President’s office attempts to address diversity issues at SU
Updated: Mar 3, 2020
Amid the recent incidents and dialogue surrounding SU about diversity, President Charles Wight’s administration has taken immediate action to address these issues. Among the most impactful changes are the decision to make the Office of Diversity and Inclusion independent and the establishment of the President’s Cabinet.
Last November, during the aftermath of multiple acts of racist vandalism in Fulton Hall, President Wight chose to separate the Office of Diversity and Inclusion from the Office of Institutional Equity as one of many massive changes to the university. As its own independent office, the president will now have more direct oversight of the office’s practices.
The decision reverses course from SU’s previous administration, as the Office of Diversity and Inclusion was originally independent until it was merged under the purview of one associate vice president with the Office of Institutional Equity in 2014.
“It became evident that the Office of Diversity and Inclusion needed to become independent again to ensure that they were being provided the adequate resources and the adequate attention that they deserve, particularly as this president has made a renewed commitment to diversity and inclusion and creating that sense of belonging for everyone on this campus,” said Eli Modlin, the chief of staff and director of government and community relations.
Modlin is also currently leading the efforts and staff of the Office of Diversity and Inclusion until the full-time position of chief diversity officer is filled.
Some of the specific focuses of the Office of Diversity and Inclusion are to support diversity and inclusion training, as well as the retention and recruitment of faculty, staff and students from diverse backgrounds. The office has also heavily encouraged the use of the Center for Equity, Justice and Inclusion in Blackwell Hall.
The second major decision made by Wight’s administration was the establishment of the President’s Cabinet, which will meet every two weeks to discuss pressing campus issues.
Among its members will be the president, his executive staff, the Title IX officer and, once hired, the chief diversity officer.
The CDO will serve as a representative for the Office of Diversity and Inclusion and an aid to the president in all meetings as a member of the cabinet. The office’s mission will now be able to influence critical decisions made regarding funding, campus culture and overall campus diversity.
However, Modlin emphasized the importance of everyone’s role in creating a diverse and tolerant campus at SU and that inputs from all sources are still vital.
“[These issues] affect us all,” Modlin said. “It’s all of our responsibility to live up to the mission, vision and values of Salisbury University, and those are heavily dependent on creating and maintaining an inclusive atmosphere."
Modlin also mentioned that Wight has taken a number of steps to promote better communication with the campus community by establishing a new text-messaging process, reinvigorating social media accounts and establishing office hours for himself and his staff.
Modlin has suggested a few of many avenues students, faculty, and community members can take to address their concerns or provide suggestions, such as taking advantage of the president and his entire administration’s new open office hours — which are available on the president's website — and attending new quarterly university town halls.
The president’s office has also unveiled a new anonymous reporting mechanism available through the president's website for those who are not comfortable presenting their concerns through traditional methods of communication.
The next step in the path toward change lies in the President’s Special Task Force on Diversity and Inclusion, which is comprised of staff, faculty, students, alumni and community members working together to identify key focus areas for the Office of Diversity and Inclusion.
The task force is scheduled to present Wight with a report of the campus issues that they have found, as well as suggested short- and long-term goals, by March 6.
By JAKOB TODD and ALLISON GUY
Staff writer and Copy editor
Featured photo: Emma Reider Image