February 11, 2019

I am pleased to share with the University community that I have received the Recommendations for Establishing a “Multicultural Center” at William Paterson University from the Steering Committee established last fall. I thank them for the careful, thoughtful, and good work in this proposal and subsequent recommendations. The Steering Committee both captured the hearts, minds, and feelings of the community and grounded the framework of the document in the research in the area. Considering the national challenge to accept differences among us, and the various views on race, ethnicity, gender, and sexual identity that we continue to struggle with as a nation, the Steering Committee had a complex task. They handled it with compassion and understanding, and I am grateful for the Committee members’ willingness to serve and for their recommendations.

I want to share with you the Steering Committee's recommendations and my responses to them. Click here to view the Steering Committee's report (University login required).

I accept the recommendation to name the center, The Center for Diversity and Inclusion. I accept the Vision and Mission statements, understanding that these may change as the work of the Center begins and continues. They reflect the need to respect and honor all students, regardless of their identities.

Recommendation: All faculty and staff should receive appropriate training to achieve cultural competency and to eliminate bias, discrimination and micro-aggressions. Response: Dr. Wartyna Davis, Interim Chief Diversity Officer, and Allison Boucher-Jarvis, Vice President for Human Resources, will work on a formal training program for faculty and staff. We will implement the training program for staff this summer. We will need more time to think through a training program for faculty given contractual obligations but will start training in the spring of 2020. Of course, we always encourage faculty and staff to be proactive in this area. It should be a common interest among us all to eliminate bias, discrimination and micro-aggressions.

Recommendation: Students should receive appropriate cultural sensitivity training to raise awareness and to eliminate bias, discrimination and micro-aggressions. Response: This training will be included in our redesigned first year experience program. Vice President for Student Development Miki Cammarata will work with her Division to review existing training programs, and to expand or develop training for student leaders and student employees who work in student service areas. All programs will be implemented by the spring of 2020.

Recommendation: While contemplating space allocation for the Center and related identity spaces, the University should consider designating space for prayer/meditation. Response: Vice President for Student Development Miki Cammarata and Vice President of Administration and Finance Steve Bolyai will work to operationalize space for prayer/meditation by the spring semester of 2020.

Recommendation: The University should create an advisory board or committee charged with discussing/advising on an appropriate and comprehensive institutional response to bias incidents. Response: I can understand and appreciate the community’s desire to have an institutional response to bias incidents. This recommendation is a little more complicated given that some bias incidents involve University personnel and must be handled through either negotiated union process or approved policy. Additionally, given social media and 24/7 news cycles, institutional responses need to be thoughtful and quick. A committee structure does not provide for the rapid response that is often required. Vice President of Human Resources Allison Boucher-Jarvis will review existing collective bargaining agreements and standing policy as we continue to explore this idea. I am not rejecting the recommendation but I need more information before I render a final decision.

Recommendation: The University should consider appointing an Ombudsperson for student, faculty, and staff complaints or concerns. Response: We will have some sort of Ombudsperson service in place no later than the fall semester of 2021. Vice President for Student Development Miki Cammarata and Vice President of Human Resources Allison Boucher-Jarvis will begin to look at staffing possibilities as we move forward.

Additionally, I would like to add two more items that are connected to this work for next year.

1) Vice President for Student Development Miki Cammarata and Vice President of Administration and Finance Steve Bolyai will work to identify temporary space for the Center for Diversity and Inclusion, and a Black Cultural Center, to be operational in the fall semester of 2019.

2) In the fall semester of 2019, we will have focused discussions about the needs of our LatinX and LGBTQ students in order for them to be successful at William Paterson University. We will begin reaching out to thought leaders in these populations to identify individuals that can best lead these conversations and provide recommendations to me.

I recognize that many people at William Paterson University are involved in addressing the needs and concerns of our students in these areas. I applaud your work and thank you for it.

Richard J. Helldobler, PhD