December 7, 2023

On Jan. 7, Wittenberg President Mike Frandsen sent an email out to students announcing the creation of the President Council for Diversity and Inclusion.

As Frandsen noted in the email, this committee is “a group that will lead us in doing intentional work, according to the best practices in higher education, policy and procedures, and program design and implementation, as it relates to diversity and inclusion.” This committee is to run in accordance with the faculty’s Diversity Advisory Committee (DAC).

Frandsen hopes this Council will also be a resource for campus.

“The Council will also serve as a resource for academic and administrative units at the University to help them create and reach diversity goals for their respective areas,” Frandsen said. “The Council is accountable to me, and I will be directly engaged in its efforts as we move forward.”

Frandsen specifically thanked Interim Provost Mary Zembar, Vice President and Dean of Students Casey Gill and Assistant Dean of Diversity and Inclusion Joshua Moore for their help in forming this group.

The group was formed after an initial meeting with Concerned Black Students (CBS) discussing the issues raised in the Letter to Editor.

In another email sent out to campus, which included the Letter to the Editor, Frandsen stated that he found the meeting to be “valuable and productive.”

Frandsen also commented that after the meeting he felt he had a better understanding of where the black students were coming from.

“I have an improved sense of the very real challenges and pain our Black students feel, as well as the constant pressure they experience being a Black student on a predominantly White campus,” Frandsen wrote. “I understand better, on a personal level, how institutional racism at Wittenberg affects our Black students and others.”

Frandsen then went on to say that the University would be working towards meeting some of the demands that CBS members proposed. These demands can be found in the article “Discrimination on Wittenberg’s Campus.”

As Frandsen noted in his emails, these changes are not just for those in administration or those who attended the meeting between CBS executives and administration. Frandsen noted that these changes would, in some respects, be campus wide.

“We must commit ourselves at Wittenberg to creating and sustaining a welcoming climate grounded in a mutual respect for each other,” Frandsen wrote. “As such, we need to think creatively and critically to address systemic racism that exists in the social structures around us.”

After 24 days, Frandsen sent out the email announcing the formation of the President’s Council for Diversity and Inclusion.

The Council itself is currently made up of 18 members, 15 from faculty and staff and three students. The students involved include: the president of CBS, Leul Bulcha, ’20; a member of the Gender and Sexual Diversity Alliance, Erica Nickerson, ’19, and a member of the American International Association, Reyna Ayala Montes, ’20.

As Frandsen gave the following list of goals for this Council:

Revisit and update Wittenberg University’s Diversity Statement and ensure that it is well communicated and known by all members of our community.

Engage the entire Wittenberg community in work on diversity and inclusion matters.

Explore and develop a plan for diversity and inclusion training for all members of the community.

Develop plans for becoming a more inclusive and inviting campus.

Ensure that all who should be are at the table.

This council will begin trying to accomplish their goals beginning at their first meeting, which is to be held by the end of this month.

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