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Recap through tweets: President's forum leads to questions about diversity on campus

President Eddie Tealer and Vice President Mike Walker discuss
college goals and initiatives at the town hall on March 29. Photo by Yesenia Alvarado/The Et Cetera
President Eddie Tealer and Vice President Mike Walker discuss college goals and initiatives at the town hall on March 29. Photo by Yesenia Alvarado/The Et Cetera

The president’s forum on Oct. 11 in G-101 brought light to issues on campus regarding diversity and acceptance of marginalized groups after the dean of student success and wellness addressed President Eddie Tealer at the end of the forum.
Originally, the forum was set to discuss single accreditation, the Forney ISD merger, human resources, the fall 2020 tuition increase, the recent lockdown drill and an update on construction projects on campus.
The full Twitter thread can be read here.
—Skye Seipp

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Launius ended her speech by directing a question to Tealer and his cabinet.
“So I would like to hear what the President’s Cabinet plans to do to ensure and implement strategies to make sure that our queer, trans and other marginalized students and employees feel safe, welcome and included on campus.”
Launius also noted that LGBTQ+ safe zone stickers on campus had recently been vandalized, which is a problem that Eastfield dealt with back in spring 2018.

[READ MORE: Campus re-evaluates LGBTQ needs, resources]
Tealer responded by saying he believed Launius made “a great point.”
“This is not the responsibility of one department but the responsibility of our college,” Tealer said. “But we have to show that from the college leadership.”
He said when it came to the director position the job was not filled due to budget concerns. Tealer said the college came in at about $1.5 million too high for the annual budget that began Sept. 1, and that it had to be balanced.
“When we have these positions, I will be looking for some strategic plans of how these areas need to function across the college,” Tealer said. “Because we need to have some accountability of how we merge that department with others as far as collaboration.”

He said the position of director would not be filled right now, but said it was not “indefinite.”
“We just have to balance the college, and that’s my job,” he said.
He said the decision came from him and the cabinet so they could study the position to make sure it’s “set up for success.” Tealer also mentioned to the possibility of bringing a guest speaker on campus to address some of the issues of acceptance on campus.
Police Capt. Michael Bratton then stood up and addressed that if any crime is happening on campus that it should be reported to the campus police “immediately.”
“We’ve not received any incidents involving LGBTQ issues,” he said.
English professor Andrew Tolle interjected to say that he had reported an issue last year. Bratton said he has only been on campus for a year and that he had not heard of any incidents. Tolle later stood up in the forum and asked if police could be better trained on dealing with these reports.
“When I reported this a year ago I was treated like I was crazy,” he said. “I was really grilled as if I was the one who had done this thing rather than being the victim of it.”
Bratton said he has instructed some of his officers to do extra routine checks on the areas of campus that have recently reported vandalism to the LGBTQ+ safe zone stickers, but he told the audience to still make a report with campus police so incidents can be investigated. He also said there has been an overhaul in the police department over the past year with many of the officers being new.
Launius then stood back up. She said that many of the concerns on campus don’t rise to the level of criminality. She said most of the problems are comments in the classroom, attitudes and behaviors.
“We’re not talking about physical assault,” Launius said. “But we also know words are violent.”
Police Lt. Jason Brown then said that any acts of intimidation or bullying should still be reported, because those must still be sent in for the federally mandated Clery campus safety report.

Anand Upadhyaya, director of tutoring services, commented that the problems addressed by Launius extend to not only members of the LGBTQ+ community but to minorities and religious groups as well.
“We also see in the tutoring area students who voice a lot of personal issues and societal issues in their papers,” he said. “And sometimes that conversation comes to students saying they don’t necessarily feel supported on campus.”
He said on top of bringing in a guest speaker that he would like to see the talent at Eastfield utilized, such as people like Launius and others who already deal with diversity on campus.

Developmental English professor John Garcia then proposed a sponsorship program for Eastfield, which was something he had at a previous college he worked at in California. He said it could make students feel more included on campus.
Garcia said he learned more from the students by being a sponsor for a Muslim club at that college.
A question was then brought up by another attendee as to whether LGBTQ+ students had a club on campus. Eastfield currently has the PRISM club for LGBTQ+ members and allies, but Launius said the current culture discourages some students from participating because they do not feel safe.
“It’s great for us to have these resources and the idea of having a diversity mentorship program was actually in our plan for the Center of Equity, Inclusion and Diversity, but we can’t really execute that plan when we’re understaffed,” Launius said. “We have to address the culture and climate before folks will be engaged and involved and build community.”
Dean of Social Sciences DeShaunta Stewart took the microphone and said that the approach has to be different than previously tried before.
“If we’re really sincere about making this a warm welcoming place to be, we cannot be reactive,” she said. “It has to be persistent, pervasive change in culture that we will see in our success and retention for our students.”

Tealer said it will take faculty and staff also showing up and participating in events like the Cafe Conversations with himself.
“We have to have real live conversations and leave the emotions behind and do the right thing to help our college be the best it can be,” he said. “Not just around student success, but also being a good college and family where we can all get along and really value diversity.”

Tealer then said the leadership team has been working on having better communication with the college. He said he will be doing whatever it takes to move the college forward and that he would be asking Vice President Jose Rodriguez to find the funds to help.
“I’m going to go to work and make sure that we check the diversity box,” Tealer said. “I’m all about diversity. You’re looking at diversity right here. So why would I not want to make sure that we’re a strong campus around diversity? Let’s just put it out there.”

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