President’s commission works toward change

President's Commission on Race and Ethnic Diversity provides resources for racially and ethnically marginalized groups

Published by Annabelle Chipps, Date: March 5, 2023
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The SRU President’s Commission on Race and Ethnic Diversity (PCRED) exists to support and advocate for racially or ethnically marginalized members of the campus community. They aim to provide a safe and equal environment for all of SRU. 

“We monitor the climate of campus as it relates to racial and ethnic diversity issues,” co-chair of PCRED and Enrollment Management & Admission Coordinator of Information Technology, Michael White, said. 

He explained the commission helps guide conversation and implement policies. 

“We don’t necessarily implement things ourselves,” he said. “But we support those who are doing it and give them as much information as we can.” 

Recently, they worked on providing anti-racism resources on the SRU website. They helped local and state police go through diversity training to become accredited as well.

The group is comprised of about 20 members who are either staff, faculty or students. Members of various ethnic and racial groups are represented in the commission so that it does not just zoom in on a certain populace, according to White. 

“We meet once a month to have discussion around the climate of the university as it relates to racially and ethnically marginalized people,” he said. 

That includes sending out climate surveys for students of color to gain a better understanding of race relations on campus. It also means deciding what steps to take if a student feels harassed on the basis of race.

“A while back, a student posted something very racially antagonizing…” White said, “One of the co-chairs at the time was able to have a conversation with the president and others about how to respond to it.”

PCRED works with student organizations like Black Action Society and SRSGA. 

They partner with the Office for Inclusive Excellence, the Office for Global Engagement, the Fredrick Douglass Institute and the Office of Diversity and Equal Opportunity. 

“Not only do these entities have Ex-officio members who sit [in] on PCRED meetings, we also work together to bring programs and speakers to campus as well as work to affect policy and positive change around race and diversity issues at SRU,” White said.

The group helps sponsor events for faculty, not just students. Recently, the music department had a Black female speaker come and do multiple sessions to educate faculty and staff.

“We have a small budget,” White said, “and we provide financial support to student organizations that are sponsoring or holding events centered around anything ethnically or racially supportive.”

White said he enjoys being part of the commission because it allows him to connect with students more than someone with his job title usually would.

“Not long ago, the Chief Diversity Officer for PASSHE was having conversation about the five year strategic plan for dealing with inclusivity and diversity,” White said. “A lot of what they are saying feels to me like it encourages a commission like this.”

“The state of affairs in our country right now, let alone just in Slippery Rock and on campus, requires us to keep the conversation going…it has to be with everyone who belongs to the university,” he said.

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