Students, faculty and administrators expressed their hopes and fears for the Presidential Task Force on Campus Climate in the first of six meetings that will be discussing the process of nominating individuals to the newly instituted body.
The task force, charged with promoting campus inclusion and diversity, was formed in response to a series of high-profile racial incidents on campus, including the alleged assault of a black student in Collegetown. To that end, the task force will be in charge of three areas: campus experience, regulation of speech and harassment, and campus response.
Although President Martha Pollack has assigned three co-chairs to the task force, other members of the committee are yet to be selected. In a recent statement, she directed the Scheinman Institute on Conflict Resolution in the ILR school to recommend a nominations process.
Consequently, the institute decided to facilitate six open meetings to “discuss the process for selection and the concerns and ideas of interested individuals,” Harry Katz, director of the Institute, and Martin Scheinman ’75, MS ’76 said in a statement. A seventh forum meant to recap the previous meetings will be held on Nov. 11.
The meetings are meant to increase transparency surrounding the selections process, “to ensure the best possible job is done,” according to the institute’s website.
On Wednesday morning, nearly 25 faculty, administrators and students attended the first meeting.
“Our goal today is to focus on a conversation with the community about what the nomination process should look like,” said Cornell Woodson, diversity and inclusion programs lead and one of the facilitators of the meeting.
During the conversation members of the community shared their concerns about the task force and the obstacles to its success.
Some expressed concern the task force would be an empty vessel with no real authority, while others were worried the committee would lack diversity.
Attendees also suggested ideas for the nominations process, such as an emphasis on nominating experts in the field of social justice work and representation of all identities.
“I attended the meeting to understand what the task force is and to get a better idea of how I can get involved,” Andrew Young ’20 said. “The administration is putting a lot of responsibility on this task force, and I wanted to see how I can contribute.”
Young deemed this first meeting a success, saying “the coordinators of the task force will be able to foster a collaborative and inclusive environment to ensure substantial change on campus.”
Following these meetings, the institute aims to announce members of the task force before Thanksgiving break. They envision the task force to include about 30 to 35 members divided into various subcommittees.
The remaining meetings are Nov. 3 from 11 a.m. to noon, Nov. 6 from noon to 1 p.m., Nov. 6 from 5 to 6 p.m., Nov. 8 from 5 to 6 p.m. and Nov. 9 from 9 to 10 a.m. For those who cannot make it to one of the meetings, an anonymous survey with recommendations is available on the institute’s website.