Dear Bentley Community,
I hope that your return to campus, classrooms and offices has been off to a smooth start this semester and that you are enjoying being together as a community once again. During my nine months at Bentley, I've very much enjoyed opportunities to engage with members of this community, listening and learning from the students, faculty and staff that are the heart of this special community. The casual conversations, scheduled meetings and open forums have been enlightening and stimulating, and I remain inspired by them. The feedback and information I’ve been able to gather from these touch points has helped inform our recent steps forward as a community, and I’m grateful for these moments of candor and open feedback.
As we all settle into the rhythms of the new semester, I wanted to take a moment to provide our community with an important update on an issue that has been top of mind since I arrived on campus last June, and that has been a common theme in many of those conversations I’ve mentioned: the steps Bentley is taking to affirm our commitment to creating inclusive and equitable learning and working environments for all members of this community.
In addition to conversations I’ve directly participated in, this community has held independent meetings and forums across campus dedicated to this topic over the past year. After a necessary period of engagement, a single and overarching theme has emerged which requires our attention: it’s clear that too many members of our community are unable or uncertain of how to report incidents of bias, discrimination and harassment. While there continues to be an abundance of resources and mechanisms available to report incidents on our campus, it’s clear that more needs to be done to make this process more intuitive and accessible.
To help better our understanding of why these resources have been infrequently used, Bentley conducted an external independent review to examine our current structures and processes. Two key recommendations emerged from this review:
- The need for a more centralized coordination of the university’s response and compliance efforts, and
- Expanded resource advocacy services.
I’m pleased to let you know that we are taking steps to immediately address both areas with the following actions:
New Office of Institutional Equity
The Office of Institutional Equity will assume responsibility for coordinating Bentley’s response and compliance efforts with respect to state and federal anti-discrimination and anti-harassment laws such as Titles VI, VII, and IX. In addition to expanding the university’s ability to coordinate resources, prevention and response procedures, creating an Office of Institutional Equity will strengthen our commitment to ensuring institutional accountability by providing an easily accessible and effective mechanism for responding to incidents as they occur.
This new office will reinforce our values by interweaving our commitment to diversity, equity, inclusion and justice within a centralized and resourced office charged with ensuring timely, consistent and equitable responses to reports of bias, discrimination, harassment and sexual misconduct. The office will report to the chief diversity and inclusion officer, and the success of this office will depend on continued collaboration with partners in Academic Affairs, Student Affairs and Human Resources. A search for the director of this new office will begin in the spring, with the new office launching over the summer.
New Resource and Prevention Specialist
A new resource and prevention specialist will be responsible for overseeing the day-to-day operations of a comprehensive sexual violence prevention and response program at Bentley. Embedded within the Center for Health, Counseling and Wellness, this newly created position will coordinate strategic and inclusive sexual health programming in conjunction with trauma-informed violence prevention programs.
The resource and prevention specialist will also serve as a support person to community members seeking information about options for care and reporting, in response to experiences or trauma related to interpersonal violence. This complements the recent work and expansion of consultation hours available through our community partner, REACH Beyond Domestic Violence. This position will work closely with the Office of Institutional Equity to ensure consistent and comprehensive responses.
With these new campus resources, we aim to better provide our community with the tools to immediately address issues of racism, discrimination, bias and gender-based inequity as they occur. The individuals currently charged with helping those impacted by discrimination, harassment or bias continue to provide a high-level of care and support. I am grateful to these dedicated colleagues for all their efforts and participation in the review, which led to the creation of these new resources. I am confident that through these changes we will strengthen our individual and institutional capacities in ensuring an equitable, supportive and enabling environment for all members of our community.
To learn more about these new resources, I invite you to join Katie Lampley, our chief diversity and inclusion officer, and Michelle Bowdler, the associate dean for health, wellness and counseling, for a Q&A session on Wednesday, February 23 from 1:00 – 2:00 p.m. You may register for that virtual session here.
Addressing issues of racism, discrimination and bias must be an ongoing commitment for our community. I hope that these new resources provide us with a continued step forward toward this end.