The West Virginia University Faculty Senate approved an “inclusivity statement” Monday (Feb. 11), hoping to foster a positive philosophy of inclusion and diversity throughout campus.

The statement replaces the existing Social Justice Statement, which lists various groups that the University won’t discriminate against, which could imply that it’s OK to discriminate against certain groups, faculty argued.

Last October, faculty suggested adopting a more positively-worded statement.

The new statement reads, “The West Virginia University community is committed to creating and fostering a positive learning and working environment based on open communication, mutual respect and inclusion.”

This new statement arose in consideration of similar statements from other Big 12 universities, as well as in consultation with the Division of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion and Legal Affairs and General Counsel. It also reflects the goals of the 2020 Strategic Plan for the Future, particularly fostering diversity and an inclusive culture.

“The new statement falls in line nicely with the 2020 Strategic Plan and the goals the president has established,” said Lisa DiBartolomeo, Faculty Senate chair-elect. “Instead of listing who we don’t exclude, we want to leave it open to foster that inclusive culture. This is a positive statement.”

Including the statement in syllabuses is not mandatory, but encouraged, DiBartolomeo said.

Drill guidelines for military students

WVU’s veteran-friendly campus also got a little friendlier Monday, when Faculty Senate approved new guidelines that will allow students who are members of the armed forces to make up work, including tests, that were missed during the semester if they were called up for military training.

The guidelines will allow students in the National Guard and Active Reserve to miss class for up to three weeks and make up the work if, “missing the coursework will not irreversibly impact the students’ ability to master the subject matter in question within the terms of the semester.”

Jerry McCarthy, WVU’s interim veterans advocate, said the University is one of only three schools he knows of that has formal guidelines.

“I’ve researched hundreds and hundreds of institutions,” McCarthy said, “and at a lot of these schools, each case is taken on a case-by-case basis and worked out through the provost’s office or some other academic office. At WVU, we’re ahead of the curve again. A formal, standard protocol is important for the veterans and the University. It clarifies and standardizes procedures so students know we support them, we appreciate them and are willing to work with them.”

McCarthy expects state legislation to be introduced in the near future that requires or encourages all higher education institutions in West Virginia to consider drafting formal drill guidelines. Once approved, the guidelines will be added to WVU’s undergraduate and graduate catalogues for students.

According to the guidelines, students in the military who are called to serve drill are responsible for notifying faculty members as far in advance as possible and working with them to produce a written agreement that “incorporates a formal student plan of action.” The agreement may require the student to complete all course requirements within the semester of the absence, or it may permit them to be issued an incomplete grade for the semester, with completion dates and requirements specified.

If the plan is followed, students won’t be penalized for absences due to a military service requirement.

The absence should not exceed a cumulative amount of three weeks per semester.

If the student and faculty member are unable to reach a resolution using the appropriate protocol, students may then approach an academic advisor, the department chair and the dean for further discussion and guidance.



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