As part of our commitment to equity, diversity, and inclusion, administrative leadership at the University of Utah continually works towards making our University a more welcoming environment that supports the diverse communities we serve. We invite you – students, staff, faculty, and others who are a part of our university community – to join us in our efforts.
This series of dialogues will focus on university policies and procedures that directly affect marginalized and underrepresented communities. You have a voice in shaping these policies and the vision for how the university creates a culture in which all of us can thrive.
The first event is scheduled for Thursday, June 25, 12-1:30 p.m. Registration is required and must have a Zoom account. Activate a free account at Zoom.com.
Registration is now closed.
Members of the Office of the Dean of Students, the Office of General Counsel, The Office of Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion, and the University Police will be part of these important conversations for ongoing change. In this first conversation of the series, administrative leadership will begin with information about rights and resources for free speech and peaceful assembly. We will then open the conversation up for questions and dialogue about how to move the University forward. Your input is critical to these decisions, as it is the only way to move forward as a community.
PROGRAM FORMAT – “CONVERSATIONS FOR CHANGE”
- Welcome and Acknowledgements
- Free Speech and Peaceful Assembly
- University Police Statement and Goals for our conversation
- Open Question and Answer Session
- Closing Thoughts and How We Continue
Again, we welcome you to be part of what is a first in a series of conversations. It will take action from all of us to guide the changes that are necessary to be the equitable, supportive university community we strive to become.
Dean of Students
Watch the full recording of the conversation held on Thursday, June 25, 2020 | 12-1:30 p.m.
FULL VIDEO TRANSCRIPT
Jason Ramirez: Thank you everybody. Welcome. My name is Jason Ramirez. I’m the Associate Vice President and Dean of students here at the U. I appreciate everyone being here and being involved in this program. I’d be lying if I didn’t say I was a little bit nervous because I am, I have not done a Zoom meeting this large before, but we’ll muddle through this together. And I appreciate you dealing with the limitations with Zoom.
First, I want to start by saying thank you. Thank you for being here. Thank you for being present and engaging in this incredibly important topic. Your feedback and involvement is what is going to make our university better and make us be able to move this initiative forward.
And so I do want to start off with some logistical things. First, I want to talk about safe spaces. Although I can never promise or guarantee a safe space, I am going to ask people to be respectful in the conversations that we’re about to have. It’s an incredibly difficult topic and there are going to be moments where we may not agree with each other. I asked that we acknowledge everyone’s perspective and that we are respectful in that acknowledgement. And I also ask that we not dismiss where people are at. There are going to be different scopes in places that folks are at, and that I asked that we try to be encouraging and supportive as best we can in the community.
I do ask that we try to seek to understand if there is comments that are made, that we don’t agree with, that we shouldn’t come from a place of attacking and to be human is to be kind. I would ask that again, in a respectful manner, as we can disagree or talk about things, that we make sure we’re doing that.
The second piece is that this is a part of a much larger conversation. The EDI, the office for Equity Diversity Inclusion is working on a series of conversations that are called reframing the conversation. And this is one part of that piece. We’re hoping to unify how we approach this topic and work together, so that way we’re moving as one university forward. Although this is one conversation, it will continue. We will have, as Shawn has alluded to, we’ll have more conversations to come and you’ll be invited back to those.
I have a bunch of key administrators here that are going to be giving some context to the conversations we’re about to have, but really our primary goal today is to listen and to understand where you’re at and help guide us moving forward. It is one thing for us to move forward without your input, and that would be the wrong way to do so, and so please know that although we’ll provide some of that context, our main goal is to listen and to really know where the community is coming from. And that once we’re ready, we’ll follow up with you all with more information for the conversations to come.
With that, that was a very long rant, sorry that you had to listen to that rant, but I’m going to turn it over to, I believe Michelle from office of general council, is first up and then I’m going to jump back in and speak from the office of the Dean of students very briefly. And then we’ll have chief Chatman say a few things, and then EDI, I believe is going to say a few things and then we’ll open it up to questions and answers in that interaction. Michele?
Michele Ballantyne: Welcome everybody. It’s really a pleasure to be here with all of you. And it’s such an important time and such an important conversation. Unlike Jason, I’ve been here actually for more than 20 years, so I’ve seen a fair amount of things here at the university. I advise on First Amendment issues for the university. We really, really value the First Amendment here and the right of our students and our community to express their views, and are so mindful of the power of the First Amendment right now, in terms of the demonstrations and the voices that have been heard and the power of that speech.
I had a small kind of a presentation for you, but I think really what we would prefer to do is really listen to you and to hear where your concerns are and to answer any questions that you have. Generally related to the First Amendment or relating to any other things, but we very much want to hear your voices and respect everybody’s right in a really inclusive and respectful way. And so with that, we really look forward to hearing your opinions and your questions.
Jason Ramirez: Thanks, Michele. Very briefly, the Office of the Dean of Students historically at universities is charged with serving the will of the students, supporting our students in positive ways. I think historically students look at the office as the principal’s office. So, I’d be lying if I didn’t say that I think when most people hear the term Dean of Students, they cringe at first. And so, that’s the challenge I face. I’ve only been here for nine months and I’m not a known entity. I’m still learning the campus and I’m still introducing myself at the campus.
And so I very much want people to understand that the way I do my role and the way I view my perspective of the university involvement is to serve your will, is to make sure that I am the bridge and the conduit between the students and the administration.
And so I very much want for those that are students here and those that are colleagues to know that I’m a supportive partner, and I’m hoping to really understand where the students are at with these issues and really do my best to help enact the change that we’re trying to do. And so I don’t want to take any more time because I have taken enough. Chief Chatman, do you want to go?
Rodney Chatman: Sure, be glad to. Jason you started off by saying being excited to listen and Michele echoed that. One thing that resonated with me is, you said some things, some subject matter that might be difficult to acknowledge and I think that’s a good launching point. I think when we read the news stories and we see what’s happening in our country, I think one perspective that’s not out there that really needs to be heard is police as a profession needs to acknowledge the historical role the profession has played in the subjugation of people of color and underrepresented populations. And so forgive me for going on a tangent, but you sparked that for me. And being a person of color myself, I don’t think there are any people of color who are adults who haven’t experienced it themselves firsthand. I don’t think there’s any people of color who haven’t heard firsthand accounts from their parents and grandparents of the subjugation of people of color. I know this sounds like a tangent, but I’m going somewhere with this, I promise.
One of my sports heroes is Muhammad Ali. What resonates with me is during the Cold War he fought in the Olympics against someone from Poland, a communist country at the time. He came home with his medal and he was not allowed to eat at the restaurant that he went to to get a cup of coffee and a hot dog. And the reason that resonates with me and how I relate that to this conversation is, the only way that subjugation could work is if somebody had someone to call. And any time society said, “You can’t do this. You can’t sit here, you must drink this,” or whatever it is, there was a law enforcement component of that because if you chose to disobey that, they call police. The police have always historically been the enforcement arm of the subjugation of people of color. And so we can’t really say that we’re listening to the community. We really can’t say that we’re going to engage in authentic conversations, unless we first acknowledge that.
The second piece of that acknowledgement, of the role of the profession, is we have to understand that there have been interactions between the police and all of society, but let’s talk specifically about people of color and underrepresented populations and identities. There is another analogy, sorry, folks, another analogy. But one of my favorite pastors is T.D. Jakes and he did a sermon once on turtles and giraffes. The crux of that in a more spiritual context, was that a turtle and a giraffe in the same place at the exact same time, they will see things very differently. The turtle will see things that the giraffe can’t see. The giraffe will see things that the turtle can’t see, but neither is wrong, it’s just a different perspective.
When we start examining the interactions between the police and people of color in particular, when the police car shows up or the police car pulls you over, the perspective that the police officer has is “I’m acting within my authority. I don’t see a problem here. I can’t see what you see as a motorist.” But that motorist is saying, “It is your authority that have subjugated us for the entire history that we’ve been in these United States.” And so there can be an immediate behind the eight ball of that interaction because there is no acknowledgement of both sides are not seeing one another. And it needs to be that acknowledgement that that perceived authority is the exact thing that has subjugated me in the first place. It’s the exact thing that subjugated my parents, it’s the exact thing in all of that history that goes with the authority.
And so I know I went off on a tangent. I wasn’t planning to go there, but I think that needs to be acknowledged. But for me in my role here, I echo what you have said, I echo what Michele said. I’m more interested in at this moment in time is listening, because we need to understand the perspective of those who have historically not been at the table and whose voices have not been heard. That is the case. Otherwise, we wouldn’t see the headlines that we’re seeing in the protest and things that we’re seeing. It is people saying, “It’s about time that my voice is heard,” and I want to hear it.
I’m very frustrated right now. I’m frustrated because this is my 129th day here on campus as an employee of the U. And my philosophy on policing is exactly that. It’s not in response to things that we’re seeing, my philosophy on policing is—we have to be engaged with our community. Our people do not want policing done to them. People want policing done in collaboration with the police and in partnership with the police and the needs of the people can even be strengthened if the police are listening and you have an authentic seat at the table, we can help advance the voice for the things that you might want. But that strong community engagement is something that is my focus, and the only way that you should police in the 20th century.
There are some exciting, I believe, things that can change the culture of policing, certainly changing the culture of policing here at the University of Utah, that I have my foot on the accelerator. I really want to start talking about this in partnership with our students and our campus stakeholders, but we were throwing the curve ball of COVID-19 and we haven’t had the opportunity to really engage in the manner in which that I would like to.
But some of those things, it doesn’t mean because of COVID that we haven’t been operating behind the scenes and making some substantive changes within our department. But going forward again, with the same philosophy of I don’t think communities want policing done to them, I want to talk about these initiatives and changing culture with the students, because if I just roll these things out, I could completely miss the mark.
I shared in an interview a couple of days ago, and then I promise I’ll turn my time back over. I shared in an interview the other day that if I prepared for you, Jason, the best steak that you can make, it’s tender, its juicy and everything else, and I serve it to you and you’re a vegan, I miss the mark. And where we need to be with policing services on this campus is we don’t want to miss the mark. And so we need to have the student voice, we need to have intentional conversation, and those intentional conversation can lead to more passive and generic conversation, but we need to not miss the mark, we need to hear from our community with a very active ear. And so that was all.
Jason Ramirez: Thank you, Chief. I appreciate that. And I can’t echo enough that again the folks that are here, I know including those that are listening, are really desiring change and desiring engagement in a way that actually moves our campus forward to the ideals that we’re aspiring to. And so I’m excited to start this conversation, again, I can’t say that enough.
I will start turning over the time to conversation and to us listening. I looked at the schedule and so Dr. [inaudible 00:14:40] will speak at the very end and then kind of address or close us out. I want to open it now to time for questions and conversations. It could be policy driven, it could be process driven, it can be wherever you want this conversation to go. Again, we’re trying to collect where the community is at so that way it informs our decision of how to move forward.
Shawn Wood: All right, we have a couple of questions coming in. So the first one is, “I’m a student here at the U. I have been concerned with the growing intrusion into the intellectual/student organizations of alt-right groups, like Turning point US, which has been involved with disinformation and white supremacy and racial intolerance. What does the U plan to do to combat those organizations which promote ideologies of oppression? As an Asian American guy, I get racist slurs/threats every day, even off campus.”
Michele Ballantyne: Speaking of the First Amendment, the First Amendment is very important because it protects all of our rights to speak. It does protect the rights of people whose views we may very much disagree with to speak also. But one thing that the university does have is the right to its own speech. So although we cannot typically shut down speech that we find to be very offensive, we can speak out against it.
I participate on the racism bias task force, along with Jason. And these are things that we are looking at in terms of the university’s response to language and messaging that can be very hurtful and damaging to people on our university campus and formulating our responses in a way that we can be most supportive. And we also very much appreciate our university community letting us know what would feel helpful to you and supportive to you in the context of some of these groups understanding that we do, we have to, we want to abide by the First Amendment than we have to, so we can’t shut speech down, but we can respond.
Jason, I don’t know if you have something to add to that.
Yeah, look folks, the process is rough right now in terms of how we respond to racial and bias incidents. When I was put on as a co-chair of that group and we started unpacking everything, it was so decentralized and disorganized that I understand why the frustration is there. I understand how things have slipped through the cracks, and that I would even be the first one to say that our response is not ideal. It’s not where it needs to be. I can happily say that we’re very close. And when I say very close, we have an August 1 date that we’re trying to hit right now, where we’re going to release the new process, where it’s going to be a centralized system, where it’s going to encompass a university approach, and trying to bring everything into it.
And so we’re excited about that, but like any new process, I’m sure there are going to be gaps that we’re going to find that aren’t great, or that they’re missing things. My response to that is very similar to Michelle’s that she’s absolutely right. We can’t necessarily stop it, but that doesn’t mean we can’t speak out against it. And that doesn’t mean that administrators can’t denounce the things that we’re seeing inside our own free speech. I think I tried to do that with my Humans at The U article to make sure that students know where I stand on the topic. And I think more administrators need to do that. I think we need to do that as a community and as a university. And hopefully we’ll get there and start moving there to ensure that those that are affected by it, understand that our support and love for them is there.
Shawn Wood: All right. Thank you. The next question or statement is, “I’m curious why the community has to come to the police table and why we as a community can’t have our own table that the administration/UPD come to and figure out how they fit into it.”
Rodney Chatman: Great question. And it’s both a literal and figurative table. The crux of my comments related to that is we need to be willing to listen to one another. I don’t care whose literal table it is because when I express my frustration about what COVID has done, my ideal policing is being out in the community, being out, engaging with students and being present with them so that I can hear their perspectives. I sincerely hope, sincerely hope, that student groups will invite us in for these critical and tough conversations. That’s the only way that we can come to a place where we are understanding one another and we can make substantive changes. Where that takes place, if it’s at a student organization meeting or at the police station or some neutral place, doesn’t matter to me one bit, but we just need to have the process of communicating with one another.
Jason Ramirez: I’d also just like to echo that I’m more than happy to meet wherever. I started in October, and in the first three months of my “listening tour,” I was getting out to as many different places as I possibly could. Not asking people to come to me, but me going to their places. And obviously COVID has stopped that, but I’m in consent with Chief that I’m happy to come to whatever table and whatever terms to have conversations and truly understand what the perspective is of the students, staff or faculty too. I want to make sure the staff and faculty know that, yes, students are our primary focus, but that they also play a large role in this, and their experience, their lived experience is just as equally important in our community because it needs to be acknowledged that it’s not all roses and sunshine for our staff and faculty either.
And so wherever that table is, however we decide it, whether figuratively or literally, I think this is what the hope is. Let’s establish it, let’s build it. I know I’m Chief Safety Officer Marlon Lynch has aspirations to build a public safety group that is going to have all sorts of partners in it. And I’m not exactly sure where it’s at in its stages right now, but I understand it to be rather diverse and encompassing that it’s going to have a lot of folks that have legitimate voices to be able to raise concerns and provide insight and feedback. And so I’m hopeful that we can kind of do this Knights of the Round Table style, where everybody has an equal chair and can converse and interact the way that they need to.
Shawn Wood: Great. The next question is, “I work with the graduate program on upper campus, and my students, particularly those that are international and on visas, have expressed concerns about showing support for the movement, calling their visa status into question. Do you have any guidance for them?”
Michele Ballantyne: That should not have any effect on their visa status. I mean, I would assume that most of those, if they’re students, they would typically be here on an F-visa. The things that they would need to worry about are just maintaining their status in terms of their cases. And there are specific requirements for each visa status, but I have, to this point, never seen someone’s exercise of speech rights been an issue in terms of visas. So I would not worry about that based on guidance to this point.
Jason Ramirez: I will say that the AAU has taken significant stances on this and are currently lobbying their appropriate government offices to make sure that they engage in this fight and kind of denounce where the… And again, it’s right now, we’re not sure where it’s going to land, but there’s a lot of predictions and conjecture that this administration, the U.S. administration, has made in regard to visas. But I know the AAU is taking a very active, not a passive role in this. We understand how valuable our students that are from international places are to our institutions. We understand the important role that they play in our communities. And I know they’re currently challenging it very much and are willing to challenge it, our university included.
Any institution I’ve ever been at, we’re terrible communicators, we’re not the greatest communicators. We don’t always say to students, staff, and faculty, what we’re doing, why we’re doing it, how we’re doing it in stances. I hope that’s one of the things that I selfishly have for this group is that the communication has to be one of the key pieces of it. Because I know that there are offices doing a lot of great things right now and kind of trying to champion some of these concerns, but then we don’t do the best job of making sure that the community knows. Or if we do it, we do it in certain formats that doesn’t always hit everybody. And so I think that’s going to be another hope that we can kind of glean what is the best downstream communication piece that we can have here. So that way people know what’s going on or where can they go if they have questions. So that way we can make sure that the answers are there for them in that.
Shawn Wood: Great. The next question is, “How do we handle peaceful protests that turned violent?”
Michele Ballantyne: Well, the First Amendment protects people’s right to speak, but you absolutely, the university and the state, has the right to impose reasonable time, place, and manner restrictions. And a manner restriction is they have to be peaceful protests. And the chief may want to speak to this as well. But if a protest does turn violent, then we need to maintain order and protect people. So again, we respect the right to peacefully protest. I don’t know, Chief, if you have something to add to that.
Rodney Chatman: No, not much to add to that other than when we talk about engagement, we’re talking about difficult conversations of all types. And our posture to want to partner with our community involves all subject matters. So we would want to, even if there’s a protest that is being scheduled, we would certainly like to have conversation with the schedulers of the protests and say, “How can we assist you in making sure you’re safe in expressing your constitutional right of freedom of speech? We want to be here as a resource for you.” And so that’s an additional piece of what I think needs to be added to your comments, Michelle.
Jason Ramirez: Chief, do you want to comment on levels of force? I thought, if I recall right, that you changed a policy in terms of your levels of force that are usable or not usable.
Rodney Chatman: Yeah. There are some changes that are almost at the point of hitting go, but to the point that you raised about our Chief Safety Officer and my philosophy on policing, I think all of those things still deserve a student voice and faculty and staff voice as well. Again, that falls for me along that same line of we could roll it out and we can do policing to you, but we still, we want to get the perspective and hear the concerns of our students, faculty, and staff as well. As it relates to some of the things that you may have seen on the news about chokeholds and things like that, no, that’s not going to happen here, but we want to have these conversations before we put final ink to things to ensure that we have our community’s input on it.
Shawn Wood: Great. So Chief, this is a two part question. So the first part is, “How are we able to hold police on campus accountable, like reporting police officers? Is there a non-police entity we can report to?”
Rodney Chatman: I think you’re going to see that coming, that’s part of what the Chief Safety Officer is proposing with some oversight, for a lack of better term, group, that is our representative of students, faculty, and staff, as well as people outside of the campus. The final pieces to that are not in place yet, because again, I seem like I’m blaming everything on COVID, but a part of the design of that would have been for us to solicit members when they’re on campus, students, faculty, and staff, to participate in what that looks like.
Shawn Wood: So then the second part is, “also, will The U begin to add more training for police in the future, and how could students have their voices heard when these trainings are created?”
Rodney Chatman: You kind of cut out on it, on a little bit of that. Can you repeat that again?
Shawn Wood: Yes. So it says, “also will The U begin to add more training for police in the future, and how can students have their voices heard when these trainings are created?”
Rodney Chatman: Will we have more training? Significantly more and it has started. There are some trainings that are coming up, and in terms of we are reimagining how training is done. For instance, I’m making it mandatory for all of our police officers to have implicit bias training. But not only are we going to have that implicit bias training, the training in and of itself doesn’t resonate with me unless it has some potential to have impact in terms of change in the manner in which we do things and the culture in which we operate. And so we are going to have a module of our implicit bias training, where students, faculty, and staff can learn the material right alongside the police officers, so that we can be in the same room together, hear that training together, process that, and then we all will be on the same page. We can have conversation on how it manifests itself in the way in which we deliver policing services.
I’m also going to have, I don’t have the dates in front of me, I’m sorry, but we’re doing implicit bias training for our call takers as well. We don’t want “profiling by proxy” is what I call it, but we don’t want to have these situations where someone in the community who has a bias about underrepresented populations or people of color to get public safety and/or police officers wrapped up into their bias by calling and saying, “Hey, look, there is a suspicious person on this corner.” And the only thing that’s suspicious to the caller is the person doesn’t look like them. So we are providing that training as well.
But again, I keep deferring back to this. I’m frustrated that we haven’t had the opportunity to really engage with students because there are a significant amount of trainings that we want to do in collaboration with them, number one. And then we also want to hear if there are some trainings they would like to receive themselves in keeping themselves safe, and ways in which we can reimagine what safety looks like on campus. We want to hear that as well.
Shawn Wood: Thank you. Michele and Jason, this next question is for you, back to the First Amendment. “So what about the disinformation component of the alt-right and other groups, surely as an educational system, we can provide true answers to false statements, right?”
Michele Ballantyne: Certainly. Yes. I mean, again, that goes back to the university has a right to speak. So although there may be narratives out there, we certainly do have a right to provide context to correct misinformation. And again, going back to Jason’s point relating to the Racist and Bias Incident Taskforce, I think that’s a role that that group can take. And Jason, do you have additional things to say on that?
Jason Ramirez: Yeah. Just part of it is going to be understanding where it’s at. I mean, I think the institution is so large, and part of the decentralized nature of the incidents is that they weren’t coming to the same place. So there were moments where we didn’t know postings were happening or occurring or things that were necessarily happening because I think the local entities, so I’ll use an example, and this is just made up, like the College of Engineering may have responded to something locally because something occurred in their facility or their buildings, but then it didn’t always get reported to the offices that could then weigh in it from a university level inside of that. And so the hope is that we are able to do that better by unifying the system, by creating a centralized location for that. And then we can engage, the committee can sit down and review it and engage in a quick timeline, hopefully.
We don’t want this to drag out for weeks or months. We want them to get better at responding timely and appropriately to whatever those incidents. We’ve developed a threshold system where there’s kind of a steady state of response where it may not elicit a presidential response, but then it wraps all the way up to where the president may need to weigh in and may need to say something. And so those thresholds are being formed right now. We’re hoping to roll those to ASUU for input in the very new future, because they’re finally getting to a place where we’re comfortable with them. And now we want their input to make sure that we didn’t miss anything. And so the hope is yes, we want to be able to respond. We just need a better system to capture them. So that way we can.
Shawn Wood: Thank you. Chief, I think this next one will be for you. “I’m a graduate student. It seems that this conversation is focused only on police reform. Has the university seriously considered the desires of many students to cut ties with UUPD?”
Rodney Chatman: Well, the conversation as you articulated is from a police perspective, because I’m the police Chief and I’ve only been here 129 days. My understanding however, is the university in a broader sense, shares the same thought process that we have is that it’s time for all of us to posture ourselves in a way and listen, and see what that is.
We’ll take one specific example. There is this term of “defunding police” that’s out there. That term means there’s probably hundreds of iterations of what that means. It is important for us as police, it’s important for the university as well, to figure out for those who are asking about that, considering that, wanting to bring that to the attention of the university, it will be important to sit down and say, “What does that mean? And what are you trying to accomplish? Let’s sit around the literal and/or figurative table and have those conversations.” But right now you are absolutely correct. I’m only responding from a point of view of the police because I’m the police Chief and not the university.
Shawn Wood: All right. Thank you. So back to the protest question from earlier, this next question says, “how are we defining a violent protest exactly? Is order and the maintenance of property really of greater priority than allowing the community to act towards justice and change?”
Michele Ballantyne: I know this is a complicated issue, but we really respect the right of people to peacefully protest and so destruction of property or anything that would threaten the safety of others would be beyond the line of what we would support in my opinion, here at the university. And I would be interested in the chief’s perspective as well.
Rodney Chatman: I couldn’t say it much better. But one thing to note about the difficulty in understanding how the response to a protest, it cries out for more intentional communication to our community. And so we know already that we are set to host the vice presidential debates and there will likely be protests there. We’re already posturing ourselves to do an educational campaign to the campus community to say, “Here is what a police response looks like. Here are your rights as you are protesting,” and just really put it out. There’s no secrets that we have. There’s no time and there’s no appetite for secrets as it relates to things like this. The police need to be communicative and answering those questions directly. So there will be some communication coming to the campus community. It will be centered around the vice presidential debates, but it’s the same concepts, rules, regulations, protocols, posture, and everything else for any other types of protests.
And one thing to understand about the police mindset that I think gets lost, is when you are protesting, the police officers want you to be able to do it safely. And when behaviors start occurring that jeopardize your safety in terms of destruction of property or things or situations where people run the risk, a very real risk, an eminent risk of being hurt, we have to step in and stop that. But again, we would much rather partner with protestors. We’d much rather figure out on the front end, how we can assist you in exercising your rights.
Shawn Wood: Sorry. Thank you. “How do we help students of color and different cultures transition back into the university with the city wide protests that are happening and the talks and conversations that haven’t happened yet? How do we help those students feel safe?”
Jason Ramirez: I think this is where EDI might be able to answer some of these questions in their conversations with reframing the conversation and starting to engage the community. We first need to understand where they’re not feeling safe and how we can support them as an institution. Obviously I’m incredibly interested in that as well from my role and I know chief is too, but I think it’s best to allow the EDI to engage our community and understand what those issues are that they’re facing. And then slowly, we’ll create our checklist and start trying to identify where the problems are and then resolve those problems.
I’m cautious because I don’t want to guarantee that we’re going to be able to solve absolutely everything between now and start of the semester. We have two months, can we address everything as best we can? Of course, but we imagine that there’s going to be emotions, real emotions and real fears that are all across the board. And so it will take time for us to address that. The only thing I can really offer is that the more that we know about it, the sooner that we know about it, the more that we’re going to be able to take action and hopefully put some things in place so that our students are safer. But I don’t to paint a picture that we’re going to create an environment that is 100% safe.
I think I’ve said this from when I first arrived on campus, that we live in an urban environment that is incredibly diverse and it’s not safe. I mean, there is crime in Salt Lake, there is crime on campus. And that short of putting a bubble around every single student, I can’t keep everybody 100% safe. But we can definitely listen to what is out there, we can hear what the concerns are and start compiling those. So that way we can start addressing the issue as best we can as we move forward. Mary Ann, I don’t know if you want to say your pop up. I don’t know if you want to jump in there at all in terms of… Or if that’s a good segue into… We’re getting close to time. I don’t how much time you need to address the group.
Mary Ann Villarreal: I’ll address that in my closing remarks if there’s another question that Shawn would like to get to.
Jason Ramirez: Okay.
Shawn: We have several. “So what about groups outside of ASUU? ASUU is not representative of the student body.”
Jason Ramirez: Yeah. I responded in the chat in that, and I got the White Coats as one organization that’s interested. I think ASUU is always the starting point because that’s the “easy” one for us administrators. And so I’ll admit that. So my apologies, I’m not trying to leave organizations that are wanting to engage and have conversations out intentionally.
So if there are organizations that want us to run what we’re doing by them, and they want to provide input, I’d love, the more the merrier. Granted, it would probably be like representatives from those organizations as best we can, because if I invite like 20 organizations and they each have 50 people, that’s going to be a really big meeting. But we’d love to get input and feedback and solicit that from different organizations. So please don’t hesitate to email me those.
Shawn Wood: All right. “Is there a re-imagining happening as far as how police officers engage with students on campus, maybe training for how police officers should approach students to gain insight on campus attitudes when there are so much mistrust?”
Rodney Chatman: The best answer to that, in respect of time, is absolutely. We are re-imagining everything as it relates from the bottom up from how students are and I think one initiative that I’ll speak to very quickly is we are even re-imagining and changing the ways officers are onboarded into our police department. Before we let an officer loose from their training program, we are going to create these opportunities where a mandate that these officers go and they need to go to a behavioral intervention team meeting. They need to meet with the counseling center. They need to meet with Jason. They need to meet with Mary Ann. They need to meet with a student group so that they understand the unique difference of policing on a college campus versus municipal policing so that we can have better interactions with one another.
Shawn Wood: Okay, “Following the School of Medicine student gathering a week or so ago, what is the institution’s response to the students’ call for the following four requests? One, no longer collaborating with ICE, two, divesting funds from police to support POC in other ways, three, release data on POC interactions with campus police, and four, create a plan to address race inequities.”
Mary Ann Villarreal: I’ll take that question because I probably have some greater knowledge given these are ongoing conversations. I just want to say, hello. My name is Mary Ann Villarreal, I’m the Vice President for Equity, Diversity & Inclusion. For those of you whom I’ve not met, know that one of the things that I always say is “invite me.” I don’t know where all the tables are to be invited to. So it’s always an open invitation.
Before I answer the question on the School of Medicine, I’m going to go ahead and use this opportunity if it’s okay Shawn, Jason, to go ahead and offer closing remarks. One of the things that I hope that you all note from today’s conversation is we have new teams, we have new tables and we have new accountabilities. As you listen to Michele, and Rodney and Jason, we also have a greater collective and a collaborative team of folks than, I won’t say that we’ve ever had, but certainly one that I think folks have called us to do. To work together, to work collectively, to respond to university challenges, to university racism, to institutional racism, and then we can go from there or in terms of the underrepresented student experience on our campus.
So what I heard today and what I hope that will continue is that these conversations need to happen more often. And we all recognize that. And we’re attempting to find ways whether it’s via Zoom or perhaps in smaller discussions, not only to call us together, but to outline the next steps of action.
Certainly Equity, Diversity & Inclusion is a new division and is working closely with the Dean of Students and with the Office of General Counsel to really think about what does it mean to respond to racist and bias incidences? What does it mean when we talk about bias? This is a group that has been meeting for several months and not just attempting to put a compliance measure, another lever of one place where people can leave information or hope that somebody hears them. But this is a group that has thought very intentionally about what we’re going to pilot in August that assures the community that not only are we listening, we’re taking action and that action leads to greater action.
And so you’ll start to see more of that as Jason noted, he’s relatively new, I’m in my 10th month, Chief Chapman I know he feels like he’s been here five years. So what I hope that you’re all hearing is that we are moving quickly and on great uncertainty and on rocky road. And that is not an excuse for anything. What that is to say that we recognize that there’s no end on this journey. We are in this together and we never know what’s going to emerge, but to have a team that’s willing to work together to address these everyday challenges is a gift that most institutions of higher ed do not have.
So I just want to put that out there. So if there’s a table to be invited to, I know all the folks that were here today are wanting to be invited to this table. So we continue to do that work. We live in a great moment of discomfort. That discomfort is not going anywhere. That level of uncomfortability, that sense of not knowing what next is not going to change. We’re in a moment of both national discourse and national actions, legislation that is harming communities. And we all recognize that. And again, our goal as a larger administration team is to always build and communicate the protections for our students, faculty, staff, our community members on campus, in our communities that we serve outside of the University of Utah.
So as I listened again, I’ve listened to your questions and I know we’ll come back and debrief on your questions on where we go to next as I think about that team here. What I would invite you all to do is to continue to join us in the changing the conversation as Jason noted, Equity, Diversity & Inclusion, we’re hosting reframing the conversation. We started those conversations in spring to address the media representation particularly of Black men in local newspapers and we continue to do that work. Our idea is, between Student Affairs who launched that initiative, with Equity, Diversity & Inclusion, now that we have found a little bit of our footing, that we’ll continue that work.
My question to all of you is how do we model equity? How do we model inclusion as an institution of higher ed? We talk a great deal about diversity, but what is it that we’re going to do to change, to revolutionize our practices, to make our campus not just a place in which we invite people, but we change who we are at the fabric and the core of who we are so that all can find success whether it’s their academic career or their professional career? So, I invite you to diversity.utah.edu, to find out what we’re doing. I saw that there were questions about the Black Student Union group, about our ASA group. All of those groups live under the Center of Ethnic Student Affairs and as well, we have cultural centers.
So, I invite you to learn more about who we are, and how you can connect, collaborate, communicate your initiatives and how we can partner together. I know this has been a session on safety and I’m going to end with this. I think today is Thursday. This is not simply one Thursday afternoon conversation. This will be an ongoing conversation and discussion with all of our colleagues on this page, as well as including more as we go forward. So, I look forward to our next conversation and I want to say thank you to the partners at the table here for leading this conversation and for being willing to be in conversation and willing to do more action behind this work.
I see Ayana just popped up on my screen. ASUU, I want to say that’s an incredible leadership team this year. We’re looking forward to how we also a model for other ASUU’s what it means to have a leadership team that is going to push the conversation and be partners with the university. So, I want to thank you for joining today, Ayana. I will stop right there. I don’t know how you want to wrap this up. Again, when it’s the first time, then we’re like, “Okay, whose turn?” So, I’ll go. Next, Jason.
Jason Ramirez: The reason it feels like we’re wrapping up a little bit is I know there’s some partners that have to run to other Zoom calls at one o’clock. So, I want people to know that I’m happy to stay on the call. I will answer the questions that I can within my scope, even if the other partners have to go and run and take care of other things. But the idea was that we just wanted to make sure that we’re interacting as best we can. So, I’m happy to stay on and continue chatting and continue conversing. For questions that we haven’t gotten to yet, Shawn has been tracking these and we’ll get answers to those. We have your names and emails. I would love to send a response if for some reason you have to go as well, and we haven’t gotten to. I’m happy to stay on as long as I’m needed. Yes, Mary Ann?
Mary Ann Villarreal: My apologies. This is the thing about Zoom is that my calendar pushed up another meeting and I’m not trying to cut your meeting short, folks. Do apologize. I see it goes to 1:30, so I will sit tight for another half hour.
Jason Ramirez: No, it’s totally okay. Shawn, are there other questions that we need to continue to hit?
Shawn Wood: Yeah. Specifically, about what you just mentioned about communications. So, this next one is, “will there be a way to provide anonymous feedback on this panel? There are a lot of questions and issues coming up worthy of additional thoughts and input.”
Jason Ramirez: In the age of technology, there’s always a way to figure out how to anonymously do something, so yes. The short answer to that question is yes. I’ll work with Shawn and UMC to see what sort of way we can develop that. So that way, those that would prefer to remain anonymous, are able to submit their questions. We’d love that.
Shawn Wood: So, those are all the questions that we have right now unless someone would like to submit an additional question.
Jason Ramirez: Can I indulge one thing?
Shawn Wood: Yeah. One second. So, yes. This meeting is being recorded and will be posted. We’ll be putting this in Mondays @theU.
Jason Ramirez: I forget who, but the notion of inviting to the proverbial table, I think with institutions this large, it is very difficult … all voices are important. Every single person that goes to this institution, that works here or goes to school, their voice is important, but also when you add all those folks up, we’re going well above 70,000 folks that we would have to try to find a way to get that information to us. So, I think we oftentimes rely on offices like CESA, offices like EDI, organizations like ASUU, to gather as much of that input as we can, and then funnel that up to the key decision-makers.
So, I get that we may have to widen that scope and at one point in time it may have been comprehensive, but it may not be comprehensive now. So, I think that is also part of the welcoming of feedback is that if we need to broaden those outreach efforts, I would very much love to do that. Another member had pointed out to me that there’s over 600 organizations on campus, so I don’t know if it’s possible to reach out to all 600 of those organizations. I’m more than happy to try to do that. At the same time, I think we also rely on systems to try to bring up as much information as we can too, so that way we can be a bit more efficient. But if there are groups that want to be acknowledged, there are groups that want to sit down, just know that all they have to do is email me and I’m more than happy to, whether it’s zoom, whether we’re back on campus and in person. I’ll be there. I’m more than happy to engage.
Shawn Wood: Thank you. Another question did come in. “Can the university submit to the student body a list of their specific anti-racist responses and specific timelines that are currently being implemented such as the bias training Mr. Chatman mentioned?”
Mary Ann Villarreal: Certainly we can put together what we’re doing in a timeframe. I would like to have some understanding more of the scope of what you’d like to have shared. Our director of communications I believe is on this call, so she and I will follow up and follow up with Shawn to identify what we can provide on our website.
I do want to go back, and I apologize, there was this question about school of medicine, and I wasn’t ignoring it purposely. I wrote it down in my notes but then talked about some other pieces. Please know, that meeting was held last night with the students who presented the demands to Dr. Mike Good. He and his senior leadership met with those students and they will announce the responses today. So, I want us to be clear that they are responding, and they are taking a level of responsibility and some next step actions, not only with the VP for Health Sciences, the Office for Health Equity, Diversity, & Inclusion, as well, the Dean for Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion, but our area as well. So, look for those over the next 24 hours.
Pamela Bishop: This is Pamela with EDI. I just wanted to reference for that question in specific, we just launched on our website a call to action. I think if you go on that call to action, it’s a very good starting point about all the activities that’s happening on campus, or that are available for people to plug into to understand what the university is doing around this topic. So, if you go on the diversity.utah.edu, it’ll pop right up the “Call to Action.” So, I would encourage the person who asked that question to visit there to get a very good idea of all the things that are happening.
Shawn Wood: So, I don’t see any other questions. Jason, would you like to wrap up or how would you like to proceed?
Jason Ramirez: Yeah. Again, just want to thank everyone who decided to spend some time with us and has taken this issue up and is willing to engage. I think, as it’s been mentioned, we’re not perfect and we have a long way to go yet. I think all of us are willing to work as hard as we possibly can to continue fighting for these issues and making our campus community the one that we really want it to be.
So, as I mentioned, it’s one conversation of many that are hopefully going to come. We’ve been going back and forth. I just saw Ephraim asked the question of when can we expect the next conversation? There’s been back and forth about, do we schedule it every month and just keep attacking the issue until we get to a place where we’re happy with it? Do we do it more often than that? So, I think taking some of the feedback and some of the things that we’re hearing, I’m hoping to have it scheduled in the next week or so. So, that way people can anticipate and then plan and prepare to be involved if they want to continue to be involved. So, I think it’s probably going to be a monthly conversation until we get it to a point where we’re happy with it, which means it’s probably going to be ongoing.
Some of the things that I’m hearing, I just want to make sure that I acknowledge, I’m hearing lots of questions about training and wanting more details about that. I’m hearing lots of questions about engagement and broadening the scope of our engagement with our communities and making sure that we’re inviting as many people that we can. Also, communication continues, and I think will always be an issue for this campus or institutions of this size. Communication is hard. Some people choose to read emails, some people choose to read @theU articles, and some people choose not to read anything and prefer it to come in different forms and fashions. So, we’ll continue to find ways that we can better communicate with folks. I guess really how I just want to finish it is that we’re committed to you. We’re committed to making this place better for everyone and although we blamed a lot of it on our newness and COVID, I know everybody that’s in this meeting is willing to roll up their sleeves and do the work.
So, I couldn’t be more encouraged. I’m excited to work with each and every one of you. If you want to send us emails or ask us questions offline, please don’t hesitate to do so. Just because this conversation is ending doesn’t mean that it can’t be ongoing. If there are legal questions, I know Michelle is more than happy to provide any interpretations that she can. I know that with the issue of divestment, defunding police, and whether or not that is something for our institution or not or talking about threats of force or protesting. I know Chief Chatman is also always willing to come and sit down with you.
We need to get better folks. That’s really what we’re trying to do here, so I appreciate you coming and being engaged with this. So, thank you so much. If there aren’t any other questions, then again, we’ll end the meeting and get ready for the next one. So, thanks so much for those that presented. Michelle, Rodney, and Mary Ann, I value you all. So, thank you so much.