Racial Equity Taskforce formed to fight Injustice

With the resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement over the summer, and the creation of the Instagram account, @blackatbw, the Baldwin Wallace community was made aware of certain racial injustices black students had experienced on campus. To address these issues, the Racial Equity Task Force was formed.

This task force was created to address and respond to the outcry in the BW community from its students and recent alumni.

“My hope is that the emergence of this task force is seen as an answer, is seen as a response, an institutional response to pain and to very real hurt,” said Chisomo Selemani, an associate professor in the Communication Sciences and Disorders department and a member of the RETF.

“We are a task force here to serve the campus community, we are investigating the current landscape specific to racial equity, and we endeavor to work towards greater inclusion in terms of racial equity,” said Selemani.

To address the issues black students—which make up only 9.02% of the student population—brought to light this summer, the RETF has used anonymous complaints to steer the task force in the right direction and are encouraging students to come forward to have discussions on how to handle these situations. In addition, academic departments and faculty are going through diversity training to learn how to handle any racial issues that occur in and out of the classroom.

The Theatre and Dance department have already created a committee that formed a code of conduct over the summer and is working with students to develop a peer council, said CJ Harkness, the chief diversity officer and the head of the RETF.

The task force’s goal this semester is to complete a diversity audit and bring recommendations to the university administration.

“This task force is serious and is committed to bringing forward substance of change,” said Harkness.

As a part of this goal, a new faculty senate committee was created to look at issues of equity and justice and work alongside the RETF. The task force has also decided to look for a full-time staff person whose job will be focused on racial healing, said Selemani.

Another goal of the task force is to make the community a safe place for people of color.

“As a community, we stand in solidarity against racism. We have a responsibility to call out racism whenever and wherever we see it. We commit to continuing to support students, faculty and staff of color and make sure they feel safe on our campus,” said President Robert Helmer, the president of Baldwin Wallace University.

Selemani said that she hopes the task force can help “our students, all students, feel welcome and [know] that there are places where their voices can be heard, that they can participate in all aspects of BW life.”

Though the task force does expect some criticism, said Harkness, it will keep pressing forward with open eyes and ears to make BW a more inclusive campus. They will continue to serve the campus community and investigate the current issues that have been brought forward in order to work towards a greater inclusion in terms of racial equity.

“If people have feedback or thoughts, go ahead and provide that. We really do welcome feedback and thoughts,” said Selemani. She encourages students, staff, and faculty to fill out the forms that have been provided to bring forward more issues or to provide constructive criticism.