The committee searching for Bradley’s first-ever Vice President of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) hosted a listening session for students over Zoom on Oct. 4. Students shared the qualities that they want present in the position.
Tom Coy, executive director of student involvement, and Glen Ross, co-chair of the racial equity advisory group, opened the call with a slideshow explaining the responsibilities of the vice president. Students shared that the position should assess the cultural environment of Bradley and create plans to promote an equitable environment.
“We want [students] to help build out the criteria for selecting a candidate,” Ross said at the session. “[Students’] feedback will help us to see what’s important for this position from [their] perspective. We want to help build the transition plan, including priorities for a successful candidate and, finally, an opportunity to build trust around the role and the position.”
Coy and Ross then asked attending students about their experiences and opinions regarding the vacant spot and diversity at Bradley.
Among the students at the event was Student Body President, Erin Bousek, who noted the main points students were making in regard to diversity.
“One of the big takeaways for me was learning how students don’t feel safe to be themselves,” Bousek, a senior electrical engineering major, said.
LGBTQ+ students have reported that there have been instances where they were targeted with slurs around campus or heard them in classroom environments. Students of color shared that they have also been targeted with racial slurs on campus.
One common complaint is that there is rarely any accommodation for students facing harassment in the dorms, an example being how minority students with racist roommates are not being moved into another room immediately. Another noted that the gender neutral floor in Wyckoff is too easily accessible, resulting in those passing by to make prejudiced comments to residents of the floor.
In order to seek an environment away from these issues, these students turn to the Office of Diversity and Inclusion (ODI), but they say it ends up being almost the sole safe space on campus. Students said this puts pressure on ODI and makes students feel othered elsewhere.
Bousek has noticed that trend as well.
“In the Student Senate perspective, something that I’ve noticed is that there is a natural divide between cultural groups … there’s just not a ton of crossover,” Bousek said.
Bousek said that one way she has been reversing this is inviting students from different cultural groups on campus to speak with or be part of the Student Senate as a means to give a platform to people with diverse backgrounds.
Along with a call for a space to express themselves safely and openly, students are hoping to see that the candidate should understand intersectionality along with privileges in regards to race, sexuality, gender, able body and more.
“I think the biggest takeaway is the personality needed for this role, somebody who is very good at listening — not only very good at listening but…action-oriented,” Bousek said. “Through this listening session, it’s very clear to me that [the search committee is] trying to do this right, even if it’s taking more time than hoped or expected.”