Division of Diversity and Inclusion

In partnership with the office of Institutional Research, the Division of Diversity and Inclusion is preparing for the launch of a campus climate survey this month. Whitman is administering the Higher Education Data Sharing Consortium (HEDS) Diversity and Equity survey this fall. This student climate survey will enable the college to assess the climate in an intersectional way. While the NACCC survey administered in spring of 2021 provides a valuable analysis of the campus racial climate, experiences across additional dimensions of identity requires further exploration and data collection. Last month, the Division invited several student stakeholders to discuss the upcoming survey and share information about the administration, associated risk and utility of the instrument. 

In collaboration with Human Resources, the Division of Diversity and Inclusion hosted a reception for new staff. More than 40 employees have joined the Whitman community in the last several months and the reception was organized to help facilitate connections across functional areas and contribute to the retention of valuable additions to our community of professionals. The Division also partnered with Academic Affairs to organize a reception for Whitman Faculty of Color. 

The Division continued its work with the other higher education institutions in the region and hosted the Tri-College Student of Color Social at Harper Joy Theater in September. Students from all three institutions gathered and mingled in an effort to help facilitate local connections with other students of color and build critical mass for mutual retention. A Tri-College Faculty of Color Gathering is scheduled for November 10 at Walla Walla University.

The Division has begun working on the review of DEI Strategic Priorities and has held a number of focus groups with individuals involved in the development of existing DEI goals and recommendations at Whitman. Review and revisioning of the college’s DEIA priorities will continue over the next several months. 

The Third Space Speaker Series continued to bring engaging and dynamic speakers to campus this semester. On September 22, the Third Space event featured Dr. A.D. Carson from the University of Virginia and Dr. Jared Ball of Morgan State University for a dialogue Hip-Hop scholarship. In October, the Third Space Speaker Series featured presentations from Glamputee Alex Locust, Dr. Lissa Ramirez-Stapleton from California State University Northridge, and Dr. Lissette Torres, a senior research associate and program coordinator at TERC. The October panel focused on disability justice and critical disability studies.

The Division reviewed more than a half dozen applications for DEIA Cultivation Grants this semester. Proposals ranged from art projects and guest lectures to podcasts and DEIA workshops. Additional information about this semester’s grant recipients will be provided in the weeks ahead. 

Inclusive Excellence 

The Division has begun rolling out the DEIA Maturity Matrix planning tool. Similar to an equity scorecard, the DEIA Maturity Matrix is a custom tool based on the National Assessment of Collegiate Campus Climates (the NACCC). The NACCC utilizes specific pillars of inquiry (e.g. Racial Learning and Literacy, Cross-Racial Engagement, Mattering and Affirmation) to gauge racial climate conditions and we have leveraged those constructs to guide the development of the DEIA Maturity Matrix. Several departments have begun using this rubric to assess and develop a plan for advancing inclusive excellence in their specific functional area.

In collaboration with Human Resources, the Division of Diversity and Inclusion is providing training on Inclusive and Equitable Hiring Practices. A two-part training for hiring managers, part one focused on bias and counterbias strategies is designed and delivered by the VPDI. Part two of the training is delivered by HR and focused on understanding and maintaining equity throughout the hiring process. 

With the assistance of student staff, the Division’s DEIA Program Coordinator has refined the process for reserving and utilizing the Glover Alston Center. Numerous meetings and programs are now being scheduled in the space and we continue to develop and maintain a number of equity programs (food pantry, lending library, and clothing closet) at the GAC. 

The DEIA Program Coordinator also led efforts to revitalize the Family Connections program this semester. This program works to reduce or eliminate the costs associated with a Family Weekend visit for a student’s loved ones. Several students applied for Family Connections support and thanks to the generous support of donors the Division was able to arrange and sponsor travel for four students’ family members during Family Weekend. 

Intercultural Center

The Intercultural Center (IC) is up and running this year with their new Director, Tebraie Banda-Johns. This fall, the Intercultural Center has been active with hiring inclusion fellows, supporting affinity groups in their programming, and hosting cultural events for the Whitman community and the greater Walla Walla area. 

In September, the Intercultural Center coordinated an off-campus film screening and arranged for 50+ students to attend a showing of The Woman King at Century Theaters in Walla Walla. The IC has also reserved a theater for a private screening of Black Panther 2: Wakanda Forever next week, with more than 100 students registered to attend.  

In celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month (October 15-September 15), the IC partnered with WEB, ASWC, Hispanic Studies, Communications, and the Walla Walla community to host several events to recognize and honor the contributions of Hispanic Americans in history.

International Student and Scholar Services

The ISSS office remained active during the summer and organized a variety of programs to promote community building and student well-being (BBQs, kayaking, hikes, paddle boarding). In mid-August, ISSS began preparing the team of International Orientation Leaders for the arrival of new students. On August 19, ISSS welcomed 46 new international students, representing 27 different countries. Delivered in collaboration with multiple campus offices, International Student Orientation included more than 20 different sessions to help prepare students for their first year at Whitman. In addition to several informational sessions, ISSS organized a Walmart run, activities with Outdoor Programs, and a visit at the local Social Security office.

We currently have 173 international students on campus, with an additional 14 recent alumni participating in Optional Practical Training. ISSS provides comprehensive support to all international students, provides weekly programs, produces a weekly newsletter and maintains an expanding Canvas site filled with vital information and resources.

ISSS Director Greg Lecki, along with Lindsey Szmarek from the Career and Community Engagement Center, recently attended the regional NAFSA conference in Spokane, Washington. NAFSA is the professional association of International Educators.  

Religious and Spiritual Life

The Office of Religious and Spiritual Life (RSL) is functioning out of a new space this semester. The All Faiths Room located in Reid Campus Center room 110, is designed to be adapted for many different uses and for a wide range of spiritual and religious practices and identities. The All Faiths Room is used for regular RSL programming including a recently launched Decolonizing Christianity Bible Study. Facilitated from a Christian perspective, the Decolonizing Christianity program explores the ways in which the Bible can be seen as a tool of oppression and of liberation. 

The All Faiths Room is also utilized regularly by the Muslim community as a space to engage in prayer, the space recently served as the site for a Dia de los Muertos Ofrenda (organized by the Intercultural Center), is used by Whitman’s Jewish community for Shabbat, and also provides space for local spiritual and/or faith-based community groups, namely the Nichiren Buddhist group and Open Door Fellowship, a nondenominational queer-affirming Christian group.

The RSL continues to offer a series of regular opportunities for engagement each week. Grieving@Whitman occurs on Mondays and provides a space for students seeking support as they navigate loss. Spirituali-TEA is held on Thursdays and provides an opportunity for folks to join in casual conversations with the Interfaith Chaplain in the Cleveland Commons Coffee House. Big Tent gatherings are organized on Wednesdays and focus on a different tradition, practice or worldview each week. This coming Sunday, November 6, RSL is partnering with Walla Walla Dharma Sangha to bring Debra Seido Martin to campus. Martin is the Soto Zen guiding teacher of the Zen West- Empty Field Buddhist Community in Eugene, Oregon.

Last month, the RSL organized a Cider and Rock-Painting gathering at the Whitman Labyrinth. Located behind Marcus House, the Labyrinth provides a place for walking meditation and contemplation. In September, RSL was pleased to host a campus visit by Chris Stedman, author of Faitheist: How an Atheist Found Common Ground with the Religious and most recently, IRL: Finding Realness, Meaning, and Belonging in our Digital Lives.  

LGBTQIA+ Student Services

The inaugural Director of LGBTQIA+ Student Services, Rachel Freeman-Cohen, is in infrastructure development mode. Over the last several months, they have been engaged in the work of developing guiding documents, student onboarding materials, and crafting a vision for the area. The Director has hired two new inclusion fellows and recruited additional volunteers to help support and advance the unit’s work. LGBTQIA+ Student Services has also begun establishing a social media presence and is active on instagram @lgbtqia_whitman. 

Earlier this semester, LGBTQIA+ Student Services launched a workshop series focused on how to be an ally and what allies can do to combat gender and sexual orientation discrimination. The Queer Ally Coalition (QuAC) workshops were offered each week in October and many faculty, staff and students attended.  

For National Coming Out Day, LGBTQIA+ Student Services sought to move away from the concept of “coming out” and invited students to share an artistic performance related to their own journey along the Road to Queerness. In partnership with the Intercultural Center and in recognition of Hispanic Heritage Month, LGBTQIA+ Student Services organized a Pride Loteria Celebration last month. Attendees were invited to play a Queer Lotería card game, enjoy pan dulce, and learn about queer Latinx history. 

Additional LGBTQIA+ programming is in development, including the David Nord Award Celebration and a Mixer for queer and trans students scheduled for this Friday afternoon.

Equity and Compliance/Title IX

As part of the campus effort to address instances of sex- or gender-based harassment, discrimination or violence, the Office of Equity and Compliance invested in training two individuals to serve as Deputy Title IX Coordinators. The Title IX Coordinator is also actively recruiting people to serve as advisors. The role of the Advisor is critical, focusing on the Title IX regulatory duty of conducting cross-examination during a live hearing and on individualized support for each step of the adjudication process. 

Over the summer, the Office of Equity and Compliance oversaw the renewal of the agreement between Whitman College and the YWCA for the provision of a Sexual Assault Victim’s Advocate (SAVA). The SAVA is a vital resource in our efforts to address sexual misconduct and violence.

As part of New Student Orientation, the Director of Equity and Compliance/Title IX Coordinator delivered several presentations to small groups in the residence halls to provide incoming students with information about supportive resources, the adjudication process and their rights. In partnership with International Student and Scholar Services, the Director of Equity and Compliance also facilitated an education session on cultural dating norms and consent for international students. 

Sexual Misconduct and Bias Incident Reports 

Over the course of this quarter, the Office of Equity and Compliance received a total of 13 reports of bias incidents and sexual misconduct. Three of the reports did not disclose incident locations. Regardless of the misconduct type or where the incident occurs, the College takes each report seriously and offers supportive measures to the harmed individuals. Supportive measures can include referrals to other campus professionals, academic services, no contact orders, and other actions deemed appropriate by the Director of Equity and Compliance.