Recent events on campus have caused concern among many in our community and have had an adverse impact on some of our students, staff and faculty. As I reported to you in a campus message on February 1, a bag of feces was found in a locker in the shower room of the Reflection Room in UW1, a space used regularly by many Muslim students for their daily prayer. The shower room is used for ablution, an integral process of Muslim daily prayers. An additional incident of concern was reported to Campus Safety on February 9 when a poster of diverse images for the Gender, Women and Sexuality Studies (GWSS) program was found with the image of a Muslim woman torn out.
We take these incidents very seriously and brought the Bothell Police Department in to assist with the investigation. In the meantime, conversations, actions, and feedback from students, staff and faculty are moving our campus forward. I hear you – we hear you -- and I write today to provide several updates, as well as to encourage every member of our community to engage in our commitment to create a welcoming and inclusive campus, especially for those members of our most vulnerable and marginalized communities.
Campus climate and diversity
First, I am pleased to announce that Professor Wayne Au has agreed to serve as interim Dean of Diversity and Equity (i.e., chief diversity officer) for UW Bothell. Professor Au is an outstanding leader and educator and, as chair of the Diversity Council, led the development of UW Bothell’s Diversity Action Plan (DAP). He will continue his work as chair of the Diversity Council, which is charged with assessing progress on the DAP and recommending updated plans. I would like to have the permanent chief diversity officer appointed within 15-18 months, following a search. I look forward to involving the campus community in the search process.
We continue increasing efforts to diversify our faculty and staff. Policies implemented in the past year include requiring diversity training for search committee chairs, enhancing outreach measures and using newly available candidate pool reports. The Dean of Diversity and Equity will provide additional guidance to search processes to increase and enhance the diversity of candidate pools.
We are also expanding existing professional development opportunities for faculty and staff—including campus leadership and safety personnel—on diversity-related topics such as implicit bias and cultural and structural competency. In response to student concerns, we developed guidelines for accommodating religious practices for spring quarter exams, which fall during Ramadan, and have begun broader conversations about policies related to religious observance in educational environments. We will also offer workshops for faculty on best practices for supporting religious accommodations in the classroom.
In response to the February incidents, the Student Diversity Center has temporarily designated one of its rooms as an additional reflection space for students who feel unsafe in the Reflection Room. There is also a proposal, driven by the Diversity Council with input from students, under consideration by the campus space committee (SUPER-G) to relocate the Reflection Room.
The safety and well-being of the campus community is our highest priority. Campus Safety personnel have and will continue to lead important conversations with campus groups to provide safety audits, discuss safety issues, and offer training. More than 700 have responded to a UW Bothell-Cascadia College safety survey to understand student, faculty, and staff concerns, and I look forward to the recommendations and work that input will generate.
Finally, as a reminder, UW Bothell and Cascadia College comply with laws and regulations regarding weapons on campus, as well as the required reporting of campus safety statistics. The Washington Administrative Code prohibits weapons on campus.
I understand the anxiety and frustration that students are expressing relative to progress on these issues. I know personally that the path toward equity and diversity is never easy and the road is long. We are determined, however, to truly build on the strength of our differences and the diversity of our campus. We will continue to seek input and communicate effectively and transparently. In addition to the faculty and staff governance and policy groups, student government and the Diversity Council, the Chancellor’s Advisory Council for Students meets regularly to review and provide feedback on budget and other matters. I will continue to use these channels – and campus communications -- to share information and seek dialogue.
Let’s work together toward a more welcoming and inclusive UW Bothell experience for all.