TXST CONNECTIONS sent to Students, Faculty, and Staff February 8, 2019
Over the past two years, I have had many meaningful conversations with students, faculty, staff, and alumni about inclusivity at Texas State. All these conversations have impacted me, but I have learned the most from our students.
Some of the actions we have taken so far to address inclusion on our campuses were inspired by students who were understandably angry and hurting after a series of incidents that included white supremacist flyers, protests, and tumultuous impeachment proceedings in Student Government, which culminated in a sit-in. These incidents have caused pain and distress in our community, and I have shared in that pain. Many students have talked with me about how these incidents have affected them. It caused me to reflect on inclusion initiatives that were already underway, and additional resources and support we could provide.
In spite of best intentions, I recognize that some people have disagreed with how we navigated through those difficult times. As hard as these experiences have been, I sincerely believe the actions we have taken in response are making Texas State a better place. I am committed to leading this university in achieving the inclusive environment our remarkable students, faculty, and staff deserve.
We have worked to expand support services, programs, and resources to improve the campus climate, but I know together we can do more. I’d like to share updates on several important initiatives.
We launched a minor in Latina/o Studies in fall 2018, which focuses on the experiences of Latinos in the United States. An African American Studies minor will follow in fall 2019. These new minors were in development by campus committees over several semesters.
The Council on Inclusive Excellence, led by Ms. Ameerah McBride, Chief Diversity Officer, is building the framework for a new Bias Reporting Protocol, projected to launch this fall. It will include a system to give students, faculty, and staff the ability to report noncriminal incidents of bias or prejudice, like the racist flyers that have at times desecrated our campus. More information will be shared later in the semester. I am sincerely grateful to the Council on Inclusive Excellence and all the students, faculty, and staff providing feedback on the Bias Reporting Protocol as it is in development.
Last week, Ms. McBride recommended to the President’s Cabinet ways to improve the campus climate. Suggestions included more collaboration regarding university-wide communications, more dialogue with students to address misinformation, and developing more proactive measures to respond to potential crises. A forthcoming edition of TXST CONNECTIONS will include additional information from Ms. McBride about her continued efforts in this area.
To improve Student Government, a task force led by Dr. Margarita Arellano, Dean of Students, conducted focus groups, surveys, and feedback sessions with students with three goals: clarify and update the Student Government constitution, increase student participation in elections, and increase the diversity of students within Student Government. An updated constitution is under review by a committee that includes students, faculty, and staff. Students will be encouraged to vote on the new Constitution in the fall.
Dr. Scott Bowman, Special Assistant to the Provost for Inclusion and Diversity, has worked to improve faculty hiring processes, increase the diversity of our faculty, and provide faculty professional development opportunities that explore ways that faculty can provide well-rounded narratives in the classroom.
We have added other new staff positions to support students and enhance our inclusion initiatives. The Dean of Students Office has hired an attorney with immigration expertise, Mr. Mark Kinzler, to provide resources regarding immigration issues. Dr. Stella Silva, recently appointed Manager of Diversity Initiatives in the Office of Equity and Inclusion, is using her expertise in strategic planning to reframe and help implement our Diversity and Inclusion Strategic Plan. We are also hiring an African American Studies Program Coordinator to support the new minor.
Dr. Joanne Smith, Vice President for Student Affairs, has held Student Leader Dialogues with students each month to share updates and receive feedback about issues that are important to our students. We are in the process of planning additional roundtable events to bring key leaders from administration, staff, and faculty together with students.
We have made progress, but clearly there is more work to be done. I am grateful to have so many dedicated students, faculty, and staff who are working hard to improve our community through advocacy, service, and by undertaking difficult conversations.
Throughout my years as President of Texas State, I have always known we had something very special here, with our sense of community and welcoming environment. The last two years have made that even more apparent, and have reminded me how many people care deeply about this university. When you care deeply about something, it’s well worth the time, energy, and emotion to improve it. There are countless people in our Bobcat family who want to do just that. I look forward to seeing the good we will accomplish together for Texas State University.
Denise M. Trauth