Nancy: Hello everyone, welcome to Warner. I’m Nancy Ares, faculty member and teaching curriculum here. This is one of a series of town hall meetings that Commission on Race and Diversity is offering. We’re really pleased to be able to host one here at Warner.
Just some logistics before we get started. We have a camera, two cameras and a recorder, so you know that you’re being recorded. We have cards out on the table so if you’d like to write a comment or a question and get it to us. If you like us to read it let us know, if you want to just hand it in so your comments are part of the transcript, that’s good. If you don’t want to be videotaped, let us know and [inaudible 00:00:41] will turn the camera away.
We’re asking after a couple of introductory remarks, that you come up here to ask your questions or make your comments so that we can make sure we record all this. All will be transcribed and uploaded to the commission’s website which is here. I don’t see it there, all right, I’m going to clear that later.
The commission was formed in response to some student action. There are a number of us from the commission here today to represent all kinds of … not representatives, we are members of different units on campus. Those who are on the commission, please stand up. Great, Myra, Henry, Vivian-
Dean Burgett: Myra, Henry from the library. Dr. Vivian Lewis, Professor of OB-GYN and the Vice Provost for Faculty Diversity and Development Tony Kinslow, Associate Vice President for Human Resources and then us.
Nancy: And us.
Dean Burgett: Us.
Nancy: I just wanted to get the logistics laid out there and then I’ll turn it over to Stephan Hamill, a doctoral student from Warner.
Stephan: I’m Stephan Hamill. I am doctoral student here at Warner, a PhD in Higher Education. I’m also a staff member in the David T. Kearns Center in the college. I will be co-moderating and it’s, I guess, my pleasure to introduce the deans, Paul Burgett and Dean Richard Feldman. They’re also going to say some introductory remarks.
Dean Burgett: Thank you, Stephan. Thank you so much for coming. The Presidential Commission on Race and Diversity was established by Joel Seligman after the protest that took place here on campus in November in response to a series of events that were particularly troubling, that tended to focus around a social website called Yik Yak. Some of you maybe familiar with it. Yik Yak which is an anonymous social media website and some of the posts on that website were particularly offensive. Offensive is not a strong enough word, some of them were actually threatening. Students in the college, particularly the Black Students Union, the Minority Student Advisory Board, and the Douglass Leadership House took the initiative to sound the alarm as it were, and presented the President with a series of issues and concerns and petitions for certain actions.
The commission has been very, very hardworking, meeting on a weekly basis to address some of these issues and in anticipation of preparing a preliminary assessment, which we will provide to the President at the end of this month. I will turn to my co-chair, Rich Feldman, and ask him just to provide a little bit of detail about the commission and its work. We will ask President Seligman, who has been attending these meetings to offer a few comments before we hear your comments, because what we really want to do is to hear from you. We want you to use this opportunity. We can learn from this. It’s very important that your experiences are reflected in the considerations of the issue of race and diversity on campus.
There are basically four issues that we have been looking at. Those issues include, please tell us about the climate on campus as you have experienced it and as you understand it. What is there on our campus that is particularly helpful or useful to ameliorating some of the dilemmas or some of the dimensions of unhelpfulness to a healthy environment? What are the things that we really need to pay attention to that do not work well at all? Finally, what do you suggest the university needs to do? We need an army here on this matter and everyone of us in this room have a role to play, we believe, in making this happen. This is not something the president solve. This is not something that Dean Feldman solve or [inaudible 00:04:42] solves but it’s something that all of us work together on.
Let me turn it over to Dean Feldman but before I do, I just want to mention that Jim Goodman, who is a reporter from The Democrat and Chronicle is here, and he has attended a number of the town hall meetings. Jim, if you just raise your hand please, so people know who you are. Jim, you may see his iPhone come up and he may take a picture or he may ask you for a release if he wants to get a quote from you, so Jim is here also. Now let me turn it over to Rich.
Dean Feldman: Thanks, Paul. I’ll be very brief because as Paul said, the goal of this meeting is for us all to hear from you and for us to engage in a discussion, but let me just say a few words about the commission and our work and how it connects, a little bit with how it connects with the original protests from the students in the college. The protests from the students and the set of petitions or demands actually, that they made very largely focused on issues in the college, and to a great extent they are being addressed by the college.
The commission that President Seligman appointed has been asked to take a much broader look at issues of race and diversity throughout the university. That’s why we’re having these town hall meetings with all the different divisions to learn about what the life is like and what kinds of issues, questions, comments you might have.
I think a couple of things that deserve comment, for our Commission on Race and Diversity, the students who led the initial protests were very much focused on issues of race. I think questions of race are our first priority but all issues of diversity are on the table, are under up for discussion and we want to hear about all aspects of diversity not just about race. We do want to make sure we don’t lose that focus on race, which so much moved the students to raise there the issues that they have.
The second thing about the commission, we’ve been asked to look at issues of race and diversity throughout the university and at all levels. Questions about students, about staff, and about faculty are all up for discussion and we will tackle them overtime. Our initial focus has been on students and that’s where we’re starting but we will extend our scope, our approach over time.
One other thing that the commission has done and I think will prove extremely valuable to us as we go forward. We’ve asked the representative … the people, not representatives, the members of the commission from the various schools, to compile an inventory of the offices, programs, activities going on in their different units that are focused on issues about race and diversity. That’s all been compiled and pulled together and it’s an extraordinary large list. I mean, there’s lots and lots of things happening and I think we will learn from that. We ll see where there’s points of similarity, perhaps where there’s room for collaboration among the schools.
We may learn about best practices and where we can learn from one another. We may see things that are not happening that should be happening. There’s a lot to learn but I think this inventory will be a really helpful thing for us as we move forward.
What else? I think those are some of the key points, with that I hope we can just turn, unless you guys have other introductory … President Seligman, you have some introductory comments, please.
Pres. Seligman: We’re here to listen, that’s what this is really about. This is a university which is committed to what we call “Ever better,” which means continuous improvement and we could do that in terms of race relations and diversity on this campus. We’ve made some progress but this is a never-ending type of quest.
I was particularly inspired to create this commission for one reason that perhaps deserves an underline. Some of our students, in part because of references in Yak’s or Yik Yak communications, were feeling some fear. There were truly ugly messages contained there, and some not just to students but occasionally faculty and staff, not just on this campus, have talked directly or indirectly to me about a sense of marginalization. I don’t want either one of those to be a reality. We’re a university which prides ourselves of being a family, of being inclusive, of learning from each other.
No one at this meeting or any of the other town hall meetings should have any anxiety that if he or she speaks out , there’s no need to fear. You’re going to help us by being part of the solution as well. Don’t worry about hurting our feelings. If there’s things you want to be critical of, it’s important we hear them.
The board here has three of the four questions that I post to the commission and the fourth one is worth also underlining, “What are your recommendations? What are ways we can improve, that we need to improve?” We have heard some wonderful ideas at the other schools we’ve attended, as I think Paul either you said, and I apologize I wasn’t listening a carefully as I should have, at the beginning or it is communicated elsewhere, there will be two reports from this commission.
An initial one, January 31st, with preliminary or interim recommendations focusing on students. Then subsequently and probably about the end of the semester, after some survey of large numbers of faculty and staff has been completed, there’ll be a report which will not only focus on students but the faculty and staff.
Let me just finally reflect my gratitude that you’ve joined us today, to take part in what is an important conversation and reassure you, to the extent you need such reassurance, that in academic time to create a commission like this, maybe just a few weeks before the winter holiday and expect an initial report by January 31 is moving at warp speed. The reason we’re moving at warp speed is these are serious issues and deserve our focused attention.
Dean Feldman: Thank you. I was going to say that I looked in the calendar and noted that January 31st is a Sunday and I got the sensation this morning that the report could be on February 1st.
Dean Burgett: What you need to know is that the president is in his office on a Sunday afternoon.
Pres. Seligman: It’s true for you, Paul.
Dean Burgett: With me it’s true.
Nancy: All right, thanks all of you. We’ll open it up to questions. These are the questions that all of the town hall meetings have addressed, we’ll open it to the floor. If you do have a question, would you please come up here.
Dean Burgett: A question or comment.
Dean Burgett: Or a lived experience, telling us something about … One of the things we’ve heard in the various town hall, people have gotten up and said, “This is what happened to me.” That’s been very, very interesting and very instructive. Your own lived experience and your own personal story is very important to us as well.
Nancy: Who wants to break the ice?
Dean Burgett: It’s always hard to get the first.
Nancy: I know.
Dean Burgett: If you get the first …
Nancy: Let’s just wait.
Dean Feldman: Jeff.
Dean Burgett: Yes, please.
Nancy: Jeff, come on up here.
Jeff: Come up, Jesus.
Nancy: We’ll make it even harder.
Dean Burgett: Don’t take this personal.
Jeff: No, I’m not.
Nancy: Sorry, we don’t have the wireless mike.
Dean Burgett: It’s okay.
Jeff: The wireless mike. One of the things is-
Dean Burgett: Tell us who you are.
Jeff: I’m Jeff Choppin. I’m a member of teaching faculty, teaching curriculum focusing on math education. One of the things that strikes me as I think about this … Sorry, I always get emotional with these things. All right, is how you can speak about culture but I don’t know how you get beyond just focusing on a culture or a place if there’s such a small percentage of people who are students of color or faculty of color. I’m curious about what efforts are made to increase the diversity for the member of faculty of color and students on campus. I don’t think … It’s hard not to feel marginalized when you’re 5%.
Dean Burgett: Good.
Nancy: The questions aren’t necessarily focused up here. Anybody can comment on that.
Dean Burgett: Feel free to use your note card if you don’t want to …
Nancy: Or write it down.
Dean Burgett: Physically, if you don’t want to …
Pres. Seligman: You know, I think that does deserve a comment. Maybe if you talk a little bit about what we’re doing with faculty. It would be great if we had, for example Jonathan Burdick here, who is in-charge of admissions [inaudible 00:15:13], maybe Rich might want to talk on his behalf about what we’re doing with students and by way of illustration in the school and it’s the largest number.
Dean Burgett: Let’s bring it up here, Vivian, because that’s where the tape recorder is.
Vivian: You’re right. My understanding is you’re asking, maybe it’s two things you’re asking, what are we doing to bring in more faculty of color and what can we do to help people who are here now feel more included, or at least that’s my interpretation.
What are we doing to recruit more faculty of color? Those efforts take place largely within the schools who are responsible, of course for hiring. Schools that use search committees a lot are trying to do a better job of standardizing. I know that here in the Warner School there’s a great emphasis placed on process, in terms of hiring so that there is a broad pool. We do our best to try to attract and choose people who are an inclusive group of people.
Our office centrally tries to support all of the schools in their efforts to hire more diverse group of faculty, both through providing list of potential candidates, through providing resource materials about the Rochester Community, which of course is far more diverse than our own university, and through providing training if that’s desired on process. We also have a fund to help support schools who lack the monetary resources to completely pay for hiring a faculty who increase our diversity. That’s on the hiring end.
On making people feel more included, that is at least as challenging as it is to get people here. We, along with human resources have some affinity groups for some minority populations that are partly staffed but in fact he also participate. We have events to promote dialog and to promote sharing of cultures from around … different cultures from around the university. We have networking events which we heavily outreach to populations that are less represented here. We do what we can but that said, of course in your day to day professional life it is often challenging to not feel excluded, or conversely to feel included, fully included. We’ve certainly heard plenty of that from students in the town hall meetings. Hopefully that answered it.
Nancy: Thank you.
Jeff: I guess I just … Part of what makes me emotional is the human cost is tremendous.
Vivian: Some of the stories we’ve heard are really heartbreaking about what people have experienced. That, I think to Paul’s point is where we’re all responsible because it can be impossible. Certainly in some disciplines and in some areas to truly get a critical mass of people from underrepresented groups. No matter what composition or diversity you achieve, if you don’t treat people well they’re going to feel marginalized. It is our biggest challenge at the moment, I think.
Nancy: Can I just tag on to that? Anyway you talked about recruitment. When we talk about creating a critical mass that’s definitely important. We can’t underestimate the power of that but in the process of doing that we still have people coming to a predominantly white institution, students and faculty and staff. One thing I’d like to hear about or have us think about is, “What do we do as a majority white campus to not make people feel excluded?”
For me, it’s looking at how do I understand underrepresented person’s experience? How do I make sure I’m not doing things unconsciously that make people uncomfortable or that they don’t belong? This is something we tried at Warner and we’re always going to have to work on it, is flipping the script and saying, “What is it about us that can be more welcoming and more inclusive?” Rather than, “How can we get people here to increase demographic diversity?” I’d like to think about putting the onus on ourselves and I think Vivian started to think about that too but it’s a different conversation than sometimes I hear us having.
Dean Feldman: I’ll speak briefly about these issues as they arise in the college. I know this is a Warner School meeting so I don’t want to take a lot of time on college issues here, but we do a great deal to try to attract and retain students, underrepresented minority students. The numbers are in the vicinity of the ones you say, 5%, 6% black students, similar number of Hispanic students, a great many international students. If you look at it across all dimensions of diversity, the undergraduate college is really quite diverse.
I was just at a meeting yesterday, as was Paul, where we discussed Native Americans and what we do in order to try to attract students, Native American students. We do a lot, from my perspective a lot of that has to do with … There’s two things and Jon Burdick, the Dean of Admissions could speak more directly to some of these but it’s where we recruit, how we promote ourselves, where we reach out to students, and he does a great deal to get us connected to schools from which we can attract minority students. But a great deal of that turns on what it is the community that they come to, what the educational opportunities are once they get here and what’s available to them when they’re here.
Jon and I talk all the time. He can’t attract students unless there’s a college that they come to that has programs that they want. We can’t have the programs they want unless he interacts with students that make it all work. It really is a collaborative relationship.
Just to name a few things that we have in the college and to then open up the discussion more broadly. Stephan, mentioned the Kearns Center, the full name of that is the David Kearns Center for Leadership and Diversity in Art Sciences and Engineering. That’s a extremely successful unit in the college but focused on pipeline programs of all kinds. It works now with high school students in Upward Bound Program. We’d see these kids, encouraging them to go on to college with great success.
It works with large numbers of our students, our undergraduate students and our main focus, one of their … where they originated actually was as the McNair Program, which is encouraging undergraduate students to go on to graduate schools and academic careers. They work with graduate students trying to increase the diversity and support graduate students, to increase the diversity of our graduate student population and to support their success as they go on into academic or other careers.
I like to boast, Beth Olivarez, the Director of the center, was recognized this past fall by President Obama for leadership for her work as a mentor in stem field with students. She’s a really strong leader and her programs deserve national, get and deserve national recognition.
We have the Office of Minority Student Affairs that provides a great deal of support for students. Paul mentioned that the Douglass Leadership House was involved in the protest that led to this. That’s recently established living unit on the fraternity quad designed to be supportive of our minority students. Then I should mention … You’re not wearing-
Dean Burgett: I’m not wearing it.
Dean Feldman: He’s not wearing the vest today but we recently established the Paul J. Burgett into cultural center on campus designed to support programming that brings different groups of students together. To my mind, in the college it’s great that we have this diverse student population but that’s just the first step. What makes it valuable is when students interact and learn from one another and we take advantage of the diversity we have and the intercultural center is designed to do that. Being called a center has been a little bit of a trouble for a while because there really wasn’t a place but there will be. The Frederick Douglass Building is being renovated now and it will include space that will be the Burgett Intercultural Center when that reopens in September.
We’re not, we’re far from perfect. There’s obviously issues but we’re working very hard to try to address the kinds of questions you raise. I’ll stop there.
We’ll move to Tony, to take a chance too.
Dean Burgett: Tony. Tony, go ahead.
Tony: I’m going to make this quick. I just wanted to say that I’ve been here for just under a year and we’re doing a number of things, that I hope will be fruitful with regard to the way that we look for staff. One of the things that we’re already doing is making sure that when we go out for a high-level search, that the search firm that we use has a statement about diversity and is asked to bring us a diverse pool of candidates. That’s part in partial of what we’re doing.
The other thing I wanted to tell you is that having been here for less than a year, I came from Cleveland which has a substantial black population, and one of the things that I looked at and I think that can be encouraging to others, is that the great legacy of this city, which is around Frederick Douglass and Susan B. Anthony. Because when we honor folks like that we honor those folks who have contributed greatly to this country, and to diversity, and to the way that we actually operate and move now.
Those things were encouraging to me when I started looking up Rochester and those are things I use now when I go out and recruit other minorities to this area. It’s just that we don’t … but then, once you get here you don’t hear as much about it. Fortunately, the University of Rochester has Douglass Hall and there are other vestiges around Susan B. Anthony and others, but those things are encouraging to those of us who start looking at Rochester as a place to live. I think can continue to be if we utilize those kinds of things, but there’s a lot of were going to be doing with regard to recruiting a diverse group of staff.
One thing that … I had some experience with before and that we’re starting to work on as a supplier of diversity programs. One of the things that came out of that, as a by-product of that, when we did this in Cleveland, was the university started seeing a higher quality, a higher level, and a higher number of minority students applying for class. When we checked further into it and dug into it, it had to do with the change in reputation of the university and that people were looking at it and saying, “Hey, this is a place that’s open for all.” Part of that had to do with just discussions in the neighborhood about the fact that I do business with this organization.
A lot of things make a difference, that maybe you don’t look at it initially as making a difference. We got a higher number and a better quality of minority applicants to our positions because we were able to say that we were winning awards for supplying diversity. All these things play a part and I think that we have to do all of that and I know that … I just want you to know we’re working on all of that. Thank you.
Nancy: I appreciate his being so honest and vulnerable and I hope that opens up a space for others to come up and share whatever it is that you want to talk about, comments or questions.
Dean Burgett: I’d like to just make a comment about something very important that Dr. L said with regards to the issue of safety. Safety is actually what drove, the issues of safety is what drove the actions that you see going on with the commission right now. By recognizing, I think we all recognize the importance of creating safe spaces for people to be themselves and to articulate what’s going on in their minds or what’s going on in their own experiences.
In our efforts to be prompt and to be responsive and reactive we have chosen to conduct these town hall meetings, but that’s not to say that out of our commission’s work, there might not come ideas about how to gather information in ways that it speak to what it was talking about, because that’s very, very … What he said is very, very, real and I speak to that as someone who has been associated with the university for a very, very long time, as a student, as a member of the faculty in the Music Department, and as university officer, who happens to be a person of color.
I can relate to that and I think almost everybody in this room can relate to the importance of safety, not only as it goes to like Yik Yak, which is important but also as it goes to what Dr. L was talking about, his own sense of safety and security around his lived experience, and where it is okay to say that. Awaiting tenure, to feel safe to do, to say what he has to say. I think it’s fair to say that we take that very seriously. I think the president takes that seriously and we have a lot of work to do.
Dean Feldman: Just very quickly I’ll answer that. The point that this is a difficult place for people to say something is surely well taken but we do plan focus groups. There will be surveys, there are other ways for information to come to us and we keep thinking about that. I’m sure in our next meeting that point will be taken into account as we think out as well, but I hope others will now speak.
Stephan: I’m Stephan again, PhD student here at the Warner School. I think there’s a lot of efforts that legitimize us as a place that embraces inclusivity and a place that talks about diversity. But my experience as a student, particularly as a graduate student here has always been a place where it’s sort of isolated and it’s the elephant that no one really wants to talk about. I’m not just talking about like sort of being African-American or being Latino, I’m also talking about having conversations that revolve around whiteness in the classroom, and whiteness as it relates to leadership, or whiteness as it relates to teaching in the school district.
We don’t have those conversations. We don’t engage in that sort of scholarship and discourse. What that does is sort of permeates for me as a student into the actual everyday that I spent on Warner. It’s sort of one of those conversations we could sit in the upstairs in one of the classrooms with all the windows. You can see which students are getting called to go to places, which students get e-mails and you can see who’s showing up and who’s not showing up. What you don’t see are the students of color who don’t come in here.
For a lot of us the conversation is, “Well, it’s just not a place where they sort of ask us to come to. It’s not a place where they open the door and they allow us access to all the time. It’s not a place where they ask us to be part of things or have intentional conversations.” We don’t intentionally engage in things but we will, sort of be the ceremonial place and say, “Well, we are a place of social justice so we may have a class that talks about diversity.”
That’s great but not everybody signed up to take that class that talks about diversity. Sometimes in that class on diversity we don’t talk about race diversity, we’re talking about all the other types of diversity there are. That’s important but I also think for a lot of us, it’s the conversation of being sort of alone and being the elephant in the room, even if you are in a room that’s mostly filled with students of color. Because other times there maybe that one person who won’t want you to talk about that one issue that they really don’t want to have that conversation about, I think.
Sometimes there are days where I go home and I’m in class and I’m just sort of like, “Wow, that was a class I paid money to attend,” and I left feeling like I was a bad, bad person or that I was not heard, that I was not appreciated to be in this sort of space. I think that’s a very real conversation when I begin to talk about my experiences sort of as a doc student. Thank you.
Pres. Seligman: I’m Joel. Let me follow up what … This the first meeting I’ve ever attended where I felt like the elephant in the room. I don’t want to in any way intimidate anyone or in any way reduce the comfort that you will have with the conversation. I’m going to leave that to my remark now but I simply want to say, “You don’t make progress here unless you’re willing to talk candidly about problems.”
One of the things the commission has done to its credit has been to reach out and hold a number of town hall meetings but it’s also important to appreciate that each one of you can make written comments here that will not be read aloud. Each one of you can e-mail the commission. There will be private meetings. The experience of Dr. L is one and it is not [inaudible 00:34:40] and it’s one I was not aware of before. It’s not the same in every minority faculty member’s experience in every school.
I don’t know all of the dimensions of what’s occurred here but at the end of the day this is hard. Race relations in this country has always been hard. Sometimes referred to as the American tragedy following the title of the famous [inaudible 00:35:14], a study from decades ago. I think there is a consensus we want to make progress here and I’ve always believed you made progress first by listening.
In this case, apparently, for the Warner School we did directly and it’s fine too, but we have a commission and it has people of goodwill. They come from every school, there’re students, faculty and staff, they’re going to wrestle with this. I’m going to look forward to their recommendations. I know this will not be Nirvana on February 1st. We can’t simply turn the light switch and make everything as good as we like to but we’ll keep making progress.
The thing that keeps troubling me more than anything else, is I simply do not come to serve at a university where people live in fear or feel marginalized. In every university I’ve ever taught at, the student had … there had been some but if I can do my part to help with this I intend to do it. I know Paul and Rich and Vivian and Tony and the other people on the commission intend to do it.
I ask you simply to remember though, we’re doing this not just for 5% of our students, we’re doing it for a 100%. There are other minority races. There are international students and frankly, have struggles when they come here. There are Islamic students in our campus now who feel personally attacked. In the presidential election discourse Latino students feel personally attacked.
It’s a tough world out there but we are an institution which why we’re moving to connect to our community, also to provide a [inaudible 00:37:15] and to be better in several space in the society who help us and be a role model for it. That’s what I hope we’ll take further steps to achieve. Forgive me, I don’t mean to be brood but usually this means … but if this helps further open up the conversation, and people feel more comfortable speaking or communicating otherwise, please know you do so without fear.
This is not an instance where anyone should view this as an opportunity to call people out and ostracize them. This is an opportunity to be part of helping us understand the problems and making progress.
Nancy: Thank you. Two thoughts, my understanding is that Dr.L’s experience is not uncommon. I know it’s not limited to the Warner School and I think we need to take his honesty seriously. If you don’t hear about those stories it’s probably because you’re not in a place to hear them or it’s not feeling safe for someone to be that honest.
The other thing about doing this for a 100% of our students is we also need to definitely keep in mind we’re doing this for white students and white faculty and white staff because we’re essentially the ones with the power and we are the ones that need to really foment the change from my point of view. That’s my comment but we have 40 minutes still, please come on up, or if you have cards you want to submit we’re happy to [inaudible 00:39:03].
Najoni: Hi, my name is Najoni [inaudible 00:39:08]. I am a PhD student in higher ed. I’m also connected to RT’s Office for Diversity and Inclusion and was the former director of the Native American Program. I come to this town hall meeting with a unique perspective, in very much a lot of ways an outside perspective. I’m also teaching the Diversity and Equity Course at Warner this term.
Something that we met for the first time last night, with students speaking about this diversity on college campuses need to be integrated throughout, not just a campus culture climate but through the institutional structures. I’m hearing a lot about things that are going on, trying to get together a list of programs that are happening, not hearing very much about people’s actual experiences.
Hopefully we can but I would really like to hear in what intentional and transformative ways is this going to be addressed. Because coming up with a list of programs that are happening is not going to do anything, it’s not going to change the way that students, staff, faculty feel on campuses.
My adviser left, a faculty of color, last year and I can say she is the one person who is driving me through this degree. To see her leave and also the pain that she felt through that process, incredibly difficult. My work is on Native American students in Higher Education. We’re a small community more often and almost always overlooked.
I want to hear more about what is intentionally happening, where as Nancy has mentioned, them onus isn’t on and the expectation for student, staff, faculty of color to come up here and talk about how they’ve experienced the campus climate here. But it needs to be switched to what as an institution is … What can we do? How is this reflected in HR practices in ways that we build that human capacity? In ways that whether that’s in, and people would probably be very upset, that diversity is a part of your review? Because that is what each and everyone of us, that’s our responsibility.
I hope that really something comes out of this and that there are substantial and transformative changes that can be met. Thank you.
Dean Burgett: [Inaudible 00:46:54], I think that what you have just offered us is a very interesting … We didn’t record it as you asked us not to but what I found so interesting in what she said, was taking the effort and turning it upside down on its head. I think that was just a brilliant, absolutely brilliant observation.
The concept of opportunity hoarding is … I’ve not heard that term before but it’s like my head sort of exploded in just hearing you say that, but I would expect nothing less from an eminent scholar. Thank you, even though we didn’t record it I assure you that that is a concept that is really important and deserving of attention in the discussions going forward.
I want to thank you for just reshaping the thinking of the conversation and you’re doing that helps to make this so important. I think it’s really essential for us, in my case as co-chair of this commission, to affirm that absolutely.
Dean Burgett: Yes. Any other comments that anyone would like to make? Please.
Nathan: Yes, I’m new in the community, a new faculty member. I’m getting used to the Rochester winter.
Dean Burgett: Are you willing to come up and …
Dean Burgett: You’re doing a good job getting used to Rochester winter with what you have on your head.
Nathan: Precisely, right.
Good afternoon everyone. My name is Nathan Harris. I’m a new faculty here at the Warner School. I was invited to be a faculty to study issues of higher education leadership administration governance. Organization theory I suppose is the main conceptual ones through which I view my work and my interest. With that context, maybe not surprising, let me ask the question, I’m curious to know what the commission and everybody’s thoughts are, the use of space on campus.
Universities are highly institutionalized environment, and so far as their certain symbols and cultures that we hold dear and because of it are we willing to trumpify aspects of campus like other large organizations might. We have a lot of brick buildings that are only two-storeys because it looks like it’s straight out of central casting, and that’s what we want because that’s what a college campus looks like.
With that said, I’m curious to know, what are thoughts with respect to the use of space on campus? I would imagine that this intersects the issues and thoughts and perceptions of undergraduate students in particular. I’ll bet there are certain spaces on campus that especially look like they’re on a central casting and that there seemed to be of servicing certain segments of campus and not other segments of campus. I’ll be curious to know what people’s thoughts are on the use of space? Thank you.
Dean Burgett: Thoughts? Maybe I could kick it off, the issue … My first thought as I … Tell me your name again.
Dean Burgett: Nathan. Well, we got donuts there over there. We got places to eat and that’s over there. There are certain traditional settings as you point it out in your opening remarks but there’s also some political issues associated with the allocation of space. For instance in 1999, there was a seat-in by minority students in the administration building what we call Wallis Hall, which is one of the oddest buildings on campus. Unfriendliest buildings in my view, because it turns its back on the campus, doesn’t it?
But one of the things that the student points, that the students make was that the Office of Minority Student Affairs was then located in, on the tunnel level, on the basement. They made the point that if the university was serious about advancing the idea of support for minority students it needed to move that office out of the basement in to better space, indeed we did just that. We moved it out of the basement and into Murray Hall. On the third floor of Murray Hall as you walk in to off of the Eastern quadrant.
There are political issues associated with the allocation of space that can attempt to speak to some of these issues. Brick and mortar is very expensive stuff, as a priority the university has to be very careful about the allocation of its resources with respect to the allocation of space and the construction of space. It’s not like that other person you mentioned who likes to go straight up and has got the resources to be able to do that.
Let me ask my colleague here.
Dean Feldman: Sure. I’ll just say a little. Space, in my role, space is a, it’s a very challenging issue. You don’t want to get into issues about classrooms and faculty office space. It’s a challenge and you want more and everybody wants more and it’s a competition for space. It is, it really is, it’s political in the sense that you’re making decisions about how to allocate space and various considerations come to the forefront.
In this context I just do want to mention two things about space that are salient and again, I’m speaking from the perspective of the undergraduate college. It’s now four years ago, I believe, maybe initial decision was made five years ago to locate the Douglass Leadership House in one of the buildings on the fraternity quad. These are called academic living centers but this was in the life of the college.
This was a very big deal and it has significant statement and not without controversy, that the students living there have been enormously successful. They were renewed last year and there’s further thought about what their future will be but I think it’s quite secure, but that was a big deal. Other students react to that and it made a statement. I’m glad we made the statement that we did.
Another one I mentioned early in the hour, that there will be the Burgett Intercultural Center in a renovated Frederick Douglass Building. Well, that too were lots of discussions and there’s lots of things and lots of good ideas for what might happen there but decision-
Dean Burgett: You’re not going to take my name off of it?
Dean Feldman: We are not. We are not. We are not. No, but-
Speaker 12: You better wear that vest next time.
Dean Burgett: Right.
Dean Feldman: But it’s just really tackled your, I think your main point. These are very significant decisions. They make statements. They have an impact on, I think, how one perceives the campus. I’m very pleased that the way the Frederick Douglass Building, is very likely to go, it’s going to be at the heart of student life on campus.
There’s going to be, almost surely a bridge from the library into the building that will be a main thoroughfare for students. They will walk into there and there’ll be a kind of open area with the center right offside, it’s adjacent to it. This center will be a place that every undergraduate will just pass by, will be aware of what’s happening there and it will became a central focus of student life on campus.
To me … There’s limits to what we can actually do as administrators. We can set the stage for students to be able to do things but then they’re going to do what they do but the space makes a huge difference to how that’s perceived and understood. I think you’re right.
Dean Burgett: Since we have a room of a faculty I’m going to share a thought with you about, and Rich just mentioned the Douglass Leadership House. It’s something that occurred to me. There are sacred spaces in any community and sacred spaces for varying reasons. Rich mentioned the fraternity quad. The fraternity quadrangle has housed, historically there are nine house there. Historically nine houses that were among the earliest fraternity houses in the university, and the very first one, the Alpha Delta, the Alpha Delta Phi House for example.
In the 1960’s, with the decline in interest in fraternity and sorority life because the 60’s were after all the 60’s, weren’t they, Rich? Two of the fraternities went away and some interlopers came in, the Drama House and something called the Medieval House. They were not fraternity and sorority houses and having been the Dean of Student, University Dean of Students here for 13 years, I had to deal with and Rich now has to deal with me, some of the tensions associated with non-Greek houses in a scared space.
Well, imagine if you will, an institution which was, was and its from its founding it, a white institution, a male institution, to have now an interloper, a black student house on the fraternity quad in that sacred space. Not that everyone objects to it but I want to go to the idea of hoarding opportunities that [inaudible 01:00:07] first commented about. That sacred space there has, because of its history the hoarding of opportunities on the fraternity quad.
We have the Drama House which now has been, there’s since about 71 or 72, you kind of grudgingly accept that. Next to it you have this DLH house, Douglass Leadership House in which probably the majority of students are African-American students, right? Here you have these interlopers who are who they are in the sacred space that had been created from its beginning for white male students. I think that’s sort of a dramatic instance, a dramatic example of the hoarding opportunities, that Dr. M talked about.
That, as I think about, our struggle with dealing with that, as I think about the Yik Yak posts which attacked students who live in the DLH house. My own, I’m a musician, right? I’m a musician but I’m also a sociologist without portfolio, that’s what I like to call myself. As I think more deeply about, as I get past Charlie Parker and Johann Sebastian Bach and get into some of the sociology of what’s going on there, it occurs to me that it behooves us to think critically about what’s really going on there. If we don’t recognize those hoarded opportunities we miss it. We miss an important opportunity for ourselves.
Speaker 13: All right, hi, I’m [inaudible 01:01:58], again I’m an associate professor here at the Warner School. I think I’d like to raise for the commission to think about how the institution supports research around race, diversity, equity, those kinds of things. I think this is important for a number of reasons. One, is because there are people on campus who do work in this area that we should be learning from as we think about how we might change or develop leaders, and how we might connect with students both undergrads and graduate students.
I also think that there’s a way that we can show our commitment to this work by promoting it, by promoting it and creating interconnections among people who do this work and could learn from each other, whether it’s someone at the Warner School or someone at the medical center, who are dealing with some of the similar kinds of issues around micro-aggression or whatever it is and we can build our knowledge base.
But a third, especially important, important area, is that this research is really hard to get supported outside. I can get my work on accountability policies and social networks funded much more easily than I can get my work on segregation and racial issues amongst school districts. That’s a problem because it’s back to the opportunity hoarding. We have resources that go to certain bodies of work that don’t go to others and we can sometimes get small grants through foundation, but you’re still not able to do the scale of the work, or to share it to so many needed as broadly.
If the institution itself, if we, at the university can think about ways that we could support that work, we could have a better chance, I think, of doing the really strong work that needs to be done and learning from it.
Thomas: Good afternoon. My name is Thomas Noel and I’m a doctorate student in education leadership and I also teach here, mostly masters and some doctoral level courses.
There’s two things that I want to [inaudible 01:01:01] for discuss. The first is to extend some of the conversation on systemic things. I have a unique or I had a unique position in that I lived with undergraduates at the University of Rochester and I worked for the Residential Life Department. I think, I’m about to share a practical, what I would think is a sort of practical observation.
I’ve been here almost six years and I’ve seen the undergraduates turnover and what I think is really interesting, is that the issues that so many undergraduates were facing six years ago still exists and they’re gone. That would suggest to me that it’s not just specifically those people, that there’s something larger that’s happening.
Secondly, I think it’s really important because I noticed in the last couple of years there’s been a promotion and support for the university’s public safety. I think that many undergraduates, and I’ll speak for some of the men of color, have not had positive experiences with public safety or university security in its previous time. I think that that really needs to be addressed by the commission. I will say it again, it needs to be addressed.
I have had issues with university security at the time, now public safety, and I think that it’s really important because it sends certain messages. I think that the training, how we select, I mean, we’re talking about faculty diversity and selecting staff. We need to focus on how we’re selecting officers, public safety officers who carry violent means of, I’m not saying that they’re violent but they carry for protection, or to protect. I think it’s really interesting because that may not signal … that does not signal to everyone’s safety. I think depending on one’s background and where they come from, what they’ve experienced, it may not.
I think areas around their training specifically to what a college student looks like, I think is really important, or what a U of R student looks like. I just wanted to bring that up because I think it’s really important, in my personal experiences and then some experiences of other undergraduates on this campus, particularly people of color have not had the most positive experiences with public safety. I really like that to be noted and looked into.
Dean Feldman: Thank you. Just very briefly, I acknowledge that. I mean, I’ve heard such issues from students over time. This is entirely, separately from the commission Paul and I chair. We both are sitting on another commission that’s looking to some issues connected with public safety and that topic has come up there as well.
It is an issue and I will say that Mark Fisher, who heads public safety is very much wanting, interested in issues of training and wanting to improve relationships that public safety officers have with students. I think he actually has made a good deal of progress, which is not to say there’s not more progress to be made.
Dean Burgett: I’m just going to add that the public safety issue that Thomas, that you mentioned is one of that particularly for people of color, especially male people of color.
Speaker 15: Females too.
Dean Burgett: Females too, but particularly in the context of the last 18 months in the United States has restimulated in a significant way the lived experiences that many of us have had. Even though I’m 967 years old it restimulates all of that in me as well. Things that happened, microaggressions but macroaggressions that have happened to many of us, and I include myself. The work of the Commission on Security on public safety is very coordinated and absolutely must address that particular issue.
Nancy: Any more questions or comments? I want to make sure I give time for someone to say, “Yes, I have a comment.” One second.
To sum things that we’re going to do based on what we’ve been learning from the commission town halls, but also from the list of demands that the students gave to President Seligman, where things really hit the road between faculty and students, or staff and students, students and students.
We’re going to do a series of focus groups starting with students again, and the questions will be around one of the demands about essentially professional development for everybody about implicit bias, microaggressions, explicit vibes, racism, and hopefully we’ll be able to add some of the institutional structural things that people at Warner seem to really hold near and dear.
The idea is to go forward to make a safer place for one, where you’re not talking in front of a whole audience and a camera but in a smaller group. Talking not about your own experiences necessarily but about what we can do, specifically and practically as individuals to make change. Look for that, for Warner students we’re going to be recruiting people who can run focus groups. If you’re interested we would certainly appreciate knowing that. I guess, Stephan, has some final things to just say before we want to wrap up.
Stephan: Just as we sort of conclude, I hope to thank all of you for coming out and being part of, the members in our community, and be part of the conversation. I hope this is the start of a future dialog as we continue to talk about these issues more open. Please, if you want to make use of the remarks card, make sure Nancy or I get the cards, sort of on your way out. We’ll make sure your comments are shared with the commission. Then I hope you guys have the rest of the day, hope it doesn’t now anymore.
Dean Burgett: You might mention also that the tape will be transcribed and the transcription will be uploaded to our website. I’ll also say that we have an e-mail address that Rich and I read for people who want to send us messages privately. We respond to those and it’s firstname.lastname@example.org. Your welcome to communicate with us that way as well. On behalf of Rich and the commission, on all of us on the commission, I want to thank you for taking time out of a very, very busy day that you all have and sharing that time with us. Thank you.
Nancy: Thank you.
Dean Feldman: Thank you.