Steps Whitworth is Taking to Address Racial Injustice
Dear Whitworth Community,
Higher education institutions are responsible for educating future generations by providing them with resources, tools and strategies that equip them to significantly contribute to the development and flourishing of communities and their citizens. Our Black community here at Whitworth, in our state and in our country is suffering, and we have an obligation not only to acknowledge their pain and to lament our complicity in the structures and policies that have caused it, but to take action to address it. These actions begin with standing with our Black brothers and sisters in their demand for safety and equity, as well as pursuing changes in structures and policies of oppression and implementing and improving equity practices. The road to transformation so our communities can truly flourish requires working diligently to abolish personal and institutional racism. This important work marks an urgent renewal of our efforts to end the more than 400 years of oppression and racism on which our country was founded. This is a call to our community to be not only non-racist but to be anti-racist.
Last weekend, President Beck A. Taylor and Chief Diversity Officer Lorna Hernandez Jarvis called on the Whitworth community to "unequivocally denounce the sin of racism that continues to plague our nation, our community and our campus" and asked "every member of the Whitworth family to reflect upon ways we can contribute to a more just, equitable and humane society." Just as we are addressing the coronavirus pandemic, we need to address the just-as-deadly disease of racism.
Today we share with the Whitworth community more specifically some of the initiatives and programs designed to strengthen our diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) efforts supporting the university's Diversity Action Plan (DAP). This plan began its implementation last year and includes specific outcomes regarding diversity, equity and inclusion across all areas of campus. Some of these outcomes include professional development for faculty, staff and students; recruitment and retention strategies such as the doubling in size of the BUCS Bridge program in 2019; the inclusion of equity advocates in every hiring search at Whitworth; and curricular and co-curricular strategies such as clear and specific student learning outcomes in courses with a DEI focus and a plan for their regular assessment, as well as significant renovations to the Intercultural Student Center.
Here are more efforts underway:
- We are reiterating our zero tolerance policy for racist and discriminatory behavior at our institution. We are strengthening the process to address bias incidents on campus. The community will be widely informed about this process at the start of the academic year.
- This academic year we will implement a DEI professional development series focused on race, race relations, racism and anti-racism that will consist of several scaffolded sessions for all employees to participate in.
- This academic year we will also implement a Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Speaker Series.
- This summer, the faculty will be offered several workshops on inclusive and culturally responsive pedagogy as part of their professional development in preparation for the WhitworthFLEX plan in the fall. The goal is to embed equity-minded practices in the classroom.
- We will continue to strengthen our already successful intergroup dialogue student program focused on race. Information will be forthcoming on how students can participate in this program, which has a goal of developing cultural change.
- We will facilitate a series of courageous conversations around the November election. The goal is to promote knowledge, respect and understanding among diverse perspectives and to help participants be better informed about issues surrounding the election.
- We will continue to provide financial resources to students through Help-a-Pirate funds. We will also continue to make resources available for students affected by COVID-19 through CARES Act funds as they apply for these resources.
- Although Whitworth has made efforts to diversify its faculty and staff, we have much more to do in order to be successful. Fifty percent of the new faculty members hired this past year are members of racial minorities (four of eight hires). We will continue to strengthen our efforts to diversify our workforce by conducting intensive training for equity advocates in search committees to ensure equity in the hiring process.
- We are also developing retention strategies for faculty in consultation with current faculty members of color.
- The faculty is committed to stronger equity and inclusion within the curriculum. The new shared curriculum identifies specific learning outcomes related to understanding issues of power, privilege, hierarchy, identity and/or interdependence present in social and historical structures and cultural expressions. These outcomes will be regularly assessed in order to continually improve these learning experiences.
- Campus security services will continue to participate in annual diversity training. Whitworth will also continue to host monthly meetings with the Spokane County Sheriff's Office to ensure justice and equity for students of color. An authentic partnership has developed between Whitworth and the sheriff's office that has resulted in our students being assisted instead of arrested by law enforcement on numerous occasions. We know there is still much to be done.
- One of Whitworth's senior leaders is a member of a community group reaching out to the city police department to address police and community relations.
In a more immediate timeline, here are actions the university is taking:
- We will hold a virtual courageous conversation with faculty and staff about racism on Wednesday, June 10, from 3:30-5 p.m. Several panelists will speak for 30 minutes, and then we will engage in conversation. Recommendations for engaging in anti-racism strategies will be offered.
- Plans are underway for a virtual courageous conversation about race for Whitworth students for the week of June 15. Details will be announced early next week.
- Campus ministry staff will facilitate a prayer gathering for racial justice on Zoom on Friday, June 12, from noon to 12:30 p.m. Please send prayer requests to firstname.lastname@example.org for our ministry staff to collect and pray for daily.
- The Office of Church Engagement is continuing to sponsor and facilitate racial reconciliation groups in the community that meet monthly.
- Student life staff members are contacting all Black students to check in on their well-being, and the chief diversity officer is contacting Black faculty and staff members to do the same.
- The counseling center continues to provide services and is open to support the mental health of Black students and all students of color.
- Our campus pastors are available and eager to offer pastoral care to Black students and all students of color.
- We have developed a list of educational resources for those who want to educate themselves about race, race relations, racism and anti-racism. We encourage you to email email@example.com if you have resources you would like to recommend or ideas for us to continue to enhance our DEI efforts.
These initiatives and activities are a sample of the concerted efforts that Whitworth is committed to pursuing as we work together to ensure that everyone sees themselves as loved and respected members of our community and as we seek to fulfill our mission to honor God, follow Christ and serve humanity.
Please visit our webpage to access a list of additional educational resources and opportunities to support organizations that are working to end racial injustice in our communities: www.whitworth.edu/resources-to-help-end-racial-injustice.
Lorna Hernandez Jarvis, Chief Diversity Officer and Associate Vice President for Diversity, Equity & Inclusion
Rhosetta Rhodes, Vice President for Student Life and Dean of Students