UPDATE (6/19/20 6:38 p.m.)
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – On Thursday, West Virginia University issued a response to a petition it received on Tuesday outlining various actions the University should take to fight racism.
In the response, officials said that West Virginia University will stand together with its community and work on the things that must change
The Univeristy’s full response is below:
West Virginia University has received a petition citing several areas for improvement and increased support in the University’s pledge to oppose racism in all its forms. The petition outlines multiple actions to rectify the shortcomings.
We are grateful to those who challenge us to live up to our ideals and words. We recognize the University – indeed all of society – has not progressed as much as is needed. This University will be intentional in listening, learning and doing better.
A university, especially one as large as WVU, is a microcosm of society as a whole. We can all agree that racism, whether overt or hidden, has never been properly or honestly addressed in this country, despite sporadic progressive steps over the years.
We are listening. We do not have all the answers, however, the University will stand together with our community and get to work on those things that must change.
On Friday, June 19, the WVU Board of Governors and President Gordon Gee will address concerns and announce actions that will be taken in the short-term, as well as long-term. Our challenges did not develop overnight, nor will they be erased overnight. With positive intent and a willingness to learn and transform, we will be better.
During the Board of Governors meeting on Friday, President Gee made an announcement that he will personally be establishing teams that will address racism and racial inequality within the university system.
“We will create action-oriented working groups to make recommendations on how the university can improve and then focus on implementation,” Gee said. “This is not a task force or strategic planning, as you know, I don’t believe in strategic planning. I believe in action and this is a commitment to recognize deficits and acting quickly to effect change.”
Gee said he will be directing the campus leaders to work in groups in order to begin working on addressing issues. For example, he said Rob Alsop, the vice president for strategic initiatives, and Hannah Davis, the president of Delta Sigma Theta and vice president of the National Pan-Hellenic Council, will co-chair a working group addressing university policing. Action items for the co-chairs may include training, partnerships with other police departments, Gee said.
Dean of Students Corey Farris and Eric Murphy who is the assistant director of service and learning will co-chair the working group addressing the development of black student leaders. Action items may include program development, cultural awareness activities and increased exposure of organizations, Gee said.
As of now, there are two other working groups whose missions also include finding ways to address racial issues. The public can learn about them through WVU’s recent press release. Gee said by June 30, WVU will release a list of all working groups and their contact information.
He said the University will prioritize transparency and make sure the WVU community and greater community can give feedback about how the policies are being implemented. The goal, Gee said, is to have all the implementations ready for the first day of classes in the fall.
Gee said those who are interested in sharing their expertise with the university about how it can best implement these actions can reach out to his office by reaching out at firstname.lastname@example.org.