Westminster College is taking steps to become an anti-racist institution, President Beth Dobkin announced in her fall address Aug. 21. The move will be adapted in a seven-point plan led by interim Chief Diversity Officer Tamara Stevenson.
“Our diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts aren’t new, and we need to sustain the momentum of our most recent plans,” Dobkin said in her address. “At the same time, the trauma — and for some who have been insulated from it, the growing awareness of racial injustice — call for an institutional response beyond our prior efforts.”
Some early steps in that process include closing achievement gaps and drawing a diverse group of students and staff to Westminster. Another step involves a public history project.
“Your standards change in the way that people consider what’s acceptable changes,” Dobkin said in an exclusive interview with The Forum Aug. 31. “So, what I’m hoping we can do is look at Westminster’s history with a lens that says, ‘Let’s understand the past and explore its implications.’ Not to erase it, but to acknowledge and learn from it. And then to talk about ways to move past it.”
As far as changes in day-to-day campus life, Dobkin said she hopes to implement diversity training at Westminster.
“That’s part of the reason for starting with diversity statements in the units because sometimes diversity training just begins with an acknowledgment that people who are different from you have value,” Dobkin said.
Additionally, each department at Westminster will create its own statement about diversity and inclusion, and how it will implement it.
Hopefully what this means is that for all members of our campus community, we’re contributing to the individual and collective practice of examining our individual and collective biases.
Chief Diversity Officer Tamara Stevenson said the upcoming seven-point plan is still a work in progress — so it hasn’t been widely distributed yet.
Through the plan, each campus unit will develop its own diversity, equity and inclusion statement, according to Stevenson.
“The fact that they are developed through the lenses of that campus office or that campus program, I think, really inspires those units to think about what diversity, equity and inclusion looks like for them and students they serve and what the discipline looks like,” Stevenson said.
Eventually, Stevenson said she wants the statements to be published online throughout the campus webpage.
“It’s something that prospective students can look at, it’s something that parents and families could look [at],” Stevenson said. “[It’s] something that colleagues could look at and go, ‘Okay, here’s how they think about diversity, equity and inclusion.’”
While Westminster is not the only school working toward becoming an anti-racist institution, Stevenson said Westminster’s plan will be unique.
“I have colleagues and mentors and similar roles at other institutions, along with my participation in professional associations, they brainstorm these ideas,” Stevenson said. “Does that make sense for Westminster? I’m always asking that question.”
Before implementing ideas from outside institutions, Stevenson said she wants it to make sense — and to align with the college’s goals.
“Hopefully what this means is that for all members of our campus community, we’re contributing to the individual and collective practice of examining our individual and collective biases,” Stevenson said. “Reflecting on how our interactions with one another and examining how our biases impact our decision making.”