West Virginia University Board of Governors Chairman David Alvarez opened Friday's board meeting by, among other things, addressing a petition that made its way around the campus community in the preceding days.
The petition, which was signed by more than 800 people and presented on Wednesday, demanded improvements for the Black community on campus in a variety of aspects.
“Let me state unequivocally: Black Lives Matter," Alvarez said Friday. "We want our Black students, faculty, staff and alumni to feel safe and supported at West Virginia University."
Alvarez is one of 17 members of the WVU Board of Governors, a group that currently features no Black members.
“We also recognize that our current board representation does not reflect the commitment each of us has to this critical issue,” he said. “We will change to better represent and reflect the student and alumni bodies of this University and have already begun discussions to do so.”
Thus, later in the meeting, University President E. Gordon Gee announced the creation of four working groups on campus that were created to help take action.
Rob Alsop, WVU's vice president for strategic initiatives, and Hannah Davis, president of Delta Sigma Theta at WVU and vice president of the National Pan-Hellenic Council will lead the group that will focus on university policing, and may look at topics such as trainings, policies and partnerships with other police departments.
Dean of Students Corey Farris and assistant director of service and learning Eric Murphy will lead the group focusing on development of black leaders, and may look at topics such as program development, cultural awareness activities and increased exposure of current organizations.
Sharon Martin, vice president for university relations and enrollment management, and Marjorie Fuller, director of WVU's Center for Black Culture and Research will head the group for campus environment. The group may look at things such as anti-racism education, recruitment strategies for students of color and public service campaigns.
The fourth group, lead by WVU vice president for diversity, equity and inclusion Meshea Poore and executive director of student conduct Carrie Showalter, will focus on campus and community partnerships. Topics may include reviewing student and employee codes of conduct, policies on racially insensitive symbols or language, and community programming.
Additional group members will be announced on June 30, and each group will provide three action items by July 27. These will be evaluated for the purposes of taking action, with some adjustments taking effect by the beginning of the fall semester.
“Together, we can and will do better," Gee said. "But we can only do that through honest conversations that reveal honest realizations upon which we can improve.”
The University's press release in its entirety can be read here.