New Task Force on Equity and Inclusion to meet Friday

Photo by McKenna Oxenden mckenna.oxenden@marquette.edu

Photo by McKenna Oxenden mckenna.oxenden@marquette.edu

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University President Michael Lovell is holding the first meeting for the Task Force on Equity and Inclusion, that he announced in last week’s State of the University Address, on Friday.

Staff, students, faculty and community members will be represented in the group and co-chaired by a faculty member, staff member and student. Lovell personally invited 38 people to participate, including four students.

Several student groups voiced concerns to Lovell regarding issues of inclusion and discriminatory violence on campus last semester. In his address, Lovell cited the students’ concerns as the primary motivation for his creation of the task force.

“I met with a lot of students who really felt when they were on campus that they didn’t really feel a part of the fabric on campus,” Lovell said.

Esther Aviles, a student member of the task force, chair of the Marquette Student Government Committee on Diversity, Inclusion & Social Justice and freshman in the College of Arts & Sciences, said she thinks the group will be significant in making a change.

“The fact that he’s taking an interest in our voice is super important,” Aviles said. “I’m really hopeful that he’ll actually listen.”

The Ad Hoc Coalition of and for Students of Color and the Native American Student Association were among the groups that presented concerns to the president. Each group laid out specific recommendations for steps they hope to see taken to improve equity and inclusion on campus. The students expressed the urgency of their requests and said they are hopeful for change.

Problems and suggestions brought to the president’s attention varied from academic to social to policy issues. The list featured suggestions such as expanding the core curriculum to require courses that directly address relevant issues of privilege and oppression, bringing more students and faculty of underrepresented, diverse backgrounds to the university and to better train faculty, administration, staff, new students and service learners in how to end discriminatory violence at Marquette.

The Ad Hoc Coalition of and for Students of Color defined discriminatory violence as “physical harassment, language, exclusion or imagery that targets an individual or group based upon their race/gender/sex/class/national or cultural identities.” The group proposed an anonymous submission option for the university’s bias incident report system as a step toward a campus with a zero tolerance policy for discrimination.

Lovell expressed his dedication to improvements in these areas during his speech last week.

“We really need to do better,” Lovell said about issues relating to diversity and discrimination on campus.

In his overview of the Task Force on Equity and Inclusion, Lovell said the work will consist of a “series of projects intended to create a transformational pathway toward a more inclusive campus.”

The Climate Study currently being conducted will aid in gauging student perceptions of life on campus, according to Cheryl Maratano, co-chair of the climate study working group.

Two existing committees at Marquette, the Diversity Advisory Committee and the University Academic Senate Committee on Diversity and Equity, will guide the direction of the task force based on the related work that they have already done on campus.

Jean Grow, chair of the university academic senate committee on diversity and equity and associate professor in the College of Communication, said she is encouraged by President Lovell’s initiation of this task force.

“I cannot think of a more pressing issue at Marquette,” Grow said. “Marquette needs to reflect the community we live in and the diverse world students will be working in.”

William Welburn, associate provost for diversity and inclusion and chair of the diversity advisory committee, expressed how timely and necessary he feels such a task force is for Marquette.

“We recognized in 2014 some things about ourselves as a society,” Welburn said. “The lessons we’ve learned about the consequences of inequality and injustice have been painful. As a university, we need to reassert our relevance in seeking solutions to societal ills.”

Welburn said he sees Friday’s task force meeting as an opportunity for the university to take a step forward to “bring (the Marquette) community together, to make sure that we walk the talk of human dignity and diversity.”

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