Faculty, administration aim to establish diversity center

By Aria Jones
@AriaJonesETC

A new department designed to support diversity efforts is coming to Eastfield after questions arose about support for LGBTQ students.

Last spring, when LGBTQ support stickers were vandalized, administration revealed its goal of opening a new Center for Equity, Inclusion, and Diversity. Now, a location for the center has been chosen, and the hiring process for a new director is underway.

Associate Vice President Rachel Wolf, who spearheaded the effort, said she hopes to hire a director by October.

“We know so many reasons why students aren’t successful has to do with the fact that they don’t have some basic needs met,” Wolf said. “In other cases it’s because they don’t have their emotional and physical and mental needs met. So the goal of the center is to place that in focus.”

When questions arose about support for LGBTQ students, Wolf said that she would like to create the center as a physical and visible place for students to go on campus.

[READ MORE: Campus re-evaluates LGBTQ needs, resources]

This office would function like an umbrella, much like the Office of Student Engagement and Retention, but with a different mission.

Oversight for the on-site food pantry, support for LGBTQ students, social justice efforts for diverse groups, sustainability efforts, housing and legal support, veterans’ services, disability services, and other resources and community efforts for students would be coordinated through the new department.

The center will be in C-145, close to Counseling Services, the Health Center and the Disability Services Office. Wolf said it was a priority to have the office near the services it will connect.

“When you go to a university or college, there are a lot of services available for students,” said Jaime Torres, one of Eastfield’s professional counselors.  “Sometimes what we hear from students is, ‘I didn’t know you had an office for this or a director for that or that we could get help’ and so on.”

Torres is leading an effort on campus to train students and faculty about preventing sexual assault, domestic and dating violence, and stalking through the Violence Against Women Act. An office like the Center for Equity, Inclusion and Diversity could help provide exposure for the workshops he hopes to offer this year.

“I welcome the idea of having a network where they can at the very least direct students and give them more options,” he said. “I’m always about options.”

[READ MORE: Transgender speaker highlights inadequate support]

The center’s staff could also help students navigate the multiple, scattered options that DCCCD offers for support. For instance, many students are unaware that the district has a services hotline or the My Community Services search engine, both of which guide students to outside agencies that can could provide housing, health care, food assistance and counseling.

The center would also provide diversity and inclusivity training for faculty and staff in partnership with the Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning, Wolf said. This would ensure that employees are educated and aware of issues that impact certain demographics of the Eastfield community.

Wolf said administrators hope to involve campus groups with the center to support diversity on campus in a more intentional way.

Sandra True, a substance abuse counseling major, said she noticed students asking questions about an LGBTQ club on campus, and within five days of offering to start something, she had at least 15 inquiries.

“It gives somebody some place to go,” she said. “A safe place to be on campus and a safe place to meet other [LGBTQ] students without them actually having to out themselves.”

She said the interaction between different efforts on campus is a good thing because there are struggles that span across many different groups.

“Having them interact and using the services for a better purpose would be so much more beneficial to the public, and to the student body,” she said. “[Rather] than them trying to work individually and trying to accomplish an individual goal.”

True said the center’s leadership would enable various student organizations to work together on issues such as homelessness and food insecurity, which don’t affect one campus group.

Wolf hopes to have a director hired and ready to start in October.

“We want somebody who has experience working with diverse populations,” Wolf said. “Somebody who understands what it takes to do outreach and build partnerships with the community and support of student needs. Somebody who has a heart for doing things for the greater good. Somebody who demonstrates the ability … of recognizing differences and honoring those differences. Somebody who has some understanding of what social justice education is about.”

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