Synopsis: Diversity Action Plan

On Dec. 9, I co-hosted a forum to update the campus on our diversity action plan. My co-hosts were Dominick Juarez,  ASUWB President, and Professor Wayne Au, who is Chair of the UW Bothell Diversity Council.  I wanted to provide this synopsis of the discussion as I recognize that many students were completing their final week of classes and unable to attend.  
 
Please know this was only one discussion.  There will be many more, including our next discussion which will take place in February.  I’ll let you know as soon as we set a date.
 
UW Bothell’s commitment to diversity and inclusion began before our founding more than 25 years ago and it continues to evolve as we grow and learn from each other. 
 
In the spring, I charged the UW Bothell Diversity Council to develop a Diversity Action Plan that addresses some concerns and growing needs to support and enhance the campus experience for our students, faculty and staff. 
 
We have had a few incidents here on our campus. Posters for specific group events have been defaced, statements made to international students, and Muslim students have been made to feel unsafe. These incidents on our campus are, unfortunately, a reflection of what is taking place throughout the world due to the actions of groups who are intent in sewing fear and hate.
 
I challenge all of you to help us be a beacon of light and show the world what it means to embrace each other’s differences and treat one another with kindness. Our Muslim students make us stronger as a university, both inside and outside the classroom. They, like our international students and all students who step onto this campus with their own experiences, are part of the UW Bothell tapestry that brings a richness to our education - making us better learners and better world citizens. 
 
There is a lot of hate out there, but I challenge each and every one of you to stand with UW Bothell – stand against hate. Stand against any microagressions or expressions of hate. Stand UP for your fellow student or your professor or staff member when you see a wrong. Educate the perpetrator and shut down the hate. Help others understand that we are, indeed, better together.
 
You may have heard me mention that I came to the U.S. from Korea when I was a young boy. That was tough. I had to navigate everything that goes along with being an immigrant in the U.S., and the challenges did not stop in childhood. I understand and I want you to know that I respect each of you and the unique experience you bring to UW Bothell and our community. 
 
Every person who walks onto this campus must be valued and respected. Diversity and inclusion is ingrained in our identity and the way we engage our community. If you come to this campus, you should expect respect. If you come to this campus, you are also expected to respect others – wherever you are on this campus. This isn’t just about tolerance. It is about understanding each other’s experiences, each other’s cultures, each other’s perspectives. We will not have it any other way.
 
We are not in this alone. All three UW campuses have prioritized this work and we are sharing information to produce the best outcomes. I encourage you to read Provost Gerald Baldasty’s report on Race and Equity. I posted a link to it on my blog. In it, he not only mentions the deep race and equity work that Terryl Ross and others at UW Bothell are doing, but he also calls on each of us to help further that work. As President Cauce said, “If not UW, who? If not now, when?”
 
As we continue to learn from each other and our commitment and investment in diversity and inclusion evolves, so to must our outward facing declarations. Over the years, we have written about our commitment to diversity in our strategic plan, on our website and in our outreach. Yet, we can do more to articulate a definitive statement that makes it clear to everyone. Therefore, I am asking the Diversity Council, with representation from across campus, to draft an official statement reflecting our UW Bothell campus community’s commitment to diversity and inclusion. We will review that statement in the early part of 2016.
 
A diversity and inclusion center is a priority on the UW Bothell campus. While we move through the collaborative process of researching and identifying resources for a permanent diversity and inclusion center, I charged top leadership and a committee called “SUPER-G” - or Space Utilization and PRovision Group - to work with students in creating a temporary space. The great news is that our work with the administration has resulted in a new space for prayer and reflection. That space is UW1-007.
 
I have also been working with ASUWB, the Student Diversity Council and the SUPER –G to identify a space to serve as the interim diversity and inclusion center. The university leadership identified two potential spaces – UW1-011 and Truly House. The Student Diversity Council considered those two spaces and requested that a third be added to the list for consideration. The administration agreed to explore the third option. 
 
I want to note that we planned to open a temporary diversity center in the spring of 2016, but are honoring the request of the ASUWB to delay the opening until fall to allow more time for planning.
Following our “official” remarks, there was an emotional and sometimes heated discussion.  I won’t attempt to speak on behalf of the students, but I can relate that there were students who felt they had not been heard and ignored by the administration. In response to their request, I visited with the Student Diversity Council the next day. 
 
One student asked about gender-neutral bathrooms. Our new buildings do have gender-neutral restrooms and we are retrofitting the older buildings (UW1 and UW2).  This process is moving more slowly than everyone would like; we will continue to try and expedite the process.
 
There was also some discussion about the use of the Activities and Recreation Center to hold the annual staff holiday party.  I was the one who suggested we use the space – thinking it would be preferable to give that revenue to students and not a third party.  Some students have complained and I do apologize to those who were inconvenienced.  As our dean of students George Theo remarked, this presents an opportunity to have further dialogue about the use of the ARC.