(Editor’s note: The full text of Gee’s remarks is available at presidentgee.wvu.edu.)
West Virginia University will undertake an internal review of its systems and policies, with a goal to begin implementing some recommendations by mid-August, President Gordon Gee said Friday as both he and Board of Governors President David Alvarez addressed ongoing racial unrest in the country.
“I want to acknowledge that the Board of Governors has received and read the petition that was sent to us this week regarding racism and racial inequities on our campuses,” Alvarez said as he opened the regular meeting of the Board Friday.
“Let me state unequivocally: Black Lives Matter. We want our Black students, faculty, staff and alumni to feel safe and supported at West Virginia University,” he said.
“We also recognize that our current board representation does not reflect the commitment each of us has to this critical issue,” he said. “We will change to better represent and reflect the student and alumni bodies of this University and have already begun discussions to do so.”
Saying “there is no question we have much to learn,” Gee announced the creation of “action-oriented” working groups “to address racism and racial inequality within our university system.” The initial groups to work on the “most pressing issues” are: policing, development of black student leaders, campus environment and campus and community partnerships. More areas and groups may be added later.
“As I have watched the protests across the country and listened to the poignant words from our own WVU and Morgantown communities, I know that we have the opportunity and we must do better in showing value and appreciation for our Black students, faculty, staff, alumni and community members,” Gee said.
“And I am glad to be discussing this issue on Juneteenth, the day in which we commemorate the emancipation of enslaved Black people in Texas – two years after the 1862 Emancipation Proclamation went into effect,” Gee said. “That fact – indeed this date – makes me keenly aware that we must move from words to action.
“Let me say that again, we must move from words to action," he said. “This is a commitment to recognize deficits and act quickly to effect change.”
The first groups, and their co-chairs, are:
- University policing: Rob Alsop, vice president of strategic initiatives, and Hannah Davis, president of Delta Sigma Theta and vice president of the National Pan-Hellenic Council. Action items may include trainings, policies and partnerships with other police departments.
- Development of black leaders: Corey Farris, dean of students, and Eric Murphy, assistant director of service and learning. Action items may include program development, cultural awareness activities and increased exposure of current organizations.
- Campus environment: Sharon Martin, vice president for university relations and enrollment management, and Marjorie Fuller, director of the Center for Black Culture and Research. Actions may include anti-racism education, recruitment strategies for students of color and public service campaigns.
- Campus and community partnerships: Meshea L. Poore, vice president for diversity, equity and inclusion, and Carrie Showalter, executive director of student conduct. Action items may include reviewing student and employee codes of conduct, policies on racially insensitive symbols or language, and community programming.
The co-chairs will name other members of their groups, paying attention to recruiting a wide diversity of people whose names will be announced on June. 30. Each group is asked to provide at least three action items by July 27 that the University can review and prioritize, with some being implemented by the first day of classes on Aug. 19.
“This is just the beginning,” Gee said. “It is true that we have talked about all of these issues many, many times before.
“We have been listening. We have not been acting,” Gee said. “Together, we can and will do better. But we can only do that through honest conversations that reveal honest realizations upon which we can improve.”
CONTACT: John A. Bolt
WVU Office of Communications
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