Re: Council Will Explore Changes to Policies, Structures to Foster DEI – Email from KU – 14 August 2020

Provost Bichelmeyer,

I am writing you today about the Task Force on Community Responsive Public Safety. The American Federation of Teachers has been committed to the fight against racism and discrimination for over 100 years, and is the national leader in grappling with safety in schools and on campuses across the country. We endorse all endeavors towards the pursuit of social justice, and are pleased that you have created a task force for this purpose.

Given our experience in fighting for racial equality, we were surprised that you chose to exclude representatives from GTAC-AFT Local 6403 from your initial round of invitations. In addition, because our elected officers represent over 1,000 graduate teachers who teach almost half of all undergraduate courses at the University of Kansas, we were disappointed to be overlooked as local leaders within the initial conception of this task force. However, we were not surprised by this as graduate teachers are almost always excluded, overlooked, and forgotten within the Jawhawk community.

But we shouldn’t be. Alongside faculty and adjunct workers, graduate teachers are the front line workers of our University. When we work as assistants to faculty and adjuncts, we have the most close contact with students as we lead post-lecture discussions of sometimes difficult and contentious topics. As instructors of record, we directly and independently teach the youngest and newest undergraduate students, who are most likely to have ideas and values challenged as they enter adulthood and begin their education.

Graduate teachers have uncovered firearms in restrooms, have experienced mid-class bomb threats from students, are responsible for managing student safety in any active shooter situations, and will this semester be tasked with classroom mask enforcement. We also have the least amount on training in classroom management. Because of these factors, graduate teachers likely have the most frequent issue-related contact with campus public safety officers.

For these reasons – our experience in manifesting social justice, our responsibilities as leaders, and our proximity to the very issues at the heart of your task force – our exclusion seems to antithetical to the stated purpose of your task force. We would prefer to believe that this was an oversight and that 2-3 representatives from GTAC will be welcomed to the Task Force on Community Responsive Public Safety. Please let us know if you’ll include us and how we can help our progress towards social justice at the University of Kansas.

Thank you,
Rose Welch

From: Office of the Provost <>
Date: August 14, 2020 at 1:23:20 PM CDT
To: “KU Lawrence All Staff, Faculty and Affiliates” <>, “Active and Incoming Lawrence and Edwards Students @ KU” <>
Subject: Council Will Explore Changes to Policies, Structures to Foster DEI

The council will recommend changes as needed to create and sustain a healthier community.

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Council Will Explore Changes to Policies, Structures to Foster DEI

Dear Students, Staff and Faculty, In early June, Chancellor Girod and I shared a statement in which we articulated five actions we will be taking to demonstrate our commitment to fostering improvement in diversity, equity and inclusion at KU. One of these actions is to create a standing Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Advisory Council to ensure we have sustained focus and effort on this critical work.

While we have been developing the charter and organizing the council, our Jayhawks Rising Design Teams have been incorporating several measures to improve and strengthen equity, diversity and inclusion on our campuses as they work this summer to prepare for the start of the fall semester. I’ll announce many of their endeavors after the start of the semester.

Today, Interim Vice Provost for Diversity & Equity Jennifer Ng and I are pleased to share with you the names of three dozen individuals from a broad cross-section of campus who have agreed to serve this campus with their time, energy and knowledge.

This remarkable group will bring valuable perspectives and long-term commitment to this effort. Members will serve 2- or 3-year terms or appointments. I’ve tasked the group with multiple objectives, including evaluating existing policies, programs and structures at KU to ensure they foster and support diversity, equity and inclusion. This team will also recommend changes as needed in order to create and sustain a healthier community. It will work to ensure that each academic and administrative unit has a DEI plan that aligns with and supports campus goals and metrics. It will advise me in developing a DEI plan that is based on best practices and that includes metrics for our Lawrence and Edwards campuses.

Please join me in thanking these members for their labor. Equally important, join with us in doing the very hard work of dismantling racism and discrimination wherever it resides. 

Barbara A. Bichelmeyer
Provost & Executive Vice Chancellor

Provost’s Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Advisory Council 
Executive Sponsors – Co-Chairs
Barbara A. Bichelmeyer, Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor
Jennifer Ng, Interim Vice Provost for Diversity and Equity 

Shawn Leigh Alexander, Professor and Chair of the Department of African and African American Studies
Rachel Auten, Director of Student Support and Case Management, Student Affairs
Jessy Ayestas, PhD Candidate, Educational Leadership and Policy Studies; Graduate Senator, Student Senate; Graduate Assistant, Graduate Studies
Misty Chandler, Assistant Dean, School of Professional Studies, KU Edwards Campus
LaTisha Davis, Director, Child Care Access Means Parents in School and Associate Director of TRIO Supportive Educational Services
Alexis Exum, Doctoral Student, Clinical Psychology Program
Brittani Fults, EEO/Title IX Investigator, Institutional Opportunity & Access
Patricia Weems Gaston, Lacy C. Haynes Professor of Journalism
Mugur Geana, Associate Professor of Strategic Communications and Director, Center for Excellence in Health Communication to Underserved Populations
Samantha Ghali, Doctoral Student, Child Language Doctoral Program; Student Equity & Inclusion Workgroup
Humberto Gomez Salinas, Director of Diversity and Inclusion, Student Senate
D.A. Graham, University Ombuds
Kim Grunewald, Deputy General Counsel
Tamara Huff-Johnson, President, Black Alumni Network
Derek Kwan, Executive Director of the Lied Center of the Performing Arts
Jim Mechler, Associate Senior Vice President for Development, KU Endowment
Jenny Mehmedovic, Associate Director, Center for Faculty Development and Mentoring
Tamicka Monson, Graduate Student and Student Access Specialist, University Academic Support Centers
Sean Navarro, Assistant Director of the Military-Affiliated Student Center
Cambrey Nguyen, Clinical Assistant Professor, Pharmacy Practice
Eugene Parker, Assistant Professor, Educational Leadership and Policy Studies
Melissa Peterson, Associate Director, TRIO STEM
Roberta Pokphanh, Assistant Vice Provost for International Affairs
Precious Porras, Assistant Vice Provost for Diversity & Equity and Director of the Office of Multicultural Affairs
Terry Prentice, Associate Athletic Director and Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer, Kansas Athletics
Bulaong Ramiz Hall, Director, Emily Taylor Center for Women and Gender Equity
Annise Richard, Adidas Leadership Scholars Program Coordinator, Academic Success
Jeff Severin, Director of the Center for Sustainability
Kevin Smith, Dean of the KU Libraries
Nick Syrett, Professor and Chair of the Department of Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies
Julie Thornton, Director of Employee Relations, Human Resource Management
Kim Warren, Associate Dean for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion for the School of Social Welfare, and Associate Professor of History
Andrew Williams, Associate Dean for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion for the School of Engineering and the Charles E. and Mary Jane Spahr Professor of Electrical Engineering & Computer Science
Michelle Wilson, Academic Coordinator, TRIO SES & STEM
Ashleigh Wilson, Assistant Director for Residential Life
Lisa Wolf-Wendel, Associate Dean for Research and Graduate Studies for the School of Education and Human Sciences and Professor, Educational Leadership and Policy Studies
Danny Woods, Assistant Director of Legacy Relations and Alumni Programs, KU Alumni Association

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