Dear F&M Students, Faculty and Professional Staff,
As we approach winter break, I want to follow up on President Porterfield's recent emails and update you on several new efforts the College has developed or furthered in recent weeks to foster inclusivity in the broad area of student life. You’ll also hear soon from Provost and Dean of the Faculty Joel Martin, who will describe initiatives on diversity emerging from faculty leadership and concerning academic opportunities.
During the last several weeks, President Porterfield and I, along with other faculty and senior administrators, have attended meetings of a number of student organizations to gain a deeper understanding of the issues raised at or after the November 17th community forum. These conversations have been very valuable, as have the well-attended discussions sponsored by our College Houses about race, ethnicity, nationality and inclusion of all students and identities.
Below are some action steps developed in recent weeks that respond to student suggestions and will help us foster inclusiveness and community within our diverse student body:
- In partnership with students, I am leading a process of evaluating the space needs of several of our student groups. The focus of these discussions is twofold. In the short term, we are pursuing space enhancements, and we also are envisioning what a future diversity center that would house many of our campus programs might look like. President Porterfield has identified some resources that we can use for renovations and improvements this summer, which is welcome news.
- Over the past year, Marion Coleman, Associate Dean for Multicultural Affairs, and Xay Chongtua, Associate Director of Multicultural Affairs and College House Operations, have been leading our efforts to develop two new student programs that focus on inclusivity. Those efforts are now coming to fruition. First, fourteen students have been selected to serve as Diversity Change Agents (DCAs). In January, these students will learn to conduct workshops touching on nine areas of identity: race, class, gender, age, disability, sexual orientation, gender identities, religion and nationality. The DCAs will be available next semester to hold workshops with student clubs, fraternities and sororities, College Houses, athletic teams and other groups – an exciting development that responds to the calls of many students to bring together in new ways and for new conversations students of differing backgrounds.
- Dean Coleman is also implementing the Promoting House Diversity program (PHD) to provide student leaders with the opportunity to become House Diversity Advocates (HDAs), taking responsibility for fostering multicultural learning and community in the College Houses, where every student lives for at least two years. The first order of business for the HDAs will be to help design and implement the College's Martin Luther King, Jr. celebration next month.
- When we return for the spring semester, I will provide you with more details about our plans for a series of events and workshops in February. Students from Diplomatic Congress, Interfraternity Council, Panhellenic Council and the Student Athletic Advisory Committee have had initial meetings to develop interactive programming and dialogue about inclusion, power and privilege, facilitated by an outside expert. These student groups are working to partner with others to ensure that the programming will engage our full student community – a major theme of our discussions this fall.
- DPS Chief Bill McHale and DPS officers continue to meet with students at gatherings around campus. They have attended bagel breakfasts and on Sunday, December 13, hosted a well-attended social event in the College Center. DPS has sustained its increased patrols, and senior officers and President Porterfield continue to do weekend safety ride-alongs. We are now utilizing the new approach to Campus Safety alerts announced in President Porterfield’s November 17 broadcast email, and additional permanent lighting has been installed in some areas of campus.
- As announced in that email, Senior Associate Dean Maria Flores-Mills has been working closely with students to develop programming focusing on inclusion and diversity as a part of New Student Orientation, to better engage all incoming students in reflecting on and nurturing F&M's diverse community.
- And, as also announced, Provost and Dean of the Faculty Joel Martin has developed with the Faculty Council a charge for the Fair Practices Committee, chaired by Associate Professor of History and Chair of International Studies Doug Anthony, to make recommendations about how we might facilitate reporting of incidents of harassment and invective based on identity.
Beginning with the New Student Convocation, with its focus on faculty and student reflections on diversity, this past semester has been filled with educational programs designed to foster a more inclusive community on our campus. Many of you have planned and participated in those programs, and I thank you. We will have even more opportunities to work together in 2016, which will strengthen us as a community.
My best wishes for a successful close to the semester and a peaceful and relaxing holiday season.
Margaret L. Hazlett
Dean of the College