Student-led task force action plans for 2021 receive student input

Hannah Jackson, Staff Reporter

The student input period on the “For a Better CWRU” student-led task force’s 2021 action plans has just closed as of Feb. 9. Up to that point, students were encouraged to voice their opinions and provide feedback for the seven different committees’ drafts on their objectives for the new year. Through a Google Form, students were prompted to provide commentary on specific aspects of the proposals, as well as select whether they were open for follow-ups on their feedback, or if they were interested in being a part of the committee they commented on in the future. 

The student run committees were created in response to Case Western Reserve University’s “Day of Dialogue” held in June of 2020, in which members of the CWRU community came together to discuss a range of social issues prominent on and off campus. As noted by the task force, one realization was threaded through the various discussions: “We have not yet fully become the kind of welcoming and inclusive community we can and should be.” 

Considering the diversity of the topics included in the dialogue, the university developed the seven committee structures to address as many different social issues as possible while maintaining a detailed focus on each subject. The student-run committees center around the seven central themes of racial justice, LGBTQ+, gender equality, sexual misconduct, disabilities resources, mental health and Greek Life. Each of these committees consists of multiple CWRU students who report to an Executive Committee, which informs university President Scott Cowen and his cabinet about updates and changes to practices and policies found in the student-drafted action reports. 

The newly revised 2021 action plans revisit continuing issues from the first drafts made following the creation of the task force, while also introducing new ideas for making CWRU a more engaged and inclusive community. For example, the Racial Justice Committee’s draft mission statement highlights four necessary changes that need to be made on campus in addition to action steps made in the June 2020 proposal “Standing in Solidarity with Black Members of CWRU and Cleveland.” The four new changes emphasize the support of anti-racist language, promoting a campus culture that encourages dialogue on racial experiences, the removal of inequitable policies, procedures and programming and advocating for inclusivity in course curriculums. 

The Gender Equality Committee provided a new urgent action plan that encouraged CWRU to increase funding for the Flora Stone Mather Center for Women as well as expanding their staff. For students, they proposed the addition of a 1-credit-hour January term class focused on topics such as the culture and microaggressions related to gender inequality. The committee also called for a redevelopment of the SAGES program to be replaced with an extended orientation program focusing on social equity.

Similarly, the LGBTQ+ Committee cited in their draft continuing campus problems, illuminating the more recent “LGBT@CWRU” Instagram page’s posts by constructing their action plan around specific comments made on the social media platform. Their three focuses are: the campus’ hostile environment for LGBTQIA+ students, the need for more support for those students and a lack of visible LGBTQIA+ staff at CWRU. Their proposed solutions to these specific issues are increased education and training for university staff, increased support for the campus’ LGBT Center and the introduction of an “Out and Proud” campaign for university staff. 

The Sexual Misconduct Committee worked in the same vein as the LGBTQ+ Committee in using Instagram posts from the ‘CWRU Survivors’ Instagram page as a foundation for their action plan proposals. They urged CWRU to approve a campus-wide marketing plan to increase awareness about Title IX and to provide new protections in response to federal restrictions passed in August 2020. Responding to issues raised against Greek Life, they also urged the university to create a mandatory spring semester program for those joining Greek organizations to confront the lack of mandatory training and education on sexual misconduct. 

The Greek Life Committee has plans to better target holes within their Bystander Intervention training models and they’ve updated their progress since 2021. Their new continuous member training program, “Project Connection,” formerly called “Bystander 201,” will now include a dialogue series led by CWRU faculty on a variety of topics. Greek organizations beginning their recruitment process this spring will see the effects of two new trainings for chapter recruitment officers on how to create an inclusive recruitment environment. 

A major focus for the Disabilities Resources Committee was providing accessible transportation. Students in the CWRU community had voiced the difficulties that arise with campus shuttles and Safe Ride. The task force is asking for more stops and pickup times so disabled students will no longer have to plan their schedules according to transportation availability. Comparable problems were found with many Safe Ride vehicles being inaccessible, causing students to wait an excessive amount of time for transportation around campus. They are proposing that the Safe Ride app allow for a new app feature in which the rider can note if they are disabled to ensure the vehicle is accessible.

A suggestion made by the Mental Health Committee was visible in this fall semester’s course evaluations: an additional question asking the “stress level” of the course they were taking. The trial question was optional to professors to include in their evaluations. For those who did provide feedback, the committee will take into account further evaluations this spring semester. The committee is also trying to add in-person mental health education to the First-Year Experience model to ensure incoming students are aware of the mental health resources available to them.

The task force committees continue to review the feedback they received as they prepare their final proposals for the Executive Board. The due date of the final proposals to the Board as well as the date that these action plans will be available for the CWRU community to view is still being determined.