Board of Trustees Recap for Dec. 10, 11, 2015

Editor’s Note: After each Board of Trustees meeting, Western Today provides a recap of decisions and discussion.


Trustees Hear Update on Diversity Taskforce Strategic Plan

Western’s Board of Trustees on Dec. 11 heard a presentation on the President’s Equity, Inclusion and Diversity Taskforce’s draft Diversity Strategic Plan, and related efforts to improve Western’s campus climate.

Karen Dade, associate dean of Woodring College of Education and Presidential Leadership Fellow, and Nick Sanchez, employment inclusion manager, are the co-chairs of the taskforce, which was established by President Bruce Shepard in 2012 to rigorously review campus climate, recruitment and retention practices, curriculum, and community outreach efforts in order to develop a comprehensive strategic plan, and to recommend initiatives, policies, and procedures that increase equity and inclusion and allow Western to embrace and reflect a truly diverse society.

Dade and Sanchez reviewed taskforce recommendations that have been implemented, including: the University reimbursing employees in same sex couples for the federal taxation on same sex partners’ health and wellness benefits; expanding the University’s Dual Career Assistance policy to apply to same sex couples; developing infrastructure to enable faculty, staff and students to change their gender marker or preferred name in University systems without going through the time and expense of legally changing their name and/or gender marker with external governing bodies; and allocating permanent funding for a director of Women’s Studies and two tenured faculty lines with half appointments in American Cultural Studies, the home department for a series of courses and minors devoted to ethnic, racial and cultural minorities.

Other Taskforce recommendations implemented included bridge funding to support early opportunities hires – i.e., outstanding candidates who do not fulfill an immediate need but would be an excellent fit for a position soon to come open; and conducting additional qualitative research and interviews into the results of campus climate surveys, resulting in two reports created by past Taskforce co-chair Raine Dozier: The Experiences of LGBT Faculty at Western Washington University and The Experiences of Faculty of Color at Western Washington University.

Another recommendation resulted in creation of the WWU Campus Equity and Inclusion Forum Training Series, a university-wide initiative to empower members of the Western campus community to better understand and thoughtfully engage with the experiences and identities of all our community members.

Dade and Sanchez discussed the work of the 33-member taskforce and the need to move forward as a campus community on issues such as campus climate, which recently took on more urgency with online hate speech and a threat directed at Western students of color.

Building on the strong response to the recent campus Town Hall meeting, Dade noted that University colleges have begun listening sessions where university students and employees are “being courageous enough to tell their particular stories.” Dade described “a thousand cuts a day” that people of color on campus endure from micro-aggressions, ignorant comments and a sense of feeling excluded. White students have expressed worries about saying the wrong thing to people of color.

Dade said general themes are being gathered from those listening sessions to assist the taskforce in development of further recommendations. She also discussed formation of affinity groups, where students and employees can meet over common issues.

Sanchez noted that the recent online hate speech “did not happen in a vacuum.”

“How do we change, systematically, what happens in the classroom and on campus?” Sanchez asked.

Dade agreed, saying this is a “transformational period for this campus” and “We must make change at all levels of our campus.”

The trustees were strongly supportive of the work of the taskforce and efforts to improve the campus climate. They noted deep concern over the recent online hate speech and urged continued efforts to markedly improve the campus climate.

Trustee Chair Karen Lee said now is the time to discuss issues of diversity and inclusion frankly and respectfully. “How can we all have a seat at the table?” she asked.

Trustee Earl Overstreet said that the process of changing the campus climate must involve the entire campus. “Diversity and inclusion is not a zero-sum game; not someone losing and others winning,” Overstreet said.

In other business, the trustees:

  • Welcomed two new trustees: John M. Meyer and Maureen West.
  • Approved the Presidential Search Candidate Evaluation Criteria, as part of the search for a new president. For more information see the Presidential Search website. Trustee Sue Sharpe, chair of the Presidential Search Advisory Committee, provided an update on the search for a new president, who will succeed President Bruce Shepard. Sharpe said the position of president has been extensively advertised, including both online and print publications, and that the committee will be working closely with the search consultant as candidates apply for the position.
  • Met in a joint session Dec. 10 with Western’s Foundation Board to discuss and provide feedback on ongoing transitions and how they impact Western’s future. The foundation for the discussion was the University’s SCOT (Strengths, Challenges, Opportunities, Threats) analysis, recently updated for use in the Presidential Search.
  • Heard an update from Bob Drewel, senior advisor to Washington State University Interim President Dan Bernardo, on the status of the Everett University Center and WSU North Puget Sound Everett, including the recent groundbreaking for a new 95,000 square-foot WSU building in Everett, the addition of new STEM related programs and the ongoing successful partnership with WWU. Earl Gibbons, Western’s vice provost for Extended Education, praised the quality of the partnership in Everett.
  • Approved an updated agreement between the WWU Foundation and the Board of Trustees.
  • Approved the 2015-16 Internal Audit and Consulting Schedule, and acceptance of the 2014-15 Annual Report of the Office of Internal Audit
  • Approved an amendment to President Shepard’s contract, outlining details of his retirement.
  • Becca Kenna-Schenk, director of Government Relations, provided an update on the upcoming 60-day legislative session, which begins Jan. 11.
  • Tim Szymanowski, associate vice president for Development and Leadership Giving in University Advancement, provided an update on WWU’s Western Stands for Washington Campaign.
  • During the President’s Holiday Dinner on Dec. 10, heard former Trustee Phil Sharpe recount the fascinating and troubling history of the ouster of Charles H. Fisher, Western’s fourth president.
  • During a luncheon Dec. 11 heard a presentation by Keith Russell, chair of the Health and Human Development department, and Recreation students on the department’s innovative Recreation Degree program.

For more information on the trustees’ meeting, see: Meeting Materials. The date for the next regular meeting of the Board of Trustees is Feb. 11 and 12.