Wayne State President M. Roy Wilson announced the formation of the Social Justice Action Committee on June 30, following the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis. The committee was organized to emphasize equal opportunity and justice for everyone on campus.
The SJAC was formed after a conversation with Wilson and his cabinet regarding steps WSU can take to make sure “we are eliminating bias that have an impact on people and reduce institutional racism,” said Marquita Chamblee, associate provost for Diversity and Inclusion and chief diversity officer.
Seven different working groups are reviewing WSU policies and procedures focusing on the hiring and retention of diverse faculty and staff, student access and success, policing, intercultural education and training, campus climate and university diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives, according to the committee. The SJAC working groups will be submitting their recommendations to Wilson by Nov. 20.
“Then we’ll have a sense of what all the seven working groups will be working on so we have a sense on what we actually need to start getting to work on,” Chamblee said.
Each working group in the committee is overseen by chairs, and they are overseen by department administrators in communication, academic affairs, marketing, law, diversity and inclusion, as well as the Board of Governors. Chamblee sits on all of the working groups to learn what each one is doing and to help coordinate, she said.
“When this was put together, we asked students for representation to have a mixture of students to provide perspectives to the rest of the group that students are facing, to improve the lives of students,” Chamblee said.
The student access and success working group is looking at student recruitment, retention and graduation to identify how WSU can develop a system to better support students, Chamblee said.
“That working group is the primary working group that students would be interested in because they’re having important conversations about success and eliminating barriers for the outcome of students,” she said.
Associate professor of Diversity, Culture and Communication Donayle Padgett oversees the intercultural education and training working group.
“Our group is looking at gaps on campus related to training and development experiences around (diversity equity and inclusion) related issues,” Padgett said. “We are looking at ways to enhance the Office of Diversity and Inclusion to be able to offer meaningful programming.”
Victor Green, SJAC policing chair and WSU director of Community Relations, oversees the policing working group looking into how Wayne State University Police Department can “improve on its relationship with its community” —focusing on policies, procedures and training, he said. His background makes him fit for the position.
“I was a police officer and I was an administrator and I handled the attorney affairs and community relations,” Green said. “I was able to bring my policing background but bring a civilian lens and having community relations and understanding the community.”
It is important for students to see themselves reflected in the material they read in class and in the examples used to enhance the topics taught, Padgett said. The world is much more than just black and white.
“I think students should know they are valued on this campus. Although this effort is meant to connect students, faculty and staff, our students represent the present and the future,” Padgett said. “We want them to walk into a more equitable world. That begins with their experience on this campus.”
One way to get involved is by reaching out to the different committees, Green said.
“We are always looking for students to get involved,” he said. “We are looking for as many student voices and inputs as possible because, as we know, students play a huge role in this.”
Chantell Phillips is a contributing writer for The South End. She can be reached at email@example.com.
Cover photo by Quinn Banks, multimedia editor for The South End. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.