University Academic Senate takes steps toward inclusion by creating new standing committee

GVL / Kevin Sielaff - The University Academic Senate (UAS) convenes Friday, Jan. 29, 2016 inside the DeVos Center on Grand Valleys Pew Campus.

Kevin Sielaff

GVL / Kevin Sielaff – The University Academic Senate (UAS) convenes Friday, Jan. 29, 2016 inside the DeVos Center on Grand Valley’s Pew Campus.

Tylee Bush

The university academic senate (UAS) at Grand Valley State University took what its members considered another stride in the direction of promoting equality and inclusion for all student and faculty groups on campus by founding the new standing Equity and Inclusion Committee (EIC).

The idea for this committee was shared by Karen Gipson, the UAS chair, and Felix Ngassa, the UAS vice chair. Both Gipson and Ngassa saw a need for an increased emphasis on equity at GVSU, in addition to feeling an obligation to encourage the embracement of groups of students regardless of race, handicap, sexuality, religion, etc.

“We were realizing that diversity issues were so important on our campus that we needed a committee to promote better practices,” Gipson said.

Ngassa agreed a group committed to equity at GVSU is vital.

“At GVSU, we should be committed to ensuring that our resources are equitable for all faculty, staff and students, and this requires us to provide for groups with diverse needs,” Ngassa said.

The UAS voted to create this committee last year, and its first elections will take place this month. The EIC will be comprised of 10 faculty members, in addition to four designees and two students, one being a graduate student and one being an undergraduate. Since it is a standing committee, it will report to the UAS.

Gipson outlined the five main duties of the new committee.

“The first responsibility of this new committee is to promote and facilitate faculty involvement in support of a healthy universal campus climate,” Gipson said. “The committee is accomplishing this role by engaging in social justice and diversity issues on campus.”

One of the ways the committee plans to do this is by recruiting support for the committee and retain a diverse pool of faculty, staff and students at GVSU. Another way the EIC will promote faculty involvement is to review the affirmative action plan annually.

Second, Gipson said this committee would promote awareness of “the importance of social just and campus diversity” by organizing and running events to promote that message. 

“A third charge is identifying faculty for various university awards relating to diversity,” she said. “A fourth charge of this committee is to foster faculty involvement to recruitment and retention efforts.”

Finally, the fifth responsibility will be for the EIC to serve as a liaison with the Division of Inclusion and Equity and the student senate diversity affairs committee.

One additional duty the EIC will tackle is the organization and management of the annual Teach-In event, which will be held Thursday, Jan. 19 this year.

Ngassa thinks the establishment of this standing committee brings GVSU one step closer to achieving a campus climate where everyone feels welcome and comfortable.

“I am driven by a vision and a conviction that we have to put structures in place and have strategies that ensure that all faculty, staff and students feel GVSU is a place for everyone” Ngassa said. “The creation of this committee, then, is the right move and its goal is in line with our strategic plan.”