Westfield State University was recently made aware of disturbing social media matters. We take these matters seriously and the University is assessing and addressing them under appropriate policies and procedures. Read President Torrecilha’s message to the campus community on this matter.×
June 18, 2020
Dear Campus Community:
Tomorrow, Friday, June 19 is Juneteenth, which signifies the emancipation of the last remaining enslaved African Americans in the United States. I bring this to your attention as it may serve as an opportunity for us to pause and reflect on the centuries-long injustices to black and brown people.
As continued discrimination in today’s society weighs heavily on our hearts and minds, I thought it was important to share with you some of the discussions and collaboration underway at Westfield State to address social justice and inclusion here at home.
Building on our action following the series of prominent hate and bias incidents on campus in fall 2017, Westfield State committed then and remains steadfast in supporting “Inclusion Everyday” as part of our campus culture. Even though all divisions have worked hard to incorporate this creed into existing and new programming and as part of divisional operations, there is more work to do.
Since 2017, among other measures and support put into place following a series of egregious bias incidents, the University established the Bias Incident Response Team (BIRT); reorganized and expanded the scope of our human resources office to become the Office of Human Resources, Inclusion, Diversity, and Equity (OHRIDE); worked to integrate diversity and inclusion more intentionally across the curriculum; introduced “Higher Ed/Higher Ground” programming and events to inspire on-campus dialogue about race, ethnicity, and other diversity issues that may be difficult for some to discuss candidly; and installed an additional 400 security cameras to deter and investigate future bias incidents.
Diversity Position Searches
As the Cabinet and I have shared through a virtual Town Hall meeting in the spring and through messages to campus, budget constraints require us to be highly selective with which vacant positions we fill.
I am pleased to inform you that given the moral imperative brought on by today’s reality, the searches for theDiversity Officer and the Diversity Generalist positions are among those that will resume. As you may recall, these positions are intended to support the re-organized Office for Human Resources, Inclusion, Diversity, and Equity. It is important for us to complete these two searches during this critical time in the nation’s and our University’s history.
In addition to these two critical positions that will help facilitate our divisional efforts to develop an increasingly inclusive culture, Academic Affairs and Student Affairs are coming together to explore potential forums and other ways to further analyze and discuss how the injustices we observe on the national stage manifest here on campus. As plans are more developed, more information will be shared.
Instead of working to provide isolated programming on these critical topics, Westfield State continues to integrate themes of diversity and inclusion at various points of academic and student life, as well as in professional development and onboarding.
I understand that some academic departments have been holding conversations with and/or reaching out to students and that directors and deans and faculty from academic affairs and student affairs have begun informal conversations regarding campus-wide strategies to support our students over the summer and into the coming fall semester. I encourage these dialogues and planning sessions to continue and offer institutional support for such plans and programs.
The Alumni Association has voiced its interest in supporting and participating in such dialogues. More information will be shared on these once planning is more finalized.
Social Justice and Inclusion Discussions for First-year Students
This summer, new Novel Engagements for Students and Teachers (NEST) offerings have been established to engage first-year students with faculty and peers. I am thankful that many faculty chose to propose engagement activities in which first-year students can unpack the complex issues of race and privilege in a safe setting to build dialogue and understanding. Such offerings include “Navigating School as the ‘New Kid’: Making Friends, Finding Community, and Navigating Everyday Way of Anti-racist Practices” (Professors Lee and Kennedy); “Exploring the Seemingly Never-ending Cycle of Police Violence Against Black Americans” (Professors Price and Tobin); “Native American Anti-Racist Activism and Art” (Professor Diana); and “Fired Up: Writing for Social Change” (Professors Army Williams and Savini) among other offerings.
In addition, Cabinet continues to foster conversations on these important topics within their respective divisions and I ask us all to encourage students and faculty/staff alike to seek the support of campus services including our Interfaith Center, Counseling Center, and the Employee Assistance Program, as needed.
Westfield State University remains committed to supporting its students, faculty, and staff to ensure a safe learning and working environment. We are committed to the values of inclusion, diversity and equity for all of our campus constituents, and we will continue to seek greater improvement.
I would like to thank you all for your dedication to our mission and values and the many ways members of our community have come together to discuss and address difficult issues during this tenuous time.
As always, I appreciate your sustained commitment to advancing Westfield State's mission and values centered on inclusion, diversity, and equity on behalf of the students we strive to educate and inspire.
Ramon S. Torrecilha, Ph.D.