Salisbury University students on campus

Presidential Perspectives: Diversity & Inclusion Updates

June 5, 2020

Members of the Campus Community,

Before we left campus because of COVID-19, we were hard at work on making changes to build a more inclusive campus. Since then, we’ve continued that work, even in our remote environments. Here are a few updates on current projects and some changes coming to SU:

  • We are creating a minority alumni advisory board so our new vice president for diversity and inclusion and chief diversity officer, Joan Williams, and other campus leaders have the opportunity to hear directly from alumni who can speak to what works and what doesn’t, and help to build a professional network for our students.
  • AVP Williams also will also create a new advisory group to include students, staff, faculty and members of the local community. We recognize that we need to have conversations about what goes on within our walls, but also what happens when we leave the campus and go out into the community. We will make sure that this is just one of the mechanisms to do so.
  • We plan to improve our police sensitivity training and mandate annual cultural competency training for all members of the SU Police Department.
  • All incoming first-year students will have mandatory diversity training as part of New Student Orientation. This will be an opportunity for them to become acquainted with SU’s values of diversity and inclusion, which must be lived and experienced as integral to everyday campus life so students make the connection between what they learn and how they live.
  • As noted in our new Strategic Plan, we will evaluate the effectiveness of existing University structures, policies, programs and practices to maximize success for all students.
  • In April, we had planned a series of workshops to support more effective diversity and inclusion training and processes for search committees. Though this training was postponed because of the pandemic, we plan to review, and revise as needed, our search, appointment, tenure and promotion processes to support a more diverse faculty.
  • We will work toward diversity and inclusion professional development for all faculty and staff, including for incoming new faculty, with a focus on Faculty Development Day in August.
  • The Faculty Senate will consider a new general education model at the beginning of the fall semester.
  • I also am proud to announce that, in addition to the Center for Equity Justice and Inclusion, the Office of Diversity and Inclusion now will have most of the first floor of Blackwell Hall to use for education, training and other programming. This space includes a number of offices, classrooms, presentation areas, and seating and lounging areas for members of the campus community simply to come together.
  • This fall, the comprehensive campus climate study that we started last year will be complete, helping to inform our efforts to assess and improve our campus culture.
  • Finally, we are providing training and resources for our faculty. Your professors have purview over what they discuss and how it is explored in their classrooms, but I am imploring everyone to join me in listening to and learning from each other. We have to have these conversations. Students, I ask that you are patient with us as we learn, too.

It shouldn't take such a distressing video out of Minneapolis to truly bring light to the inequalities and injustices that have been going on for more than 400 years, but we also must take advantage of the fact that America's attention has been captured. Here at Salisbury, I want to do even more to listen to our students, faculty and staff, and understand what they’re facing on campus, in this community and more broadly in society. I was pleased to see more than 220 members of our campus and others join in the virtual “Dialog on Race” facilitated recently by AVP Williams and a thoughtful group of panelists. I thank everyone who added their voices to that important discussion.

I recognize that words are nothing without action, and I expect all of you to hold us accountable. These are just some of the many steps we will take to continue improving our campus and fulfilling our mission of higher education and opportunity for all.

Thank you, and please stay safe.

Charles A. Wight
Salisbury University