June 16, 2020, Statement from OWU President Rock Jones
Members of the OWU Family:
It is time – no, far beyond time – for us to turn words and outrage into action.
The horrific killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Rayshard Brooks have rightly outraged millions of Americans and people around the world. And the knowledge that their killings are not isolated incidents but follow a long legacy of violence, oppression, and police brutality toward Black Americans reminds us that systemic racism permeates our society and its institutions, including Ohio Wesleyan. We have seen in particular the enduring impact of police brutality on Black Americans.
It is vitally important for us to acknowledge to one another and to the larger community that Black Lives Matter.
We are proud of our many Ohio Wesleyan University students, faculty, staff, and alumni who have made their voices heard around the world to insist on equality and inclusion and to demand an end to police brutality and other racially motivated violence. Over the past two weeks, I have listened to and spoken with many of you in the OWU community. I’ve read your words in social media. I have heard your personal stories describing experiences of racism in our society, including heartbreaking stories from your time on the OWU campus. I share your anger and your sorrow, and I hope that we who come from a place of privilege can strive to understand and empathize with the depth of emotion that has gripped Black Americans after the killing of George Floyd.
I share your insistence on real action and serious dialogue about instituting wholesale change to dismantle chronic racism and injustice in our society.
We recognize that these actions must include work to create meaningful and immediate change at OWU. For many years, we have supported diversity, equity, and inclusion in our declarations and documents; we must act more deeply and decisively in ways that lead to systemic change.
So, today I am pleased to announce the first set of actions we are taking to work for change. More will be announced in the near future. These actions span across four foundational areas of OWU’s operations and campus life.
First, we will make changes to the University’s structure and policies to strengthen equitable and inclusive practices:
- We will increase resources for staff leadership in the work of diversity, equity, and inclusion. We will share more about this very soon.
- We will conduct a full review this summer of our public safety operations in relation to work with students of color. In this review, we will examine our public safety policies and practices for potential bias or unfair treatment, and we will engage Black students and other students of color to ensure we correctly address specific areas of concern. Through this review, we will develop a public safety plan to increase equity training for our Public Safety staff and implement policies and practices to improve the relationships between Public Safety and communities of color, particularly our Black and African American communities.
- We have begun a review of student conduct practices to uncover areas that may foster bias.
- We will review and change procurement policies to reduce barriers for the growth and success of local and regional POC-owned businesses. Our commitment will support the local economy by intentionally engaging with suppliers who are State of Ohio certified minority-owned business enterprises, as well those recognized as small businesses, woman-owned businesses, and veteran-friendly business enterprises. We will develop incentives to attract POC-owned businesses to the Delaware Entrepreneurial Center at Ohio Wesleyan University.
Second, we will be instituting changes to the way we deliver our core mission, teaching and learning:
- I have asked our new OWU Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Karlyn Crowley to work with the faculty on matters related to equity, diversity, and inclusion in the academic program within her first 100 days of joining OWU on July 1. This work ultimately should include diversifying our curriculum and ensuring that faculty are equipped with the skills necessary for inclusive excellence in pedagogy. Faculty are already engaged in this work.
Third, we are making changes to the ways we recruit and retain students and employees:
- Beginning this year, we are instituting a universal test optional policy for admission and all scholarship consideration to remove barriers to access. The ACT and SAT standardized tests have a history of bias, disadvantaging students of color, students from low-income families, and students with disabilities.
- We will soon announce plans for new scholarship programs generously funded by OWU donors to support recruitment and retention of Black students.
- Our marketing and communication staff will meet at least once every semester to assess how the University represents diversity, equity, and inclusion in its marketing materials, both print and digital. This assessment will include focus groups of students of color.
- Our Human Resources department will develop new search and hiring policies to enhance the recruitment of diverse pools of job applicants and to grow a more diverse staff. The provost will work with faculty leadership on continued revision to faculty search and hiring policies to grow a more diverse faculty. We also will develop new policies and provide additional resources to ensure we retain persons of color in our faculty and staff.
Fourth, we will institute several measures to ensure that our campus climate affirms clearly and boldly the values of diversity, equity, and inclusion:
- We will institute universal diversity, equity, and inclusion training for faculty and staff.
- As previously planned, we will implement the new Campus Climate Response Protocol, which provides clear guidance for responding to incidents of bias with appropriate accountability.
- We will conduct a representational and identity audit of images across campus and on our website and make changes necessary to ensure fuller representation of our diverse University.
- A group of faculty and staff across the University are reading and discussing the book How to Be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi.
- We will engage students in focused conversations about multicultural spaces on campus to identify ways to enhance their effectiveness for students who use them.
- We are initiating a dialogue with City of Delaware officials and local business owners to improve the neighborhood climate for students of color.
Finally, John Milligan, chair of the Ohio Wesleyan University Board of Trustees, will appoint an Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Trustee Oversight Task Force. This task force will meet monthly and will hold the administration accountable for implementing the actions outlined here and others that will be announced soon. Additionally, the task force will review critical University policies and will schedule time for trustees to meeting with persons of color from the OWU faculty, staff, and student body when the Board is on campus in October.
By no means is this list of actions final or sufficient. In the coming weeks and months, we will continue to examine our core structure, policies, and day-to-day practices to make OWU a more inclusive and equitable place for all students, and in particular for Black, indigenous, and people of color.
We also will continue to create opportunities for students, alumni, faculty, staff, and community members to engage in dialogue and work together for change.
We are sharing a simple message with the OWU community, our neighbors in Delaware, and all our contacts across the nation and around the world:
“Stand together and work for change.”