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The Westfield Voice

The Westfield Voice

‘Step Towards A Just Campus Environment’ – University To Hire Chief Diversity Officer

Parenzo Hall, built in 1957 is the oldest building on campus, soon to be partly demolished. Image credit- Westfield State Alumni Facebook.
Parenzo Hall, built in 1957 is the oldest building on campus, soon to be partly demolished. Image credit- Westfield State Alumni Facebook.

In 1839, educational pioneer Horace Mann founded the Barre Normal School – an institution dedicated to graduating esteemed educators for the Commonwealth and beyond. As time passed, the institution, now presently known as Westfield State University, would become one of the first institutions of higher education to accept women and people of color, following Horace Mann’s lead in expanding academia to all regardless of race, gender, or economic status. 

As we approach nearly 200 years since Horace Mann first inaugurated our institution, the words of Horace Mann have fallen flat with some in the campus community. Students’ email inboxes were replete with messages from administration indicating that racist incidents were occurring in residence halls and on social media.  

As Horace Mann states in his 1855 book Lectures on Education, “the science and the art of education, like everything human, depend upon culture, for advancement,” underscoring to us today that these continued racial incidents on our campus bring the community down as a whole and distract us from our academic journeys.  

By having a culture that doesn’t recognize or respond to issues such as the ones we’ve been dealing with this semester, we neglect to remediate these problems in an effective manner and squander the sound academic and social/emotional journeys of the student body.  

To ensure that Westfield State University can emulate Horace Mann’s words, the institution posted an opening for a new position that would fulfill this hefty task.  

On November 8, 2021, Westfield State University publicly posted for the position of Vice President for Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion, colloquially known as the Vice President of JEDI. The individual hired for this position will act as the chief diversity officer for the institution; developing plans for creating a more just campus community and remediating any issues that may arise on campus despite training and education efforts. 

In an email to The Westfield Voice from Dr. Linda Thompson, President of Westfield State University, she indicated that beginning in February 2022, the new Vice President of Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion will “receive and review … results [from a campus wide] … climate survey” that will be completed prior to their official start date.  

With these results, the new Vice President will “develop a clear plan for assessment and culture change throughout the institution,” with input from the entire campus community, including, but not limited to, the Center for Student Success and Engagement, a newly conceived JEDI Council, and the revitalized Bias Education Support Team (BEST).  

In developing this plan, administration considered how other institutions were handling the implementation of JEDI-like programs. President Thompson noted that “each university is structured differently” regarding these programs, thus Westfield State University looked internally and determined what was best for this institution. 

In addition to the initial hire of a Vice President for Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion, Westfield State University, in line with the recommendations from the University Efficiency Analysis Advisory Committee (UEAAC), will be developing a department around this new administrator that may include the Title IX coordinator, who is presently in Human Resources.  

President Thompson noted that “once the Vice President of JEDI is in place, the issue [of the placement of the Title IX Coordinator] will be further discussed to ensure appropriate operations to service the campus community.” 

A search committee has been launched to determine who will be the inaugural Vice President for Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion. 

Please stay tuned for more information in the coming months regarding who this individual will be, input that the new department will be looking for from the campus community, and opportunities to engage with this office. 

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