An Update on Diversity and Inclusion at Bates (2014)
Dear Bates Students, Staff, Faculty, Parents, and Alumni,
In the five months since I have joined Bates as the new Associate Vice President and Chief Diversity Officer and a faculty member in the English Department, I have been consistently struck by the warmth and generosity of this community, by the desire of so many to live, work, and learn in an environment that values and respects all people, and by the willingness of students, staff, faculty, and alumni to become full and active partners in change-making. Having met with many community members, I have gained an increasingly complex understanding of the community’s needs and aspirations to move the agenda meaningfully forward. So I write with news about the Office for Equity and Diversity (OED) and the Office of Intercultural Education (OIE).
Principally, my aims are to strengthen the means by which we support students, to unify the vision, direction, and agenda for diversity and inclusion work on the campus, to position the OIE centrally to reflect its significance and potential for impact, and to develop a whole-campus strategy to engage all community members in the work of ensuring Bates is a diverse and inclusive living, learning, and working environment, one which fully embodies and actively values “the transformative power of our differences,” as being fundamentally linked to the intellectual and creative endeavor.
What follows, then, is a brief summary of staffing changes that seek to increase the number of people serving students and a brief overview of an important move for the Office of Intercultural Education.
In recent years, the OIE has seen a good deal of change. In response to students’ constructive advice we have developed a more robust staffing plan that takes into account the whole student — from matriculation through graduation and beyond. Our goal is to create an interlinked team of colleagues working under a single, unifying vision, and build a structure that is comprehensive, inclusive of many types of difference and student needs, and which ensures that all Bates students, staff, faculty, and alumni understand themselves to be highly valued and strongly supported members of our community.
So what are we doing?
Pushing into the important, student-centric support work done by Michael Martinez and Carmita McCoy, we have created a position, the Assistant or Associate Dean for Student Transition and Support, which will report to both the new Dean of Students and to me. Collaborating with a host of campus offices, including Admission, the Dean of Students and Dean of Faculty offices, and colleagues across the campus, the new dean’s sole focus will be on promoting the success of students from underrepresented groups. The new dean will be located in the OIE and will design new and innovative programs meant to support student transition into and success during their tenure at Bates. That job search is live and active. Read the full Assistant/Associate Dean for Student Transition and Support position description (http://bit.ly/1iVqHj3) .
By streamlining the leadership and reporting lines and unifying the vision for diversity and inclusion work on campus, the OIE will gain a third student-focused colleague. Once staffed by a director and a program coordinator, the office will now be staffed by two assistant deans — charged with oversight over multiple communities of students as well as with whole-campus outreach and programming — and a program coordinator, charged with working with student groups, supporting the new facility, and planning and implementing OIE-specific events. Megan Taft, who came to us as a Program Coordinator and has filled interim roles over the course of her short tenure at Bates, will become one of the two assistant deans. In the coming weeks, we will begin a search for the second Assistant Dean as well as the new Program Coordinator.
Finally, what had once been a multicultural alumni affairs specialist, located in Alumni Engagement, will now be an Associate Director of Multicultural Alumni Engagement and Special Projects and will work within the Office of Equity and Diversity. A highly collaborative position, the new associate director will be charged with the creation of new programming that builds a diverse alumni community, supports existing activities, and links alumni with current students. Read the full Associate Director of Multicultural Alumni Engagement and Special Projects position description (http://bit.ly/1jnI1jr) .
In all, we expect to have the new staff members on campus by the middle of summer so that we can start academic year 2014–15 on as strong a footing as possible.
Relocation of the Office of Intercultural Education
The Campus Avenue Project — which will add more than 200 beds and new community spaces to the south side of campus and de-densify Smith and other residential buildings — has afforded us the opportunity to think strategically about the Office of Intercultural Education’s location.
We are happy to announce that the new OIE will be located in Chase Hall, a central hub on campus. It will be a place where students, staff, faculty, and alumni can come to create, celebrate, and work towards developing a more inclusive climate. At the OIE, we plan to: 1) continue supporting the students who currently use and deeply value the OIE, and 2) make best use the office’s (new) central location to invite a broad range of community members into the community-building work the space supports.
The move, including the wonderful furnishings donated several years ago, will happen over the course of the summer. Our goal is to create a space that is warm, homey, and highly functional for the various groups that currently use the OIE — as well as for groups that can and should be using the OIE.
In all, I have experienced Bates to be a special place, and I’m delighted to be among you and engaged in helping Bates continue to fully embody the principles of diversity and inclusion the college and its constituents hold so dear. I recognize, of course, that not every question, concern, and desire will be answered by this series of changes, additions, and physical moves. But my hope is that you will be excited by the new direction and by our ambitious goals. We seek to effect deep and sustainable culture shifts by engaging many people and departments on campus so that the founding principles of inclusion are fully embodied in everything we do. Ultimately, the work of helping Bates become a more inclusive community cannot be the work of a few, it must be the work of the many.
I look forward to working with you over the next couple of years. I’m excited about what is possible at Bates. You’ll hear more from us as the move progresses and new teammates come online. Thank you for your time.
Crystal A. Williams
Associate Vice President for Strategic Initiatives
Professor of English
Office of Equity and Diversity