled Historical Background and Context: Sallie Ward Beretta and John Garland Flowers.
I, then, charged the Review and Recommendations Task Force in September 2021, comprised of students, alumni, faculty, and staff, to review the report and make recommendations based on its contents. The Task Force recommended to the President’s Cabinet that the university remove “Beretta” from the building named after Sallie Ward Beretta based, in part, on her documented:
· Efforts to promote and preserve the Lost Cause Myth and glorify the memory of the Confederacy; and
· Viewpoints, which are antithetical to Texas State University’s current values, and its role as a Minority Serving Institution and Hispanic Serving Institution.
Beretta will be removed from the residence hall bearing her name after the end of the semester. The residence hall will be renamed Mesquite Hall.
The Task Force recommended retaining the name Flowers on the building named after former Texas State president John Garland Flowers based, in part, on the facts that:
· Support of continued segregation was imposed by the Board of Regents and Texas Attorney General and beyond Flowers’ control;
· Flowers attempted to work within parameters of the law as well as assist students as he could; and
· Other Texas universities were subject to the same impositions from Boards of Regents and the Texas Attorneys General.
DEIA Training for Faculty and Staff
Following an in-depth, collaborative process that included inventorying current DEIA training for faculty, staff, and students, benchmarking against our institutional peers, and exploring training options and issues, the President’s Cabinet approved Texas State to contract with EVERFI, an education technology company, to provide online DEIA training to employees. The training is set to launch early this spring.
Even as we work to reaffirm our commitment to building the inclusive, welcoming, and equitable community we want for all Bobcats, we recognize that there are dynamics in the world around us that produce hate and bigotry. The hostage-taking incident on January 15, 2022, at the Congregation Beth Israel synagogue in Colleyville, Texas, reminds us that achieving our goal of inclusive excellence takes continuous work to reexamine our practices, our programs, and our efforts. We have vulnerable members in our community, and they need our support. While our work is far from finished, the progress we have made demonstrates all we can accomplish when we gather the power of expertise, passion, and dedication from across our university.
Denise M. Trauth