Hillary Potter, associate dean for inclusive practice of the College of Arts and Sciences at the University of Colorado Boulder and guest speaker.

Social Justice Summit No. 1 is kick-starting the Social Justice Summit series, which discusses diversity and inclusion goals on campus, during WVU Diversity Week.

This two-day event, organized by the Faculty Senate Inclusion and Diversity Committee, will be taking place over Zoom from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m on Friday and from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday.

“We wanted to create an opportunity or a space where we could engage around those kinds of concerns,” said Lauri Andress, assistant professor in the School of Public Health. “So we tried different kinds of ideas, and finally we landed on the idea of these summits as a way of expressing transparency, deliberative dialogue and equity and inclusion.”

About 70 people are registered for this event.

On the first day, participants will present experiences of racism and issues of concern using a software called Mural. Participants will then build an action plan to address these problems.

Andress explained the purpose of the action plan.

“We will present a set of recommendations and we are hopeful that the leadership will respond,” Andress said. “A really central notion in this whole process is accountability and again, transparency.”

On the second day, Hillary Potter, associate dean for inclusive practice of the College of Arts and Sciences at the University of Colorado-Boulder, will present her observations as an external source.

Andress said that Potter’s role in the Summits will help conduct a climate assessment aimed at determining the sense of inclusiveness felt by underrepresented groups at WVU.

“If people can make sure they internalize what’s coming out of this thing, recognize the challenges and problems that are being brought up and the solutions that are being proposed to tackle them, I think that there's a real chance for us to move past this point where we are right now in our University’s history,” said Jerry Carr, president of the Morgantown/Kingwood Branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

Carr pointed out that this year’s Diversity Week will differ from previous years not only because it will be virtual, but also because of a heightened awareness on issues of social justice. He also stressed the importance of getting to work on the action plan as soon as the event is over.

“We have to be willing to listen to the communities affected and do the things that they’re telling us will make them feel safer or more welcome,” said Melanie Page, associate vice president for creative and scholarly activity. “And those may look different than our ideas.”

Rachel Baker, a first-year graduate health administration student, stressed the need for student involvement.

“These discussions are really vital to the University, and I think that it’s important for it not to just be faculty and graduate students that are engaging in these conversations.” she said. “I remember my time in undergrad and it’s like everyone’s stressed about homework and exams and stuff like that, but there are really great opportunities for younger students and undergrad students to really, truly engage deeply within this work.”