Only a few days into the new semester, Pacific University students received an invitation to a College Diversity Strategic Plan Forum. Though the description for the event was vague, a focus on making Pacific a “more inclusive campus” and addressing issues of “equity and diversity” was promised.
This forum and the formation of a strategic plan surrounding diversity and inclusion is just one of the new ways the university is pushing to make its campus a safer, more welcoming space for students of all backgrounds. In past years, the university has formed programs to strengthen things like bias reporting, its multicultural center, and social justice retreat. However, as many steps as it’s made in the past, campus leaders say there’s always room for improvement.
Creating a Diversity Strategic Plan has been spearheaded by Jaye Cee Whitehead, Director of the School of Social Science & Associate Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences (CAS). In conjunction with the university, CAS is working to form a plan which sets long-term goals for the college to achieve over approximately a five-year period.
“What we’re doing right now is the very beginning part of that process,” Whitehead said. “We’re going around to all of the stakeholders (faculty, students, staff and administration) and saying, ‘What should our goals be? What are our requirements? What is it important for us to have as a community to meet our needs around diversity and inclusion?’”
In order to answer these questions Pacific has scheduled a forum to be held from 1:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. for students in the Boxer Pause on Tuesday, Sept. 17 inviting students to provide their own experiences surrounding diversity on campus.
“We need students to come to this forum and speak frankly about their needs,” Whitehead said. “The last thing I want to do is to initiate some kind of planning process and not have the students tell us how it is.”
At the forum, students will gather alongside outside consultor Ash Prasad to address current university goals and form new ones to be added to the long-term plan. Prasad, who has a background in business and critical race theory, previously worked with the College of Health Professions on updating their own strategic plan.
The current agenda sports issues such as “[improving] graduation rates and post-graduate preparation for students from underrepresented groups” and “[improving] recruitment and retention of faculty and staff from marginalized groups.”
“Our student body is a lot more diverse than our faculty or staff. That produces dynamics that we need to pay attention to,” Whitehead emphasizes. “How does that impact students if they don’t have faculty members that are from marginalized groups? We need to hear it to understand the nuances of that in order to have a plan put in place.”
Though this particular forum is focused on CAS, all of the issues addressed impact any and all undergraduate students on the Forest Grove campus.
“The forum is going to provide a supportive environment. It’s going to be a space where you’re able to talk freely about what matters to you,” says Whitehead. “And I want students to know this is not an opportunity for us to educate them. It’s an opportunity for them to educate us.”