Message from the President: Creating a More Inclusive Campus
Dear Students, Faculty, and Staff,
Today is Juneteenth, the annual celebration marking the day in 1865 when federal troops brought news of emancipation to Galveston, Texas. Historians will note this occurred more than two years after the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863. While today many believe enslaved people received immediate liberation at the end of the Civil War, it actually took much longer for freedom to become a reality. True equality is taking even longer.
While Juneteenth is celebrated in many parts of the country, many Americans have been unaware of its significance. To my knowledge, Jacksonville State has never officially recognized Juneteenth. I believe this is one example of how much learning we need to do and how much work needs to be done to ensure that all members of the JSU family are visible, accepted, and heard.
Our administration has been looking inward, seeking to understand how we can better lead and support change on campus. We recognize that we must do a better job in many areas, including recruiting and retaining employees and students of diverse backgrounds and experiences. While we still have a long way to go, here is an update on what we have been able to accomplish over the past few weeks:
Director of Diversity and Inclusion: Effective August 3, Charlcie Pettway Vann will serve as JSU’s Director of Diversity and Inclusion. Mrs. Vann is already a well-known leader on campus, working in Houston Cole Library since 2006 as a psychology, philosophy, and general reference librarian. She won the National Library Week’s Librarians Creating Communities of Kindness contest in 2015 and has been named a Minority Access Role Model. Earlier this spring, I appointed her chair of the university’s Diversity and Inclusion Committee, and I know she will make a significant impact once she is able to give her full attention to these efforts. If you have questions, concerns, and ideas to share, please contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Listening Sessions: While Mrs. Vann plans to begin meeting with departments and organizations across campus to identify areas of growth and opportunity, I will begin hosting Listening Sessions to better engage with the campus community and hear from the diverse voices of JSU. Mark your calendar for the following dates: June 24, 2 p.m.; June 26, 12 p.m.; June 29, 6 p.m.; July 1, 10 a.m. More information will be forthcoming regarding the format and/or locations.
Diversity Training: With the goal of enhancing all JSU employees’ cultural sensitivity and respectfulness for all members of the JSU family, the Diversity and Inclusion Committee, under the leadership of Mrs. Vann, is in the process of organizing mandatory diversity training for all employees. They are working with an outside company to schedule web-based training that will challenge each of us to identify our unconscious biases, respect our differences, exercise empathy and compassion, and foster a sense of belonging and connectedness.
Explore Seminars: Drawing upon the expertise of JSU’s faculty, the School of Arts and Humanities is organizing Explore Seminars to provide students, faculty and staff an opportunity to become more knowledgeable about multicultural issues. These 1-hour, 100-level courses will soon be available to provide another avenue for joining others in critical analysis, collaborating to create solutions, and participating in academic debate about race and diversity. Explore Seminars on literature, history, and film are in the works, with more departments adding topics. A full listing of seminars for Fall 2020 will soon be announced.
Building Names: A student-led taskforce continues to research university, local, and Alabama history to identify problematic building names. The administration is awaiting the taskforce’s recommendations and their proposal will be presented to the Board of Trustees.
While racial inequality and injustice are deservedly receiving our nation’s attention right now, we must also understand that diversity is more than race. We must be sensitive to the experiences of all members of the JSU family, no matter their race, age, gender, sexual orientation, class, immigration status, or physical ability. I applaud the US Supreme Court’s landmark decision this week protecting LGBTQ workers from being fired on the basis of gender identity and sexual orientation. While COVID-19 unfortunately cancelled most PRIDE events on campus this month, JSU recognizes and supports our LGBTQ employees and students. Safe Zone Training is taking place digitally this summer, with sessions scheduled for June 26 and July 16. Register here.
May we continue to learn, grow, and make our campus a safe and accepting community for all.
Dr. Don C. Killingsworth, Jr.