Ohio Wesleyan is launching a new initiative to improve diversity, equity, and inclusion on campus. The initiative is designed to ‘create meaningful and immediate change.’ (Photo by Brad Ward)

‘Stand Together and Work for Change’

Ohio Wesleyan Announces New Initiative to Support Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion on Campus

By Cole Hatcher

Rock Jones, Ph.D.

DELAWARE, Ohio – Ohio Wesleyan University today announced a new initiative to support diversity, equity, and inclusion on campus in ways intended to “create meaningful and immediate change.”

“It is time – no, far beyond time – for us to turn words and outrage into action,” President Rock Jones, Ph.D., said in announcing the initiative. “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,” Jones said. 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.”

Jones said Ohio Wesleyan’s initiative initially would focus on four areas: structure and policies, teaching and learning, recruiting and retaining students and employees, and campus climate.

“I share your insistence on real action and serious dialogue about instituting wholesale change to dismantle chronic racism and injustice in our society,” Jones said in a message to the campus community.

“We recognize that these actions must include work to create meaningful and immediate change at OWU,” he said. “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.”

Key components of Ohio Wesleyan’s initiative include:

  • Conducting a full review this summer of public safety operations in relation to work with students of color.
  • Examining student conduct practices to uncover areas that may foster bias.
  • Reviewing and updating business procurement policies to reduce barriers for the growth and success of local and regional businesses owned by people of color.
  • Diversifying the university’s curriculum and ensuring that OWU faculty are equipped with the skills necessary for inclusive excellence in pedagogy.
  • Instituting a universal test-optional policy for admission and all scholarship consideration to remove barriers to access for students of color, students from low-income families, and students with disabilities.
  • Developing new donor-funded scholarship programs to support the recruitment and retention of Black students.
  • Improving job search and hiring practices to enhance the recruitment of diverse pools of job applicants to grow a more diverse staff.
  • Instituting universal diversity, equity, and inclusion training for faculty and staff.
  • Implementing a new Campus Climate Response Protocol to provide clear guidance for responding to incidents of bias with appropriate accountability.

In addition, Jones announced, the Ohio Wesleyan University Board of Trustees will appoint an Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Trustee Oversight Task Force that will meet monthly to ensure meaningful change is being made.

“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,” Jones said. “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,’” he concluded.

For more information about Ohio Wesleyan’s diversity, equity, and inclusion initiative visit owu.edu/AntiracismPlan.

Founded in 1842, Ohio Wesleyan University is one of the nation’s premier liberal arts universities. Located in Delaware, Ohio, the private university offers more than 90 undergraduate majors and competes in 24 NCAA Division III varsity sports. Through Ohio Wesleyan’s signature OWU Connection program, students integrate knowledge across disciplines, build a diverse and global perspective, and apply their knowledge in real-world settings. Ohio Wesleyan is featured in the book “Colleges That Change Lives” and included in the U.S. News & World Report and Princeton Review “best colleges” lists. Learn more at owu.edu.