The Psychology Department acknowledges the increasing concern, both in our own campus community and nationwide, regarding deep-seated racial bias and threats against the ideal of an inclusive culture. For example, there have been recently articulated concerns regarding the photographs of current members of the administration posing in front of a confederate flag in 1982, when they were WFU undergraduates. Students and faculty across campus have correctly noted that these images highlight the university’s complicated and uncomfortable history as an educational institution in the U.S. South. While we note with pride the actions of WFU students, faculty and staff who took valuable and meaningful stances against segregation in the past, we acknowledge that this history also includes actions that supported, accommodated, and defended slavery and segregation. We believe that the recent controversy provides us with an opportunity to reflect on how we can fulfill our aspirations for WFU to be an inclusive and welcoming community for students, faculty and staff from all backgrounds.
In our view, the current moment represents a catalyst to reckon with WFU’s painful past as well as the ongoing work that needs to be done. Specifically, we hope that the WFU community (inclusive of its student body, faculty and administration) can use this time and discussion to thoughtfully reexamine the traditions, practices and values that have long existed and continue to predominate in campus life. Doing so will enable us to evaluate whether these practices are in fact consistent with the promotion of an inclusive campus community and to condemn outdated practices that do not promote inclusivity.
As part of this reexamination, the experience of students who have historically been underrepresented at WFU (especially Black students and fellow students of color) needs to be seriously acknowledged and considered. We recognize that WFU has taken steps in recent years to foster the inclusivity of these students. In particular, we welcome the changes announced by President Hatch on March 18th 2019 in response to concerns raised by students and faculty. However, the Psychology Department believes that more needs to be done to achieve the progress we hope to see on our campus. The conditions for change – in the form of concrete and meaningful actions – must in particular be fostered and nourished institutionally and by those of us in positions of leadership and administrative responsibility. All members of the university may then contribute honest dialog, self-reflection, and work to confront our shared past. Only then may we move together to affirm our common values that promote an academic environment that is open to all.
The Psychology Department affirms our commitment to being a department that promotes inclusivity, diversity, and dialogue. In the coming weeks, we commit to reaching out to students in our department who have been affected by the current campus climate and ensure that their concerns are heard. This important first step will allow us to develop specific action steps in the near future that contribute to building a climate supportive of diversity and inclusivity in our Department and on the WFU campus.