In 2013 Antonio Farias joined the staff as vice president for equity and inclusion, and Title IX officer. Building on the work of his predecessors, he and his colleagues in the Office for Equity & Inclusion have developed robust policies and procedures for handling Title IX complaints and educating the community about Title IX, and they have worked to advance a broad range of issues pertinent to equity and inclusion. These include accessibility, faculty/sta hiring and retention, building cohorts of diverse students, and laying the foundation for sustainable change.
“By the time our students graduate, they should have a toolkit that enables them to function in an environment that’s incredibly diverse and complex, be it corporate, nonprofit, or educational,” he says. “Their time at Wesleyan should be when they were challenged the most and prepared for a world that does not necessarily value difference.”
Farias describes the various first-year orientation programs as offering a strong start to building that toolkit, and he says more work is needed to assure continuity in subsequent years, adding, “We want to build on the intensity of the first-year experience by developing increasingly sophisticated ways of thinking about difference in the service of a democratic citizenry.”
The faculty and academic deans take a “hands-on” approach to recruiting and retaining historically underrepresented faculty, often in competition with large research universities, he notes. All faculty search committees receive training in ways to develop a diverse pool and recruit candidates. Candidates are asked to describe how they operate in a diverse educational environment.
“We care deeply about how faculty are able to engage with difference in the pursuit of intellectual growth, and any faculty member coming here should know that the inclusive classroom is vital,” he says. “In collaboration with Academic Affairs, we’ve made some dramatic progress in our recruitment of historically underrepresented faculty and are now beginning to replicate these efforts with the staff.”
Farias is an enthusiastic proponent of the planned Resource Center. “In the midst of protest, I witnessed students coming together and demanding an intersectional center where are all are welcomed, feel supported, and learn to thrive amongst difference—that to me exemplified Wesleyan students at their best. The Resource Center will serve as a unifying hub,” he says. “It will be an intellectual, emotional, and symbolic home to many students, faculty, and staff—and most important, it will teach us to continue to work together toward a more just Wesleyan.”