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August 17, 2023 - Division Update

The clock tower of Memorial Building on Whitman College campus.

Greetings colleagues,

Last fall, through a multi-unit collaboration, we were able to open the new All Faiths Room in Reid Campus Center. That space elevated the visibility of Religious and Spiritual Life on campus and serves as the site for significant programs and practices on campus. In the summer of 2022, we also established a Director-level position for LGBTQIA+ Student Services at Whitman. Approximately 30% of Whitman students identify as LGBTQIA+ and it was important to ensure that this population is appropriately supported and resourced. The Lavender Graduation celebration this past May, the first of its kind, is one example of the important expansion of services this new position provides.

We continue to seek ways to enhance and improve on the quality of services and support we provide to Whitman students and the broader campus community. During the last academic year, we formed an ad hoc committee of students to advise staff on the interior design of the Third Space Center. Scheduled to open in January 2024, the repurposed campus rental property will feature an interior intentionally designed* to affirm the identities and cultures of students of color. 

With the start of the fall semester fast approaching, we wanted to share an important update with the campus community. As many of you know, International Student and Scholar Services (ISSS) has merged with Off-Campus Studies. As a result, our ISSS staff have relocated from the Glover Alston Center (GAC) to the Memorial Building. The transition of ISSS, along with the impending launch of the Third Space Center, provides us with an opportunity to reestablish the GAC as a dynamic and collaborative solidarity space where students across a range of identities can gather to learn about each other and build networks of support and coalitions.

When first established, the GAC was intended to function as a gathering place where students with diverse backgrounds and interests can explore, reflect, discuss and engage. The Director of the Intercultural Center, Tebraie Banda-Johns, will be relocating over to the Glover Alston Center and the GAC will function as the Intercultural Center (IC). The move of the IC over to the GAC also allows for the establishment of a dedicated LGBTQIA+ Student Services space. Room 216 in Reid Campus Center will become the location for LGBTQIA+ Student Services.

We are excited for what these changes and new initiatives will offer the Whitman community. The Intercultural Center plays an important role in identity and belonging for our students. Our campus climate data and direct feedback from students reflect the need for resources like the IC and the Third Space Center. In the year ahead, we will be working with the strategic priorities group on Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, Antiracism and Accessibility to identify additional ways to advance inclusive excellence at Whitman. 

Thank you,

John Johnson
Vice President for Diversity and Inclusion

*The concept of a Third Space, loosely translated, refers to the effort to intentionally interrupt dominant scripts or patterns of behavior that favor those in power along with moves to center those who have traditionally been relegated to the margins. The Third Space Center will be a facility that is open to all, but designed with the explicit purpose of creating a space on campus where students of color, many of whom have shared experiencing racial microaggressions on campus, can feel affirmed, validated and safe. As we work to make the entire campus a place where all students feel welcome, we recognize the need to carve out space in our supermajority white community, to ensure that Black, Indigenous, Asian, Pacific Islander, Latine and all students of color feel valued.

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