UMW Changes Policy on Diversity to be More Inclusive
By MATT BLAIR
The University of Mary Washington is changing the wording of the Community Values Statement to better reflect the ideals and beliefs upheld and enforced by school faculty and staff, the Board of Visitors, and the student population.
During the 2007-2008 school year, an incident occurred in which a student posted a prank flier on the Jefferson Hall bulletin board, the Bullet reported on Nov. 8, 2007. A member of the resident hall housekeeping staff that discovered the flier found it to be offensive.
At that time the situation was resolved appropriately, according to Anand Rao, associate professor of communications and chair of the working group on diversity and inclusion. However, the school was limited in disciplinary actions it could take against the student due to the wording of the current statement.
Courtney Chapman, associate director of the Multicultural Center, said the student was protected under the First Amendment for free speech, even though the Statement of Community Values read, “We refuse to tolerate behavior that in any way compromises or threatens these values.”
According to Rao, the incident raised two concerns: the wording of the Community Values Statement needed an update to better handle any type of possible future incident, and the school community needed a means to report any type of discriminatory incident for investigation and possible disciplinary action.
Chapman said school officials realized that it was important to state where the administration stood concerning the issues of diversity and inclusiveness.
As a result of the Strategic Plan for Diversity recently implemented by President Hurley, the Statement on Diversity and Inclusion was drafted, according to the UMW website.
Rao said the document was revised and edited by members of the staff as well as Virginia’s Office of the Attorney General to provide the best wording to represent diversity on campus.
The UMW website said that to ensure and protect a safe and open working and academic environment for all members of the Mary Washington community, the Bias Offense and Reporting Policy was created. This gave the university definitive wording to better enforce its stance on nondiscrimination and inclusiveness.
According to Rao, the Bias Incident Reporting Program was created to give students a way to report any type of discriminatory or bias-related actions, or incidents for further investigation.
Chapman said the university has taken positive steps towards promoting and ensuring a safe environment for everyone at UMW.
“The university is moving in a direction where they are generally looking to make the campus as diverse as possible,” said Marion Sanford, director of the Multicultural Center.
Rao said he supports the efforts to make the campus more inclusive.
“We want every group to feel welcome, safe and secure on this campus,” Rao said.
The process of changing the Community Values Statement is still underway, according to the UMW website. The proposed changes will be presented to the Board of Visitors in November.