To understand where equity and inclusion is today, it is helpful to begin with the phone call that got it all started.
Five months ago, I was on vacation heading to New Mexico. As I drove across the Arizona desert, the pressures of work began to fade and I was getting more relaxed. Then my cell phone rang. I might have ignored it, except for the fact that it was President Ray, and when I answered, I was yanked back into the reality I had started to leave behind. I stopped by the side of the road and, while gazing out at the vast desert, I listened as new ideas for equity and inclusion and a university-wide self-study were outlined; by the end of the conversation, I had agreed to accept the position of Interim Executive Director.
As soon as I returned to Corvallis, the work began. While my new appointment would not be effective for another month, initial conversations with stakeholders needed to start as soon as possible. The ongoing work of the Offices of Affirmative Action and Equal Opportunity, Community and Diversity, and Women’s Advancement and Gender Equity needed to be maintained and, at the same time, planning had to occur in order to begin a self-study process during fall term.
Five months later, my staff and I continue to engage in efforts to increase communication and feedback during this transitional year. In our various conversations with the OSU community, we are hearing people grapple with the same dilemma we’ve been grappling with for some time: How do we address the work that needs to be done and avoid prematurely solidifying a unit structure?
The immediate challenge is that there are programs, services, and initiatives that must continue; however, we are not sufficiently staffed to meet all of the immediate expectations. With that in mind, we have to find creative ways to manage during this academic year while also continuing to seek input from various stakeholders.
In fact, as a result of the input we have received thus far, we are deliberately slowing our efforts to hire new staff or to permanently modify position descriptions of existing staff. Instead, we have identified various individuals who have generously agreed to work with us on a temporary basis, performing essential tasks and ensuring the continuation of key programs. You will also notice staff members with “interim” titles that reflect the work they have assumed during this period of transition.
In some instances, we have established and filled permanent positions that are fundamental to the ongoing work of our office, regardless of the final structure. This is the exception and our priority moving forward is to respond to community input about maintaining a flexible transitional structure. Unless there is an immediate need and a strong rationale to do so, we will seek to manage this transitional year by delivering programs and services using existing and temporary resources.
We are hosting a series of open conversations with the OSU community this fall and have scheduled sessions about every two weeks for the rest of the term (see OEI forum schedule for details). The most recent conversation (summarized below) served to clarify the university’s ongoing commitment to all aspects of equity and inclusion, including women’s advancement and gender equity. As we proceed, I hope participants will engage with us in discussions of the intersections and shared interests of Women’s Advancement and Gender Equity, Community and Diversity, and Affirmative Action and Equal Opportunity.
Angelo Gomez, Interim Executive Director
Equity and Inclusion Forum
October 18, 2011
- It is important to understand the motivation behind pursuing integrated efforts, and to consider the potential benefits of doing so, such as the ability to address components of identity in ways that are inclusive of all aspects of one’s identity. At the same time, it is necessary to maintain a commitment, including dedicating FTE and/or clearly identifying liaisons, to address the needs of specific communities.
- There is a need to maintain a strong online presence, such as through the continued use of various forms of social media and the maintenance of a dynamic website, so that the OSU community knows their rights, responsibilities and resources, and knows who to contact with specific questions.
- It is necessary to identify ways to accomplish the work on a transitional basis, and it is also necessary to continue to seek input from the OSU community in order to determine a finalized structure. The approach for addressing equity and inclusion, both transitionally and long-term, should draw on and coordinate with existing efforts and committed individuals across campus.
- The process for conducting a self-study of equity and inclusion must be inclusive, provide many opportunities for engagement, encourage creative solutions, identify ways to address barriers, seek the value of diversity, and truly value the principles of inclusion. It is important to recognize, integrate, and empower individuals to engage with multiple paths to creating change, including grassroots initiatives, as well as those facilitated by university administration.