We are living through an extraordinary time in our history – as a nation, a community and a campus. We are living in the midst of two pandemics: one, COVID-19; the other a deep-seated, long-standing illness of racist brutality. Both take their toll in our communities along paths that we as a society have, intentionally or not, designed for them, unjustly afflicting those with access to the fewest resources.
The work of promoting equity and inclusion on this campus and in our society has been central to our mission since our founding. It is work that is far from complete. We can and must do more to strengthen and deepen our values of diversity, equity and inclusion. We must do more to dismantle anti-Black racism at UW Tacoma. We must strengthen our efforts to prepare students to become the next generation of leaders, advocates and change makers who are committed to building an anti-racist society. Findings from the recently completed campus climate study and a recent external review report of the Office of Equity & Inclusion (E&I) show we have much work to do before all members of our campus community can bring their whole selves to the classroom and the workplace.
A climate survey implementation process is underway. Through that process we will pursue a range of actions to drive our work forward. In response to the recommendations outlined in E&I’s external review report which highlights national, forward-thinking changes in organizational leadership for campus diversity, I am elevating Dr. James McShay’s position to Vice Chancellor for Equity & Inclusion. He will lead us in a plan for reorganization and expansion of E&I so that the unit can offer a broader range of support to better fulfill our institutions’ strategic agenda for access, equity and inclusion through excellence. These changes will be the first step in laying the proper foundation for our campus to firmly ground its work in social justice and fully embrace the assets of our diverse communities.
During this period of transition, critically important initiatives will continue to move forward, and several other immediate actions have already been taken. The project to relocate and expand the Center for Equity & Inclusion is already underway, in conjunction with a reimagining of how CEI, the Teaching & Learning Center and the Library work together to serve our students.
This summer, E&I with Academic Affairs will launch two initiatives: a pilot program to provide ongoing faculty development in culturally responsive and inclusive pedagogy; and an expansion of programming to enhance resources and support for faculty of color. Both initiatives will be coordinated by Tanya Velasquez who will serve as Faculty Development Associate in Equity & Inclusion, in coordination with senior faculty and existing signature programs such as SEED (Strengthening Educational Excellence with Diversity Teaching Institute).
E&I will collaborate with Finance & Administration to support business diversity and equity by strengthening UW Tacoma’s relationships with Black and minority-owned businesses in our region. E&I will also partner with HR and Academic HR to launch a new Antiracist Leadership Institute for faculty and staff who serve in mid-level administrator positions.
One of the realities of the COVID-19 pandemic is the effect on the state and University budgets. Although financial constraints will affect the pace of changes we can make, I want to emphatically state that the commitment to achieving the outcomes I have described is there; as an example, additional permanent funding for this work was our highest priority during the FY21 budget planning cycle just completed.
I hope you will join me in warmly welcoming James into his new role and I look forward to working and learning with you as we carry out this important work together.