JUNE 17, 2020
Joanne Woodard, Vice President for Institutional Equity and Diversity: Good afternoon. I’m Joanne Woodard, Vice President for Institutional Equity and Diversity here at the University of North Texas. We thank you so much for participating with us this afternoon, those who are here with us in person and those who are participating via the Zoom meeting.
Joanne Woodard: So before we get started, as we would if we were having a usual face-to-face meeting, we’ll just take a few minutes — we don’t have a large audience here — so that everyone here in person and on the Zoom meeting can introduce themselves and talk just briefly about your affiliation here at the university. I’ll start here at the front row.
Bob Brown, Senior Vice President for Finance and Administration: I’m Bob Brown, Senior Vice President for Finance and Administration here at the university, and I’m a 1980 graduate of the College of Business.
Gilbert Gerst, President of the Black Alumni Association: Good afternoon everybody, my name is Gilbert Gerst. I’m a 1985 graduate of the School of Business and I’m the president of the Black Alumni Association.
Landon Ellison, Director for the Office of Outreach: Good afternoon. My name is Landon Ellison and I’m the Director for the Office of Outreach. I’m also the president of the Black Professional Network, so I’m here in representation of that.
Tony Carey, Associate Professor of Political Science: Hi, I’m Tony Carey. I’m an associate professor in the Department of Political Science, and I’m also here in my capacity as a leader on the leadership team for the Black Faculty Network.
Nicholas Savage, President of the National Panhellenic Council: Good afternoon, I’m Nicholas Savage, I am the National Panhellenic Council President and I’m also here in the capacity of the Black Student Union.
Nicholas McDonald, Vice President of the Black Student Union: Hello, my name is Nicholas McDonald. I’m an Advertising major with a minor in Marketing. This is my third year at the University of North Texas, and I’m the tenth vice president of the Black Student Union.
Enoch Ardem, President of the African Students Organization: Good afternoon, my name is Enoch Ardem. I’m president of the African Students Organization at the University of North Texas. I’m a Real Estate major with a focus in residential property management.
Dillon Smith, President of the Black Student Union: Hello everybody, my name is Dillon Smith. I’m a junior Marketing major here at UNT and I’m president of the BSU.
Elizabeth With, Vice President for Student Affairs: Hi, I’m Elizabeth With and I’m vice president for Student Affairs. And I’ll follow, I am a 2002 graduate of the University of North Texas.
Jennifer Cowley, Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs: Hi, I’m Jennifer Cowley. I’m the Vice Provost of Academic Affairs and Provost and a 1997 graduate of the College of Health and Public Service.
Ed Reynolds, Chief of UNT Police: Hello, I’m Ed Reynolds. I’m the Chief of Police for the UNT Police Department. I started here at UNT in 94 — started school here in 94 — and graduated in 2004, so it took me a little longer than most. But a proud graduate of UNT and I’m glad to be here today.
President Neal Smatresk: Neal Smatresk, president of the University of North Texas. I’m not an alum but I’m sure glad I’m here.
Jim Berscheidt, Vice President of Brand Strategy and Communications: I’m Jim Berscheidt, I’m Vice President of Brand Strategy and Communications.
Joanne Woodard: And Jim, could you tap the folks who are participating via Zoom to see if they can introduce themselves as well?
Jim Berscheidt: Absolutely. I’ll go through the list and ask everybody to introduce themselves. David Wolf? David?
David Wolf, Vice President for University Advancement: Yeah, hey, thanks. David Wolf, Vice President for University Advancement. And I think I heard everybody tell how proud they were to be a UNT grad. I am a 2004 Ph.D. graduate and I’m proud of my Mean Greenness.
Jim Berscheidt: I’m just going to go in order across the tiles. Lesa Roe?
Chancellor Lesa Roe: I think you said Lesa Roe, so I’m Lesa Roe, Chancellor of the University of North Texas System. Some of the sound is a little hard to pick up, I apologize.
Jim Berscheidt: Zach Shirley, go ahead.
Zach Shirley, Director for the Center for Fraternity and Sorority Life: Good afternoon, everyone. My name is Zach Shirley, I am a 2014 graduate of the University of North Texas from the Higher Education doctoral program. In my role at the University of North Texas, I serve as the Director for the Center for Fraternity and Sorority Life. I am here in my capacity today as the vice president for the Black Professionals Network.
Clay Simmons, Chief Compliance Officer: I’m Clay Simmons, I’m the Chief Compliance Officer. I am not a UNT graduate but I do have two children who are in UNT right now, and we are proud to be here.
Chandler Garrison, President of the National Panhellenic Council: Hi everyone, I’m Chandler Garrison. I am currently a senior. I’m a Business Entrepreneurship major with a minor in Spanish and I am the vice president of the National Panhellenic Council.
Chandra Carey, Chair of the Department of Rehabilitation and Health Services: Hi everyone. I’m Chandra Carey. I am currently the chair of the Department of Rehabilitation and Health Services and a faculty member in the program of rehabilitation counseling. I’m here representing the leadership team of the Black Faculty Network.
Milan, Secretary for UNT’s NAACP: Hi, my name is Milan. I am currently a senior at UNT. I am the secretary for UNT’s NAACP, so I am here on behalf of the president.
Paul Corliss, Chief Communications Officer for the UNT System: Hello, Paul Corliss. I’m Chief Communications Officer for the UNT System. I work with Chancellor Roe and I’m here to listen.
Isaiah Littlejohn “King”, student: Hello, my name is Isaiah Littlejohn; however, I go by Isaiah King. I’m a Political Science major integrated with Public Policy and Marketing, and I’m just here as a concerned student that’s involved and wanting to be a part of this.
Debbie Rohwer, Vice President for Planning and Chief of Staff: Hi guys, I’m Debbie Rohwer, Vice President for the University of North Texas.
Joanne Woodard: Again, thank you all for being here. Our purpose today is to present to you some of the solutions that we’ve come up with, some of the ways that we’re addressing the concerns that have been raised by students as early as November 2019 and as recently as this past May and June, as events in the United States seemed to focus more acutely and align with many of the issues that have been raised by students previously here at the University of North Texas.
As many of the students may recall, we engaged in meetings with you from late November until we left for Spring Break. I think we were very remiss in ensuring that we communicated back to the university community what we have been working on and our plans going forward. So this is our effort today — or part of those efforts — to ensure that we are communicating clearly what we have done to date and what we have planned for the future to address the concerns that have been raised by students here at the University of North Texas, as well as faculty, staff and related groups who have spoken out in solidarity with the demands, the requests, of the students. Yes, sir?
Student: Before we start this meeting, I just want to let everybody know that we are not affiliated with the coalition, and we just are supportive. And also, no disrespect to anybody in the room — we hold y’all to the most respect — but today, the only person we want to hear from is Neal.
Joanne Woodard: I’m just setting the stage and getting ready to turn it over to President Smatresk.
Student: Yes, ma’am. I’m just going ahead and letting that be known. We want to hear Neal speak, which is what we’re trying to hear first, because 1, 2, 3 and 5, like you said, are the same demands from November 8, 2019.
Joanne Woodard: Okay. So, we will cut to the chase, and as I was saying, we will be very intentional going forward in making sure that we are communicating to the entire campus community and anyone who is interested in what’s going on at UNT what we’ve already done, what we plan to do, and how people can participate in that process by continuing to offer suggestions and working with us as we go forward. Because again, we’ve been trying to listen, we’ve been trying to learn, we’ve been trying to link in with various groups, and then now it’s time for, as you point out, the leadership — what are we planning to do? And the president will, I think, adequately communicate that to everyone today, and we will be posting this information on the website at the conclusion of the meeting. And we also invite comments and questions to what’s being posted. So without further ado, let me turn it over to our president, Neal Smatresk.
Student: With that being said, y’all already have made the plans to release the statement after the meeting regardless of what happens?
Joanne Woodard: Yes, we always are trying to be transparent. We are releasing this just as we posted onto the website the town halls that we had previously, and the questions that didn’t get answered on air we spent a lot of time making sure we provided answers to those questions that were raised by students, faculty and staff.
Student: I understand what you’re saying, but my question is, without having the input from us, how are y’all releasing statements without asking for our input?
Joanne Woodard: We have asked for input from students — as I mentioned, we met with student groups from late November through the beginning of March, we have been engaged with students. But again, we’re asking for feedback on what we’re proposing, and I hope you’ll be critical and honest in giving us that feedback.
Student: Okay, so today you want the feedback?
Joanne Woodard: First you have to hear what it is we’re proposing.
Student: We’re listening, but it doesn’t seem like it’s a conversation about what’s gonna happen. It seems like y’all already made a decision and these are what you’re implementing.
President Smatresk: Joanne, why don’t I jump in.
Joanne Woodard: Jump right in, if you’d like.
President Smatresk: So, let me set the record straight. There was a series of demands that were presented in November, and they were great. They were demands that were entirely focused on building a better, more affirmative culture, better training, better sensitivity, better resourcing of things that were important to our black student population. That set of demands and requests is part of what we’re going to talk about today. We’re going to go over a compendious list of demands. We’ve had demands and requests from the Black Faculty Network, from and supported by the Black Professionals Network. We’ve had demands that came out from our students and SGA, the coalition, and the Black Student Union. And we also had a bunch of requests made by our Latinx community called Unite.
Student: You do realize they’re the same — the SGA is the same as the BSU — we released the same thing?
President Smatresk: Sure, and I would appreciate it if you would let me move into the presentation, and perhaps a bunch of your questions will be answered. So the questions that I got were, how are we going to respond to the demands? And the answers to that are that we’ve been working steadily since November. Sure, when COVID came along it kind of put a — threw a monkey wrench into the plans and things slowed down, and now we’re back on it. What we’ve done is going to be talked about today, the action steps we’ve already taken, along with action steps that are planned. And what we hope to hear from you — and anybody else in the room, including the Zoom room — is what else you have in mind. So, we’re going to address just what you’ve asked for. We’re going to lay out what we’ve done, we’re going to lay out what we’re doing, we’re going to lay out commitments to the resources that we’ve put in, and they are substantial. And then we’re going to be able to have the dialogue that we need. Because there’s no going forward unless we go forward together, and there’s no going forward unless there’s a really healthy conversation. But there are so many different stakeholders that we want to gather the stakeholders so that we get all the voices in the room. Because sometimes the stakeholder voices ask for different things that may actually be in opposition to each other. That’s why we hold this dialogue. That’s why today is a great opportunity to present a rich set of plans that I think we can grow from. So without further ado, here’s how I’d like to run it. We’re going to move through the whole presentation. It’s kind of lengthy. We’re going to try to get through it relatively quickly. When we’re done, we’re going to open it back up to questions and we can go — if you’ll say, “Hey, you know, on this section I wanted to see more about what you said and I want to talk about it,” we’ll scroll up to that slide, we can have the dialogue. We’ll be recording the conversation — this whole thing is being recorded — and we can then enter into maybe other steps we’re going to take. So let’s see what we got.
Student: Just one last question. Do we have a time frame on it?
President Smatresk: 90 minutes.
Student: I just want to make sure we’ll have plenty of time.
President Smatresk: You’ll have plenty of time.
President Smatresk: All right. So, the areas of focus. We’ve built a consolidated list of all the demands and requests that were made. Turns out that there were several major areas of focus. The first was Diversity and inclusion initiatives in the UNT Strategic Plan. The next was mandatory training on cultural competencies and implicit bias. There was a lot of information about hiring a more diverse workforce more reflective of our student demographics. There were concerns raised about our UNT Police. There was an ancillary concern embedded within the police one about expanding counseling support for our students, particularly for minority students. There was academic and curricular changes supportive of diversity and inclusion. And of course, the one that everybody wants, more support for the Division of Institutional Equity and Diversity and what we’ve done there. So let’s begin.
For the Diversity and inclusion Initiatives, we have adopted a strategic plan in November 2019 and that plan, by the way, corresponded with the first protest after the unfortunate incident in our Student Union with a System lawyer. The plan specifically incorporates the initiatives to target diversity and inclusion and to increase retention rate. So we went back over the plan and we highlighted specific areas that would address diversity and inclusion. Now, this is a lot, so I’m going to go through it kind of fast. And I’m happy to go back to it at the end, but you should know that once something’s in the strategic plan, it actually kind of bears the force of what we’re going to roll out over the next five years. In some cases, some things will be rolled out earlier, some things later, but pretty much anything we’ve put in the strategic plan we’ve accomplished.
The demand was that we create a specific outline to address diversity and inclusion in the plan. And if you start by reading our plan, you’ll understand that it centers around empowering and transforming our students. This is something I want to come back to on a regular basis. The reason we’re all here is to make sure our students are successful and to make sure that they have great careers, to make sure that we give them the opportunity to reach their career goals and dreams and move into life with a great sense of well-bring. And I’m glad that Gilbert from our Black Alumni Network is here because he can address some of the experiences that he had at some point, but also to celebrate his success. If you take a look at our strategic plan: “It is important that as a minority-serving institution we are dedicated to ensuring those pathways for all students.” So if the culture isn’t right here, we’re not doing our job. It’s a fundamental job we have to address this.
Okay, I’m not going to read all these. There’s too many. I want to say the majority of things that we emphasized in the strategic plan revolved around education and social retention initiatives. They’re about engagement of students, engagement of faculty, helping students to graduate in a faster time, making sure that where there are gaps in success rates between different ethnicities or genders that we address those gaps, that we improve services for at-risk and underrepresented students, and do a host of other things that get people involved, including, by the way, getting people involved in learning communities, Greek life and Multicultural Center activities. So we have a host of initiatives around engagement on campus and improving education for our students. We also have put in the strategic plan, specifically, plans for training our students, providing campus trainings and resources for cultural competency for students as well as faculty and staff, requiring additional key sessions for new students at orientation, promoting additional sessions to increase our cultural competence as a community, and hosting a variety of town halls — because, while people often say we’re listening too much, we need action, it’s really hard to take the right actions unless you understand, and listening is the key to that.
Financial/Debt Initiative. One of the things that we’ve seen is that many of our students are struggling, particularly right now during COVID. So we’ve put into place a strong concierge team to help students who are experiencing financial challenges to be able to overcome those challenges. And later I’ll talk a little bit about things like the CARE Act funding and some of the funding that we’ve provided, because I think it’s having a powerful effect helping students to stay in school. But this particular initiative, which is led by Joey Saxon out of our Student Accounting, is one of the strongest initiatives we’ve ever put together. It’s kind of a one-stop-shop for almost any service that students need.
We also have initiatives in the plan around faculty and staff hiring to try to get more representative faculty and staff. Right now, there’s some statistics I’ll give you that I still don’t think are good enough, but they’re better than a lot of places. Our faculty is 6% black. That is the highest percentage of black faculty of any research institution in the state of Texas. Our staff is at 10%. That is not the highest of a research institution in the state of Texas, or it’s similar to it. Neither of those, however, resembles the 15% of student population that’s black on our campus, so we need to do much better there.
We also, as of this January, were declared a Hispanic Serving Institution, which opened the door for us being a Minority Serving Institution. This is a big event in our existence — the first time ever for UNT — and it represents real progress in how we’re diversifying our campus. Because of this we’ve developed the Latinx Initiative to better support students. We’ve also leveraged our Hispanic Serving Institution status to make sure we’re getting more teaching and training grants — and you’re going to see one of those referenced here as we go through this list.
So this is the concrete changes that were made in the strategic plan that were made to highlight our Diversity and Inclusion Initiatives, and I think that you’ll see that we’ve built off those on the next few slides.
One of the comments I believe made by the Black Faculty Network and maybe supported by the Latinx network was that we create a Diversity Council and convene meetings of the Cabinet and Council members every semester to monitor and review our progress toward racial and ethnic equity. It’s a great idea. We have an existing Presidential Advisory Committee. We probably need to work on it a little and remodel it a bit, to make that it’s a truly representative group for diverse perspectives. So the request as put in here is what you just saw. We’re going to be launching one. I’ll be assembling the committee this summer and putting groups together. It will have students, faculty and staff members on it, as well as members who have specific interest in diversity issues. The purpose of the council will be to monitor and review the university’s progress toward racial and ethnic equity, to provide diverse perspectives to help guide the university leaders as we work toward a more inclusive environment, to provide feedback to me, specifically, about the cultural climate in campus units — one of the things I like to say is I can’t fix it unless I know it’s broken. Unless I have specific feedback when something is going awry I can’t respond to it, and this is going to be a very valuable function of this group. And it’s also going to be to assist as we communicate to our diverse communities to make sure that our tone and tenor are proper and that we are reaching out and talking about the things that people value.
Training was another giant part of all the requests. I think every request asked for some form of training. We value training and we’ve been very committed to it. And I’ll simply tell you that you’re going to see now that we’re rolling out comprehensive training that covers the entire population of our campus and campus community. The demand was that we will “institute a mandatory cultural competence course required of all students in the first year or a standalone course integrated with Orientation and Transition Programs.” That was a demand specific for students. Responding to that, beginning with the 20-21 year, we’re going to require cultural competence courses for our students in either the first-year seminar or as a standalone course. The Division of Student Affairs has already put this into effect and it’s happening right now as we speak. Incoming students and Orientation and Transition Programs will be working with Everfi, which is a group that creates training for interpersonal relationships/cultural competencies, and Elizabeth can provide more details on this later if you have questions about it. But this is occurring both during orientation and First Flight. Within that, we’re going to pilot a first-year seminar course in the fall of 2020 to help make sure incoming students have the appropriate cultural training so that they can be successful in a diverse world. Graduate cultural competency training is being planned for fall 2020. It’s not as far along yet but we’re working on it right now actively with the graduate office. So that’s TBD.
We’ve also asked for mandatory diversity training for faculty and staff. The Faculty Senate adopted a resolution in support of mandatory diversity and inclusion training in December 2019. Right now, Faculty Senate, Faculty Success and the Division of Institutional Equity and Diversity are collaborating to put together a really great training program. In fact, Joanne and Jennifer have been working on this with Bertina Combes, who’s one of our new hires and is a terrific addition to us around Faculty Success, and this program will begin to be administered in the fall of 2020. So the bits and pieces are being put together as we speak, and it’s a fairly heavy lift to design something that helps with professional development of all of our faculty, we’re doing that now. UNT was also selected to participate in an NSF-funded program, and I believe this is through APLU with the National Science Foundation. It’s called the Aspire program. One part of that program is to improve and make more inclusive classrooms for STEM, and that’s a really great thing. The other part is to build diversity of faculty, and we’ll talk about that later. So there’s a grant program that’s going on right now.
In addition, we have professional development opportunities for our faculty and staff through Bridge trainings. And in fact, during this shelter-in-place period of COVID, we’ve had quite high interest in taking our online training programs from people who find themselves with a little extra time on their hands — or are fighting off the boredom of being at home, whichever. It’s been put to good use. The training programs are working. They’re being done in collaboration with our chancellor and with our system, and I’m highly supportive of those programs. I hope more people will take them. If you haven’t heard of Bridge training, it’s the training modules we build all of our training programs out of. Each Division Vice President is now implementing their own diversity and inclusion training plan for their units. We have required that every VP area—which is virtually every faculty and staff member in the university — develop specific, contextually relevant training programs. So what you train for — for people doing some of our landscape work, or for doing our custodial work, or for working in an accounting area, versus for a faculty or staff member — the trainings should be different. Because they’re meeting with different constituencies, they’re interacting with people in different ways, and we want to make sure that they’re getting relevant training that helps them now, today, on the job. One of the strongest examples of this, in my opinion, is what’s coming out of Student Affairs. I just really want to congratulate Elizabeth for completing the following three diversity trainings. And 96% of the staff in Student Affairs, which is a very big staff, have taken these. One is in Unconscious Bias Training, the other is Cultural Competence and Inclusion, and finally, Communicating Across Cultures. And the feedback that we’re getting is that people really like these trainings and they’re making an immediate difference in how they interact with their colleagues and how they interact with black and Latinx community members.
Another big demand — and one that I have to admit is one of the hardest — is making a more diverse workforce. This is something that everyone’s asked for, and I think, really, every university aspires to, and it’s something that also is challenging because we have an embedded population that doesn’t turn over very fast, which means as we hire new individuals there’s a fairly slow turnover in the population and fairly slow change in the percent of our ethnic minorities. We’ve been asked to increase the percentage of black, brown and other marginalized identities among faculty and staff campus-wide to match the representation of our student population.
So how are we approaching this? First, we’re working toward increasing the diversity of faculty and staff campus-wide to better reflect our demographic makeup. We’ve committed to that. It’s part of our strategic plan, part of how we’re going forward. Our colleges and divisions are currently engaged in intentional efforts to increase this. Now, the way we’re going to do it is somewhat different in every unit. For example, in Student Affairs, everybody’s taking implicit bias training before a search commences. In Academic Affairs, last year, even as we began from November to expand out implicit bias training, there was an increase of 71% of the search committees that were adequately trained for hiring diversity. This training will now be mandatory for every search that goes on the university in every division for fall of 2020. So I think that’s going to make a good difference in how well we hire. UNT was selected to participate in this Aspire program, and the purpose of it is to diversify STEM faculty, which is one of our least diverse faculty on campus. UNT hired new black academic leaders at the dean and associate VP, and we’ve also made a target of opportunity hire in the G. Brint Ryan College of Business. UNT System is also planning on adding a diversity hiring expert. Lesa Roe, our chancellor, is committed to this
President Smatresk: … Lesa Roe, our chancellor, is committed to this and so we’re going to be using this individual to try to deepen the pool and make sure we have better applications coming forward.
OK, now comes one of the most contentious parts, which is addressing concerns regarding UNT police. First, our statement, which is we want to provide a safe and caring environment for all students, and if students are fearful of our campus police, if students feel they’re having bad interactions with them, we need to fix that. And I know that our campus police chief is committed to it, I know he’s been in some dialogues with some of you and with students from the Black Student Union. But what we have here is a mixed bag of concerns. I’m not going to read them all. I am going to tell you that some of these concerns don’t completely reflect things that are germane to our police department, some of them are about other police departments, some of them are about things people have heard about, which we don’t do. And so, in order to address some of these issues, I’ve asked our chief of police Ed Reynolds to address this section, because coming from him, you will hear precisely the steps we are taking, the action steps that are organized, in order for us to build better relationships and make the students on our campus feel safer. So I’m going to turn it over to Ed — and Ed, you just tell me when you want me to advance the slides. I’ll start with the top concerns.
Ed Reynolds: I think one of the concerns both nationally and locally that has come across is what kind of training do police receive when it comes to bias-based training, It’s a legitimate concern, it’s something we do as part of our accreditation process, we are credited through IACLEA, which is the International Association of Campus Law Enforcement Administrators. We did that years ago because we wanted to have a set of policies that were based off national best practices. One of the policies in there is that we do take implicit bias training but currently, every two years is required by accreditation, but in talking with our staff, we’re going to start doing that every year for all of our employees. And in addition to that, one of the concerns that came up was the de-escalation training, how do we do that? We do that as well every two years, but we’re going to start incorporating that as well into our every year training program so that all of our officers regularly get that training and understand how important that is.
There was a request for our data based off our stops, so we went through PDI, which is the Professional Development Institute, and a couple of their faculty do this analysis for police departments all across the state of Texas. So they did an analysis for us in 2019 that showed stops based on all the different categories, so we’re going to make that public on our website here very shortly.
If you’ve kind of watched the national narrative as we’ve talked about, ‘Hey, what do police departments need to do?’ One of the things that came out was “Eight Can’t Wait” which is eight steps police departments can immediately take to reduce use of force incidents. And all of those we currently do either through training or in our policy. But in looking at our use of force policy, we did realize that some of those aren’t as explicitly stated as they should be in our policy, so we’re working on that now. Matter of fact, I’ve got a draft in my office that’s already been drafted that I’m gonna look at when I get back this evening. But that covers strictly banning chokeholds, it covers not shooting at moving vehicles, it covers the required de-escalation training, and a lot of those things we think should be in a policy anyway. So we’re going to make sure we’re front and center on that and take those steps.
Another one of the requests that came up was are we part of a military program where we get surplus military equipment. We don’t do that, we have no plans of doing that, we’re not going to militarize our police department. We want to be approachable and doing those things doesn’t help us at all with that step.
The last one was just the public reports, we talked about we would make all of that available on our website shortly.
Another thing I was talking to the president about was the concept of having a police advisory board. When we talked through that, it made a lot of sense, because it gives us the opportunity to have a broad, diverse group of community members that are on this board who we can show our policies to, let them look at it, make suggestions on policies that maybe we could adjust or need to change, they could hear about our training. In one of our meetings with some of our community members, we talked about some of that training, some of that we’re even going to invite some of our students to go through the training with us. I think it would be very eye-opening on some of the stuff that we do, and maybe be very rewarding or at least fun to go through. Not sitting in a class all day. So we’re going to do some of those steps. The idea is the advisory board could kind of get a deep look into the police department and understand what we do, how we do it, and then make suggestions that could ultimately go to the president, and I would be a part of that as well, so that we can get that feedback and make real changes that might be important. I think that covers most of the advisory board piece.
I do just want to say one thing, just as a general note, if I can. When I watched these videos like you’ve all watched that have unfolded that have been just horrific, it almost makes me want to cry. Because I’ve done this job for 27 years, I’ve given my career to it. So it’s troubling, it makes me sick. I look at it too — we look at it and we think, here’s something terrible that’s happened. But one of the things I look at and say is that we’ve had a failure of leadership in law enforcement because when you see an officer who’s done something that’s horrific, I don’t believe that’s the first time that they have engaged in that activity. I believe that there’s a series of events that first-line supervision or leadership failed at. We should have caught those early, we should have either fired those officers or we should have taken better steps or retrained or whatever those pieces are. I’m not going to sit here and tell you we’re perfect at UNT, the police department, but I am going to tell you that we’re going to try. And if we shoot towards excellence, we’re going to get pretty close. And those are the things that I’m going to make sure that in our department, in every level, when those things come up that we’re looking at them and we’re making those changes. And if someone’s not a good fit, we’re not just going to move them to another department so they can continue that bad behavior. We’re going to fire them.
President Smatresk: Thank you, Ed. I’m going to try to talk with the mask on for a little while here. I just want you to note that this is the beginning of what we’re doing with our UNT campus police force. I think the advisory council is going to be a really strong vehicle for making sure we make people feel safe on campus as opposed to fearful. And I think it’s an important step, and I’m going to make sure that Ed and Bob and others are following the concerns that have been raised.
OK, I’m going to move on. Another part of the concerns that were raised that were kind of embedded within the police part was around defunding. I want to take a moment to talk about that. In city police forces, the police are asked to do a number of things that don’t typically follow normal policing and that maybe they’re not best suited for, whether it’s interceding in family incidents, doing social work kind of stuff, assisting in medical situations. One could make the argument that those are responsibilities that stretch police thin and could be better done by other entities. Our campus police force doesn’t actually do those things. They’re focused on the safety and security of our campus alone, because built into our campus we have counseling support, we have social support, we have a variety of organizations that are meant to take care of and support our students. So one of the concerns that rose regular from many different conversations is that we need more counseling, and we need more counselors who look more like the students they’re counseling. And we agree entirely. So I’ve added a section that wasn’t part of any single request but was reflected through some of the requests that were made about expanding counseling support at our university. And Elizabeth is taking point on this, she’s already found in this time of shelter in place and Zoom meetings, that we can do some really effective things with telecounseling that work as well or very close to as well as face-to-face meetings. However, that doesn’t mean we don’t want to do face-to-face meetings when they’re needed and necessary, it’s just simply that some people right now aren’t comfortable in face-to-face situations.
So, along the lines of expanding counseling support, we’ve contracted with this national consultant to review our Counseling and Testing Center, to assess its strengths and weaknesses, the staffing model where efficiencies can be found, and so forth. The report from this is already going to be used to work through a series of recommendations about how many counselors we need, what the composition of the counselors should be like, what type of ethnic balance do we need as we hire. But it almost certainly will mean we’re going to be hiring more counselors, or more part-time counselors, to help fill the gap because we see increasing needs of our students to reach out and have someone they can communicate with. And, as you might guess, this pandemic situation has in some ways [mic goes inaudible from 41:44 to 42:12] … uh, more people are needing these services in these very stressful times.
The thing that I’m most excited about, however, is that Dr. With had a real interesting idea. We’ve looked around, and we’re not aware of anyone in a major institution who has created a center for counseling diverse populations. Now one might exist, but we’re not aware of it. We would like to be amongst the first to establish such a center that would be research-based as well as practice-based so that we could do research at what best practices were around how we counsel and then disseminate those and translate them into best practices. Now, it’s not for us, but on a national level. To me, this is a super exciting initiative, I think it’s one that’s called for, I think it’s one where MSIs across the country will follow suit as we lead in this area. So this is one of the things that I think you can look forward to. It’s going to begin in Fall 2020 and we’ll see what we go and how we grow from there.
Now I’m going to talk a little about academic and curricular changes, and these fall mostly within the jurisdiction of our provost, Jennifer Cowley. And we’re currently reviewing our different academic, research and curricular efforts to better support diversity and inclusion. The requests that were made were that we dedicate funds and support the development of an academic program in Black Studies from the Black Faculty Network and UNeTE, and establish a Black Studies initiative at UNT. So let’s simply say UNT will support the planning efforts necessary to secure and establish funding for a research center, it’s going to be focused on the issues of race, ethnicity, health disparities and public policies. I have a little bit more to say about this, as we’re going to do something pretty bold here, in a second. The UNeTE and Latinx faculty request, we’ll establish a department or other program initiative dedicated to the scholarship and teaching in the fields of race, ethnic studies, gender and sexuality studies, and other forms of diversity. And those are ongoing. And again, our provost can address those in more detail later when we finish the presentation. But these are two solid efforts.
The center for health disparities is going to be specifically a focus as we move into the next legislative session. One of the things we get to do is we get to something called legislative appropriation requests or LARs. I know this gets a little steep but every other year, we make a series of these requests. Last year, we got something called CAAAM, our additive manufacturing support, and it was quite significant. This year, we think the state’s going to have less resourcing than it’s had in the past, and they’ve already cut our budgets some, but we are elevating the center for health disparities in our LARs. These are rare requests — once you get in the pipeline, we keep pushing on them — we’re going to talk to our legislators, we’re going to try to get the state to help us fund the center for health disparities. We will begin funding it anyhow, but this could give it a jumpstart that could make it a really stronger organization.
We’ve also built diversity and inclusion councils in all colleges. The only two that haven’t started yet are the College of Visual Arts and Design and the College of Science councils, and they’ll start in Fall 2020. So virtually every single college that you’re all part of will have a diversity council of its own to help address diversity within the unique confines and circumstances of those colleges.
All right. Our African American studies minor is under revision right now and we have some great — this is just some examples — but we have some great innovations occurring at the department level and the college level. The College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences, which is our biggest college by far, now has a mandatory diversity requirement. The Department of History also posted on its website a reading list for anti-racism and are discussing an anti-racism curriculum.
And finally, one of the requests that was in every single group was around the Multicultural Center and the Division of Equity and Diversity. And we’ve done quite a bit there. The request was that we allocate new financial resources towards the expansion of the center and the entirety of the division, and a new building. So let’s take a look at what we’re doing. First, Joanne and I went and visited the center [child’s voice singing] … am I being Zoom bombed? Oh [laughter]. That might be the coolest Zoom bombing ever. Chandra, it’s OK. My grandkids are Zoom bombing me too. All right. Joanne and I met with students in the Multicultural Center, we listened, and after that, we dedicated a new lines and began searching for others. Following the meeting, we recommended new hires based off student fees. You’ll see a little follow up to that in a second. We also, and this is big, we are incorporating a new free-standing building for a Multicultural Center at UNT into our master plan. We’re going to plan the building and begins it design phase, which is the first phase that launches a new building, this fall. We will be looking to engage donors to help with this — however, we’ll be committing ourselves to this regardless. The university Advancement group is continuing their efforts to engage a variety of donors. We believe there are naming opportunities that could be very strong, as well as building new programming to create either endowments or gifts that could immediately help to fuel the growth of the Multicultural Center and our diversity programming. We’re going to find and submit grant applications to expand the Multicultural Center’s programming. The grants, for example, now that we’re HSI and MSI, available — there’s a number of opportunities. They’re still hard to pull down because grants are rare right now, but we’re going to keep trying. Our MSI status will really help. And finally, we’re engaging our Black Alumni Network for advice and support around the Multicultural Center, and in fact, we’re going to engage the Black Alumni Network for broader forms of work on the university and in our new diversity council.
So about the positions. We funded two positions specifically, one for a diversity and inclusion trainer and another for student services coordinator for the Multicultural Center. That’s a big increase in the staffing that’s currently available. We’ve also established, and this is another really big one, we’re also going to establish an endowed UNT Diversity Fund that will support diversity activities across the campus. We will match as a university the first $500,000 raised to build this endowment. I think that is a major commitment, a signal change. We’ve also allocated funding out of some of our CARES Act funding and other sources to support the Black student experience, M.A.R.T.I.A.L. Eagles and Latin Dreams living-learning communities, and pre-college visitation days, which is a pilot program for eighth-grade students, and Latinas in Progress. So with those, I would hope to see we could expand out and work even harder as the success of this effort is demonstrated. We’re also established a strategic committee of stakeholders from the Black Alumni Network and the Black Student Union under the jurisdiction of the UNT Alumni Association … that’s what I was alluding to. That group will be used to advise us and help us out as we seek to engage more of our constituents in productive dialogues around how to become more diverse and inclusive. And finally, we’re going to continue to support and engage the Latinx Advisory Council and their alumni. So I don’t want people to think we’re leaving any group out here of this conversation.
I believe that was the last slide and that we now flip to the end. Sorry for the Zoom lock, this was happening to me consistently yesterday so it’s just one of the perils of living in the virtual universe. With that, I want to now say we’ll be happy to go back to any slides, provided everything still works. We’ll be happy to talk about any of the details, we’ll be happy for your suggestions and your comments so that we can make this a deeper, richer document. But we want to be transparent and make sure that everyone understands that a lot has been done and a significant amount of new effort is committed beginning in the fall of 2020. So thank you all, I really appreciate the opportunity to continue our dialogue and I think we still have a fair amount of time. We’ve got another 35-45 minutes to do Q&A. And what we’re going to do, we want to make sure we get people in the Zoom room today, so we’re going to start here and then we’ll move back to the Zoom room so that everybody gets a chance to register comments, okay? Thank you.
Enoch Ardem: Just a question about the diversity council. You did mention that students would be a part of that
President Smatresk: Yeah.
Enoch Ardem: And it would be starting in the fall of 2020? Okay. When we’re talking about that and dealing in the curriculum and things that are coming with this, who will be coming up this? Who will be looking at the documents and saying this is appropriate for what we’re going through? And also, what kind of people are we bringing in? Because anybody can apply and just join something. I feel like there should be some kind of requirements or something to be met so you can speak on the behalf of everybody. And that’s why later on, I wanted to talk about us maybe creating the committee, a focus group, where we can all come together and discuss action plans and what we actually can do that benefits the majority of the students.
President Smatresk: Are you referring specifically to the council that we’re going to establish?
Enoch Ardem: I’m referring to the diversity council, and when I talk about the curriculum and like the things that they will be going through, I’m talking about the cultural competency trainings for the students because unless someone is specialized and they’re knowing what we need to receive and the information that will help us grow and get better, I don’t know if that will be the best. Because I like the idea, but I believe it can be furnished and we can make it better and be more beneficial to the students and the staff.
President Smatresk: Well, first I agree with you 100%. I think if we’re not listening to our students, then you don’t care what we do, it’s going to be ineffective. So there’s going to be a balance in this conversation. I’m sure some of it’s going to be led by our Office of Equity and Diversity and some of it’s going to be led in the Office of Student Affairs. And I think there’s going to be probably layers to this. I don’t want the diversity council that reports to me, that I work with, to have 100 people on it. But I want to be able to have the input from hundreds of people coming up to the university. So that’s what I’m going to suggest. And Joanne, you might want to address this.
Joanne Woodard: I think your suggestion of focus groups is a very doable idea. So we’re willing to work with you in making sure that we are having that input take place in focus groups to have that additional information. That’s an excellent suggestion and one that’s imminently doable.
Elizabeth With: Can I respond to the training, to the student training? So the Orientation and Transition Office worked with SGA leaders starting in December and January to review a couple of nationally known programs. EverFi, the one that the president has referred to, is the one that was selected. So that’s what we’re utilizing right now, but there was student input into that process. And our diverse student population, I can’t remember if it was Yolian or Brooke or Deana that was involved, I can find out exactly, but SGA leadership was involved in that process of selecting EverFi moving forward, so that’s the student training.
President Smatresk: You know, I really like this suggestion. I think we know that Black students aren’t necessarily a monolithic community with just one opinion and one voice and that being able to hear a diversity of people and opinions can help us make sure we’re not just going down one path, and it might be the wrong path. So I love the idea that we put a council together that we can test ideas and concepts against, whether you call it a focus group or an advisory group, that gets to sample what we’re doing and gives us constructive feedback. That would be great.
Dillon Smith: What accountability will you hold for yourself and the University of North Texas that all of these plans will actually follow through? Because I’ve seen you say 2020-2025 but what accountability will you take?
President Smatresk: Well, our strategic plan runs to 2025 just because we have to have a plan that runs at least five years and that’s because of our accreditation requirements and so forth and so on. Everything I showed you today is either in action, has been done or starts in the fall. Now if something crazy happens and we get a tornado on top of a pandemic, who knows, we’ll come back and talk to you about it. People can understand changing circumstances. But our commitment right now, and the financial commitments, have been made. So I’ll just say, we’re committed to do what we said is on this. And you’ll be able to check us and get feedback from the diversity council on it. Gilbert.
Gilbert Harris: One of the things we’ll be doing is making sure we hold the university accountable. As individuals who come from this organization, who continue to support this organization financially, we want to make sure this organization improves. And when you talk about that accountability, we will be meeting with President Smatresk and his team and be making sure that things are continuing to move forward and that the commitments are being made. I want to commend the university for having a dialogue. I think having a dialogue is critically important. Years ago, that dialogue didn’t exist. And I think now that you begin to have that dialogue, you can then work together to come up with a plan, and then hold people accountable in that timeframe to get things done.
President Smatresk: Thank you, Gilbert. And I gotta say, one of my great joys in life is talking with students and the other is talking with our alums. And the Black Alumni Network is full of some of the best people I’ve ever had the opportunity to, I really respect what you do.
Gilbert Harris: Thank you.
Dillon Smith: And then, would it be possible to get yearly updates on faculty representation of minorities?
President Smatresk: You mean number of faculty who are minorities?
Dillon Smith: Yes sir.
President Smatresk: We have those statistics and our provost can give those to you whenever you need them. Let’s go to the Zoom room.
If there’s anybody in the Zoom room who wants to raise a question, please unmute yourself and speak up. It’d be nice to see video too because folks here like to see people, but you don’t have to.
Chandler Garrison: Great. About those — I’m not clear if they’re orientation classes of if they’re a set course that we’re requiring students to take — but who is paying for that? Because I know students pay for orientation, students pay for those courses they have to take, is that something that will be funded by the school or is that something that the students, in the end, will have to pay extra for?
Elizabeth With: They won’t be paying extra for it, it will be paid for through student service fees. It’s not part of the orientation fee, if that’s what you’re asking. It’s paid for through the university.
Chandler Garrison: Wonderful.
Student: Quick question about that before you continue Chandler. So it would be like the alcohol training and those trainings that we took before we even attended the university?
Elizabeth With: Yes, exactly. And I think the president alluded to this — orientation leaders will be working through … there’s follow up to the training that will happen at First Flight and then again during the EverFi program that’s being piloted in the fall.
Chandler Garrison: As advice, I guess, for how to go about that training, just find a kind of way to make it fun and interactive because I know like First Flight Week, those classes that a lot of students are supposed to go to, they end up not going to. So they might miss out on some of those things. It would be cool to get students involved, especially like the orientation leaders, getting them involved on how they actually want to implement that …
Chandler Garrison: I would just say it would be cool to get students involved, like especially the orientation leaders, getting them involved in on how they actually want to implement that in their conversation and how they implement it in that process of orientation and have a good way to be sure it’s being effective and not just another thing that we have done and it kind of just passes by us at orientation.
Elizabeth With: Of course. We’ll be as part of the small group conversations during orientations are being left up to orientation leaders and then when we get to First Flight, I think you know that RA’s become the mentor for the students during that First Flight process. And we’ll use it in the same way. So yes, of course, great suggestion Chandler.
President Smatresk: Yeah, and this is one of those things that we’re going to run it and see how it goes and if it’s not going as well as it could, we’ll look forward to suggestions and input to say hey here’s how you can make it better, more effective, more relevant. Thanks, Chandler.
Chandler Garrison: Of course.
Isiah Littlejohn “King”: Ok, after looking over the slides, the presentation that you just went over, I saw a lot of things that are a step in the positive direction, however I want to highlight aspects I didn’t necessarily see addressed, like the reason Black orgs have to fight so hard to get funding on campus when other organizations don’t have to like the amount of funding Black orgs receive to get funding … I don’t know if you’re taking measures as well?
President Smatresk: So I’m going to let Elizabeth address Black organizations student funding. Uh, right now I think some of you are aware of that there had been funding cuts by SGA as they rolled out their plans for the last couple years and that may have been some of what you’re eluding to, but I’m going to let Elizabeth address issues about how organizations can be funded and what kind of equity and funding there is.
Elizabeth With: I’m happy to take a look at all of the organizations and their funding level through the university. Many of them are funded through dues on their own, but some are supported in other ways. For example, I’ve been happy to support the Black Student Union over the past couple of years thorough my office and helping to fund some of their events and activities, and I’ll anticipate that I’ll continue to do that. I’m happy to take a look at what they’re doing. Some the things we’ll be doing beginning in the fall has been a hinderance to some of our organizations. I think specifically, our MPAC organizations and holding events on our campus and they go through an event safety committee and they recommend a certain number of police officers for all the right reasons, some of that makes it cost prohibitive. So what we’re going to do is all events held by organizations held in the Union on campus, Student Affairs will pay for the police that are needed for those events to help off-set the costs which I think is one way. We can talk about other ways to help with that for sure.
Joanne Woodard: I would just echo Elizabeth. They worked very diligently a couple of years ago to look at parties and events held by student orgs. Our office, too provides support for the Black Student Union. We’ve been doing that for the last two to three years. I meet regularly with the president. They provide a budget to us and I served as an advisor for the Black Alliance. It has been interesting working with the student groups and their activism and encourage them to continue that.
Elizabeth With: I forgot to mention one thing. In the student process fee this year, the Student Service Fee Committee recommended that the president approve more money to go to student organizations such student activities and the Student Government Association. Because in the Eagle’s Nest there are some requirements that are needed in order to get funding. What we hear is that is sometimes difficulty especially for the smaller organizations. So Student Activities will actually have some funding that will be available for student orgs that won’t have the requirements open to the entire university, but would just be for those student organizations. So hopefully we’ll be able to help some student organizations on our campus.
President Smatresk: Ok, do we have more questions from the Zoom room or … okay, Isaha.
Isiah Littlejohn “King”: Yes, that pretty much addressed that matter. I also wanted to say, one thing I also noticed on the presentation is that what was asked about funding. Is there a plan to at least take some of the funding that’s been given to the police and put that back into the community on campus, like to better our campus, the amount of money that is funneled to it?
President Smatresk: We don’t have any plans for that at the time being, but we’re going to go ahead and look at the budget. We’ve been reviewing budgets. We’re averaging about 5-7% budget cuts because of the upcoming shortfall that we believe we’ll have. So I’m not sure there is any money to be taken from one pot and put in another. We’re concerned right now about the $50 M shortfall we’re going to have come fall and how we’ll be able to cover that so there will a lot of budgets that will be cut. And I don’t mean that about today’s topic but simply we need $50 M in shortfall and we have to figure out how to do that to cover it.
Chandler Garrison: Can there be something in place where we get that information whenever it is finally ready, like when you finalize where those final cuts, can we see those financial reports so we can be in the know on what’s happening with the money that we’re putting into the school?
President Smatresk: Yeah, actually it’s public information that is available at our board meetings. I don’t know if we can break it down by division but every division will provide a 5% cut – some divisions will deeper than others and some less steep. I’ll let Bob go ahead, do we have a microphone for Bob Brown, our CFO can give you the chapter and verse.
Bob Brown: Well I think the answer is that we’ll have to create a document that can be read. Although you can go the board website and read the entire document. We do publish a budget annually in the library, but it’s every detail that’s in the budget so trying to find every area. So if you can narrow your request, we’d be happy to provide and put together.
Chandler Garrison: Yeah, I think that would be helpful.
President Smatresk: For Chandler and anyone else in the room, I think one of things we can do that is straight forward is publish by VP areas. The budgets we’re cutting gets pretty deep and complicated but that way you’ll have a high overview on how the different areas did.
Nicholas McDonald: I know you said you were talking about the Multicultural Center and getting it started in the fall, do you have an exact timeline on how …
President Smatresk: The planning project will start in the fall, there’s a whole … Bob can talk to you about what the sequence is … you have to build what is called a program design, you have to hire your architectural group, rendering group, there’s a whole bunch of steps which cost money and take commitments. Bob I don’t know if you want to address this anymore or further?
Bob Brown: I think you did a pretty good job, we just need to first get a general concept of the amount of resources we’ll have for the building and then you go in and make a programing document, which is describing what’s going to be in it and once you get consensus on what you want inside the building, you then can move to design development. That process takes a year and requires input and programming. Every building we do on campus can have a thousand ideas on what can go in them. We have to some way, some sort of thoughtfulness about what goes in the building. That programming will take probably the fall semester, 4-6 months and design development and getting the documents to get ready to build will take another 6-9 months.
President Smatresk: Usually when you build a building it takes, ballpark about three years before you see something. There’s an extra caveat here. It’s going to be really hard to raise money from external donors for a naming opportunity. We’ve done this before on other ventures on campus. I think there’s good chance to pull some of our alumni or cachet several together to do something really good for the university. We’re always looking for ways to engage the broader community. It’s a good question.
Nicholas McDonald: As far as the Diversity Council, are you looking for that to be strictly faculty or is it going to be a mixed thing?
President Smatresk: Students, faculty, staff, alumni. It’s going to be a broadly represented group really focused on our issues of race and justice, diversity and inclusion for the whole university.
Nicholas McDonald: And I know you said more money was going to go to like the Black Student Union and other different Black orgs, but as far as MPAC, I guess this question is for you, Dr. With, MPAC is more so funded by dues if that makes sense? Except our new member presentations that are done individually from the perspective groups within the council, but as far as the council as a whole, how is that?
Elizabeth With: The Black Student Union get funded by requests. The past couple of years we’ve gone to President Smatresk and to Joanne for requests. Zack is a great leader in your area and I would suggest that we work with him, and try to figure out that we’ve got adequate funding for Greek Life, but specifically MPAC. I’ll look at that and add to my notes if that’s okay with you?
Nicholas McDonald: Thank you.
Elizabeth With: Sure.
President Smatresk: Before we go on, I think Tony has had his hand up for a long time.
Tony Carey: First of all, I just want to thank each of you for going through the plan with us and all of the steps you’ve taken so far. I was struck by how comprehensive it was and I think it can do a lot of good in moving the campus forward. Two related questions. First one: I’m encouraged by the introduction of the diversity training sessions, but I am concerned. What measures are being considered for holding certain units accountable assuming they have gone through training but have not been as inclusive as they need to be, particularly by the Black at UNT posts and by some of the statements by faculty who say they have a good track record. There are others that have not acted in good faith to increase inclusion and diversity. That’s the first thing I was interested in. Second thing, for clarity sake. I was wondering what is the policy for opportunity hires? I was unsure, I’ve heard different things about it. I ask this question because I think there are a lot of departments that provide an incentive to move forward on these things and in a way that may not happen otherwise. It’s unfortunate to say that but I think it’s very true.
Provost Cowley: So it’s all case by case. This year we pursued three opportunity hires. And let me explain for our students. Opportunity hires are when we don’t have a job opening in that area, but somebody comes along who we want to take that opportunity. We pursued three of them. Two of the three were successful. One of those was for the hiring of a Black faculty member that was an alum and was at another major university and wanted to move back to the area and reached out to us and asked hey, can I come to UNT. We said, absolutely, we’d love to have you, come join us, you’d be a great fit. The second person wasn’t an active search in that area, but he person was more senior than what the position was advertised for and resourced exceeded what was available in the position. That happed to be for a Latinx faculty member. We said sure, that person is very high profile and it would be awesome to attract that person to UNT, so we made them an offer. That offer was unaccepted. So that offer was unsuccessful. And the third one was an opportunity to hire a National Academy of Engineering member, which is the highest level of external recognition. That was not a diversity hire, but we were successful in that hire as well. This is a way to hire those we’d really like to hire. Often cases that is a diversity hire that we’ve accepted. In the English department they wanted to hire for two positions, both were for Black faculty and we said sure, go ahead and make that second hire as part of that hiring process. Some departments have been more effective in hiring opportunities than others. There’s not a dedicated fund, it’s just come to me and if makes sense we’ll do it.
President Smatresk: And I might add that opportunity hires are almost invariably highly qualified individuals who bring a real muster to the university and serve as role models and also mentors for groups for in many cases really need it. Jennifer do you want to talk a bit more about what happens for a persons who we find are less than enthusiastic about their cultural and diversity training?
Provost Cowley: So yeah, a couple of things. One, when we instituted the harassment training that everyone went through, we said if they didn’t complete the training, they weren’t getting a raise. I had four people who didn’t get a raise. So that was an opportunity. We have to work through the logistics of the implementation of the diversity program but for a successful outcome, we have to do this so people take it seriously. For the second part. So we’ve done all the training, we know what we’re supposed to being doing – that’s an opportunity to work with Joanne’s office for areas that have not had the best processes in place for reporting and getting outcomes that can lead to conduct process. We have made a lot of headway on sexual harassment because of changes in legislation and other things, but Joanne’s and my office have a really good pathway where we are consistent on and are seeing good outcomes. My hope is that we can develop similar pathways that will deal with issues of equity and inclusion that are totally unacceptable for our community. Unfortunately, too many things are resolved informally, and we can make improvements to figure out the best way to accomplish that.
President Smatresk: I want to add to that. One of the things that breaks my heart is that some specific faculty member of somebody who has made an egregious status and it’s hard to interpret them as anything but racist or hard not to interpret them as the type of behavior we don’t support. I don’t hear about them until they get to a really bad place. And at that point we’re taking official action and legal is getting involved and all kinds of things are happening but there are levels below that at which we can take action. So when you understand that someone is indulging in discriminatory behavior, it is my opinion that you have to be brave enough to bring it forward to our EEOA and to investigate. Because the more we do that, people will get the message that that behavior is not acceptable. So it’s one of those things that we can’t fix it unless we hear about it. I know it’s intimidating sometimes for students to come forward. They feel that maybe they’ll be retaliated against. We have to protect those that come forward so they don’t get retaliated against. So if we can take the fear out of the complaint, we can get to the problem. I just want to reinforce to you the offices that we have.
Chandler Garrison: And so, with that I would like to say it’s not important not only for you all to make that available to help people be brave, but it’s also important that you make people feel comfortable. Because I didn’t know that was a thing. I was the one who tweeted in the Black at UNT about the noose on the door at the dorm and how the staff member had us come and talk about it and vulnerable discussion, putting us all in a weird place. I didn’t know how to handle. I just called my parents and told them what happened and I didn’t know there was a place to tell someone about it or even if I should tell someone about it. That was my freshman year. Now, I’m a senior. I should have gone to everyone and let them know it was not okay. I didn’t know that EEE… what did you call it?
President Smatresk: The EE…
Joanne Woodard: It’s actually the Office of Equal Opportunity.
Chandler Garrison: Yes, we’ve met through Eagle Angels and that was the first time about me hearing about you. So I think we have to do our part in making it available. I was a part of UPC. We made sure we were in our student spaces, letting them know if there was anything you need from us, as students, we’re here for you talk to us. We made it known in every way possible, that’s who we were. Maybe we can have students who are kind of like ambassadors for that so they can go around to these different events and say like, hey here’s who you work with and this is a resource available for you all. And you should feel comfortable talking to us, because we are here for you.
President Smatresk: Yeah, Chandler, I’ve put out quite a lot of communications lately. Some of them are about race relations, prejudice. And we had an incident with an Asian-American student here on campus when COVID started. She said she was going to leave the campus because she was afraid of remarks that had been made. In our every two-three daily, we often include links about where and how you report it. I guess what we need to do is a better information campaign on who to call and what link to access so people feel very comfortable in bringing those types of complaint forward. I know Landon had something to say. Landon?
Landon Ellison: Yes, hard to talk with the mask on. I had a brief comment and then I had a question. I’m an alumni – 2010 bachelors, 2015 my master’s, and the idea of the Multicultural Center sounds great – just a comment I wanted to make because I am a mentor and current advisor for them. I can remember when I found out the Greek Life Center was being built and how excited people were about that. I didn’t get to take advantage of that as a student, but I think as an unintended consequence … I think I’m kind of stepping on Zack’s toes here … he may want to say something. But when Greek Life was based out of the Union, MPAC was there connected to it and it was a consequence that none of us foresaw, we just wanted to for MPAC to meet. And now the distance, it’s hard to get the students out there. So in the planning for it is, if it can be somewhere central where students can get to easily I think it’s critical. I know Zack does and I tell my members all the time, to go out there, it’s there for you, but it’s way across campus. I just think that’s something to consider. And my second questions is: I heard some information on faculty training and how that’s going to Faculty Senate and if there will be any opportunity to engage Staff Senate to have those conversations for staff members?
President Smatresk: There will be and you can learn more about the Faculty Senate training if you want because that’s a more homogeneous group. If you consider all the different divisions that vice presidents operate, they have really different functions and really different people in them. So what we’ve asked for in those groups – there’s some general training like complicit bias training and those sorts of things, but then there’s more specific conversations about the constituents you deal with and students you interface with or the other faculty or staff you units. So what I’ve asked is that each of those units develop training that’s relevant to their unit. It isn’t quite the same to say there is a big plan for faculty. It’s more unit specific. And so I don’t know how we get that information out there, but we have plans from each unit that have come forward and we can provide some links to those as we begin to post these documents and put up our plan and way for people to track our progress. Thank you, Landon. Zack?
Zack Shirley: Thank you, President Smatresk. I was just going to echo Landon’s sentiment. Really the proximity of the Center for Fraternity and Sorority Life to the heart of campus, I would just like to say in the plans of building the Multicultural Center, the proximity of that space to the Union could be advantageous for us, especially our MPAC students because that is essentially where a lot of those students are located – the Center for Fraternity and Sorority – that was a great resource for all of our students when that was built. The Panhellenic houses, which our culturally based organizations don’t have those facilities. That is something that could be emphasized in the plan for the building the Multicultural Center. That would be extremely appreciated for those students. Speaking to the point that Nick made earlier, regarding funding specifically for our MPAC organization, that is something we can always look at from an allocation standpoint from our budget – the Center for Fraternity Life to the MPAC to the Black Student Leadership Conference in February – that was funding from our own budget. I believe those are opportunities and I look forward to having those conversations with Dr. McGuire and Dr. With on how we can make that happen for MPAC.
President Smatresk: Thanks, Zack. You know when you say that, I’ve heard that comment from you and Landon, when you program a building, one of the things Bob alluded to is that all the different ideas for it and everyone has a thousand ideas for it and wants to build five types, and that kind of stuff, it’s just how buildings go. However, some guided principles will help us drill down and focus on what we need to do would be appreciated and I think we’ll find is that Bob and I and Elizabeth will build some kind of focus group that allows us to take some of the big ideas so we don’t miss out on things like placement on campus. So I really appreciate the comments. Let’s go to Isiah and I want to go back to Chancellor Roe to acknowledge that her efforts and what we’re doing here. Isiah?
Isiah Littlejohn “King”: Okay, I also wanted to suggest that when it comes to the topic of policing on campus, will there be any type of real policy made regulating the amount of search, warrants on campus that happen to students because I actually started the BlackatUNT hashtag. I wanted to know if there was going to be any kind of policy so that police aren’t just lurking, and quite frankly, harassing students on campus.
President Smatresk: Okay, I’m going to make a general statement and then I’m going to turn it over to Ed. No one wants that and we don’t want people to feel profiled, picked on or harassed by our campus security. One of the things I think our advisory group can do is to make those issues real and to our leadership and to the various officers. But I know Ed has feelings on this too. I’ll let Ed express himself.
Chief Ed Reynolds: Yes, so one is if we have a student who has a bad experience, we really want them to report that to either our office or to Joanne. Joanne and I when I became chief in 2015 created a process that her office would look at it, especially if was race or sexual based, or something that was concerning in that area so it didn’t look like it was just the police policing. I never wanted that to be the case. I always wanted this outside group from the police department to look at a situation to make sure that wasn’t the case. The second thing I would say is: a process for meeting with our student groups. I’m starting that this summer and the dialogue will go into the fall because I want to hear some of the concerns and if there is policies and procedures and stuff that’s real stuff that we need to address, then I’m committed to doing that.
President Smatresk: Okay, thank you. Isiah returning.
Isiah Littlejohn “King”: I’ll actually start with the social media. I have two questions. I don’t mean to undermine anyone’s intelligence or the PR team, but some of the statements that are released need to be looked at again. And they need to be looked at by more than just administration and the public relations team. Because some of the messages just don’t sound right to everybody. You may think they look right to you, but for all the individuals in the room, it can be offensive. That’s how we felt about the Juneteenth post because you had “this year” in the statement. I know intentionally maybe you didn’t mean for it to seem like that, but having that statement and having it being said like that, affected everybody and it changed the whole narrative of here goes the holiday that we should support, but now you said that and we can’t even support it and now everybody has something to say about it. It’s supposed to be something that everyone should be proud of. So I just suggest that maybe somebody else, maybe students, I don’t know who the team is composed of and I know you personally don’t make your statements either, but everyone is coming in and looking in, so just bring in a solid team. It can make sense to everybody and everyone can benefit from it. Secondly, I want to go back to what Dr. With and Nick talked about earlier, how BSU asked and we must go out and search for the money we get, and as an organization on campus that has 17 different organizations, plus underneath us I feel that shouldn’t be how we go about getting money. There should be funding every year. We should be getting the same thing as somebody else. What made me have a feeling about that is you talking about budget cuts. We don’t have a budget. There is nothing to cut from us. We have to go get what we want regardless. So how can you all help us? How can we make this be yearly thing? Because we put on events and we’re here for the whole community – all Black community. If we’re going to support and do this, we need this. So how can you help us with that?
President Smatresk: This is why dialogues are good. So first of all, Jim’s team does a fair number of social posts for me. I do some myself. Some of them, I write myself. Not all of them. I approve most of them, but then again, in a day when you have 400 emails sometimes you’re like, that looks good, thanks. And it was never our intent to say “this year.” It was never our intent to take something good and make it feel bad. We were one of the first universities to jump on this Juneteenth thing – it’s important, almost uniquely Texas, too. I know it’s celebrated across the country, but it’s a Texas thing. I feel great but I want other people to feel great about it, too. And two words took away the intent of what we were trying to do. When you say that … I’m going to look straight at Jim … you can’t do it on everything. Sometimes things come and you just have to get it out there, but it wouldn’t hurt to have on staff people who had the lived experience of being minorities on campus who could say, wow, the way this is coming out is sensitive, and whether we could run it by Joanne’s office or with faculty/staff support, I would appreciate that. It’s never my intent, or Jim’s intent or any of our intent to say something and then get every word parsed. And social media is the champ at taking good things and setting them on fire. I appreciate it. There’s a part of me that would like to never do social media again. But it happens to be the way our college-age students communicate. So I think we maybe need to up our game and get better support. From the general perspective of Black Student Union support, I’ve hear Elizabeth and Joanne talk about scraping things together to do it and maybe it’s time we took a more consolidated look at how this budget works and about building more permanence into it. I think your comments are real fair. I don’t know the details enough about the budget of it, but I can jump in to help. Elizabeth and Joanne can comment on that.
Elizabeth With: So what I’ll tell you, I’ll go back a little bit. You know this. We have over 400 student organizations, so our ability to fund every single organization at a level at what they need to funded or would like to be funded at this point is problematic. So the step with allocating student funds to organizations this year, was trying to model after other campuses that do that. Provide general funding that student organizations apply for so they know in April or May what their budget is for the year. They won’t have to come meet with me in October for an event that’s in November. You can plan. And so that’s a first step in that and helping all of our organizations. The figures that stand out to me are, if I’ve remembered correctly, is that I think we‘ve allocated $40,000-50,000 to student orgs. that they could apply for. And one of the models is Texas Tech and I think they’re giving $50,000 to their student orgs. They are farther ahead in that process that we are. There are some organizations that do receive university funding directly – NBC, MPAC, Panhellenic – through the Greek Life, sorry Zack – Fraternity and Sorority Life, I’m going to try and remember, I promise. NT40 gets a little bit of money, I think $4,000-5,000 a year, SGA, GSC get funding each year through the student service fees. Only a few organizations have that type of funding each year. The note I’ve written is for us to look at student orgs., all of the funding and let’s holistically take a look at this together and create the plan can work best.
Isiah Littlejohn “King”: My argument is that we are technically built in the same aspect. MPAC president, ASO president – these are all big organizations within the campus underneath us and we’re supposed to take care of everybody. And still deal with everything we have ourselves. I feel like the budget is beneficial. We should all have a space for an office and we should have everything else that everyone else has.
Elizabeth With: Well, I think that’s a great conversation for us to have. Let’s do it.
President Smatresk: Ok, I’m going to say that we’re well past time. I want to offer our chancellor a quick opportunity to make any quick comments and then I’ll close.
Chancellor Lesa Roe: I really appreciate the comprehensive package that you’ve put together and I really appreciate the dialogue and the things that will make it better that I heard today from all of the different organizations. I look forward to make those modifications and move forward with all they key actions. And thanks everyone for the great participation today.
President Smatresk: Thank you, Lesa. So I really enjoyed today. I thought it was a great discussion. I hope you all appreciated the package that we put forward because we really put a lot of work into it. This has been something we’ve been trying hard to create clarity and transparency on. I hope if you think this is a good start, that you’ll continue to have these open dialogues to help us move forward. This is a start. We are not done. Every time you flip over another rock, there’s going to be another issue. But we’re committed. That’s what I want you to know. We’re committed. And your support, and the fact that we walked this path together, is going to be what makes us successful. Let’s keep it going. As far as I’m concerned, we can do this once a semester. That would be real useful for me. It would make sure that you knew what our progress was and these questions that linger out there, that people would be sure what our intentions are, our motives are would be addressed and we would create a better, stronger UNT. So with that, I thank you all. You’ve been terrific today and today’s been a really positive and good day for me and everybody in the room. Appreciate you and I’m going to let our Zoom people go, I know a lot of people here have a next meeting to go to. Let’s do this again soon. Appreciate you all.