Elon University’s Student Government Association met for a virtual town hall on the issue of diversity, equity and inclusion on campus on Thursday evening. Junior Malia Takei moderated the town hall, which featured Vice President and Associate Provost for Inclusive Excellence Randy Williams, Vice President for Student Life Jon Dooley and Director of the Center for Equity and Inclusive Excellence Leigh-Anne Royster.
Throughout the meeting, Williams spoke on Elon's new diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives and answered student questions related to the new initiatives.
Williams said although reversing systems of oppression "is certainly going to take time," he said he is impressed to see the term "anti-racism" circulating the way it is.
"The fact that we're naming this in 2020 is a big step," Williams said.
Williams listed several of the university's new diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives such as mandated anti-harassment training for all Elon employees, new recruitment and support for underrepresented students and a planned expansion of the Black Life Advisory Council.
Williams also noted that there are new mandatory diversity training modules for all Elon employees, including campus police, but said there is currently no way to ensure that all employees actually complete the training.
"Unfortunately though we have not implemented and executed and held people accountable for completing that training," Williams said, adding that the online modules are only one form of diversity training for employees.
Throughout the town hall, Williams also emphasized the importance of transparency at the university level, especially in regards to upcoming changes to Elon's bias reporting system.
Williams said the workgroup on a new bias reporting system is taking "a yearlong process" to make suggestions for the system. A new dashboard would be publicly available after such suggestions have been made.
In an interview with Elon News Network, Takei said she understands why students are dissatisfied with the current bias reporting system, but emphasized that it is not always possible to disclose legal action taken after reports are filed.
"I know students are disenchanted with the bias reporting system, and they're upset because they don't have communication after submitting a bias report or they feel like there's a lack of action," Takei said, adding that she wants students to know reports are not ignored.
"There is a set of protocols that happens after you submit a bias report, but you just might not be hearing what you want to hear," Takei said.
Williams said viewers of the bias dashboard would be able to view "what type of cases and reports have been made," but the information would be available "without revealing any identity, or breaching any confidences so that we can have ... a greater sense of trust within the system."
By the end of the town hall, Dooley emphasized that students interested in getting involved with diversity, equity and inclusion issues can reach out to SGA, which sends representatives to the Academic Council, the governing body for faculty members. According to Dooley, the Academic Council is in charge of implementing a new curriculum which focuses on the issues of diversity, equity and inclusion.
"We definitely would advocate to be engaged with the Academic Council, and to get to know those faculty and the work that they are doing to create those changes," Dooley said.
In an interview before the town hall, SGA Executive President Robbie Miley said the event would be a good opportunity for students to communicate their concerns with members of senior staff. Miley said although he has seen progress at Elon, there is still a long way to go.
"I think if the [Black Student Union] event that occurred on Tuesday happened two years ago, I don't think we [would] have half the turnout," Miley said. "With that being said, there's still a lot of progress that needs to be made."
Miley said recruiting a more diverse senate within SGA is an important goal for his administration.
"At the end of the day, we have to have more representation from underrepresented communities in the room, because otherwise, it is such a burden for individuals to try and reach out and it shouldn't be a burden," Miley said. "We should be accessible to everyone."
Abby Goretsky, Henry Janosick, Aaron Simansky and Ian Taylor contributed to the reporting of this story.