Faculty Council discuss race relations, trouble rolling out Title IX training

A new committee will be dedicated to addressing race relations on campus.

Faculty Council discussed race relations and issues with the current Title IX faculty training program during its first meeting of the spring semester Thursday.

Race relations

Faculty Council Chairman Craig Roberts said he has been acutely aware and sympathetic of the plight of students of color at MU since he attended the [Ferguson Listening Session on Dec. 1](link later).

He said he also understands the limitations some white faculty may have understanding their situation.

“It’s hard for white faculty to be in tune with the mistreatment of people of color,” Roberts said. “This is a problem under the surface that we may not detect.”

Roberts said Faculty Council will create a committee on race relations in the coming weeks. He said because race relations is such a pressing and important matter, the committee will likely become a permanent fixture of the council.

Roberts stressed the fact that the new committee will be separate from the current standing Diversity Enhancement Committee.

“If you throw (race relations) into the diversity issue, it gets lost, it gets camouflaged by all the other issues related to diversity,” he said. “This race problem is so distinct. The experiences the students are communicating are so distinct that it will serve us best if this is specifically a race relations committee.”

Faculty Council members Berkley Hudson and John Laurie will head the new committee and are currently working with journalism professor Earnest Perry to develop it.

Hudson said Perry was tapped to be one of Chancellor R. Bowen Loftin’s advisors on race relations after he moderated the listening session, and Perry will help ensure the committee includes all the voices necessary to achieve fairness and thoroughness.

In 2002, Perry received an award from the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication for his paper on the African-American press’ negotiation for a White House correspondent.

Hudson said he plans on drafting a resolution for the committee in the coming weeks. He said the resolution will be “an empathetic statement making it clear that (the council) understands the need for more of a dialogue”.

Hudson said the resolution will also commend Loftin for the work he has already done regarding race relations, namely his organization and promotion of listening sessions over the last few months.

In response to criticism that he lacked a quicker response to events in Ferguson, Loftin vowed to continue racial discussions and “craft responses as appropriate as we go forward”. However, Loftin has yet to publicly announce any additional initiatives to address concerns expressed by students at the listening session.

Failure to launch

Betsy Rodriguez, UM System vice president for human resources, attended the Thursday meeting to address faculty frustrations with the newly-launched online Title IX training program.

When Roberts asked his colleagues if they had had difficulty accessing the program, nearly every council member in the room raised his or her hand.

Roberts said the problem with the online system is that certain videos do not load properly on some operating systems.

Faculty Council Vice Chairwoman Rebecca Johnson said 50 percent of MU faculty have yet to complete the Title IX training course.

Student Affairs Committee Chairman Tim Evans said the Title IX training system, which had been in development for nearly seven months, did not live up to the standard that was guaranteed by administrators.

“We were told, ‘we’re going to have this training coming out’ and ‘we want to make sure it’s right,'” Evans said. “The training, when we got it, didn’t seem like something you would wait so long for.”

Rodriguez had anticipated she would be dealing with a disgruntled crowd from the onset. She began her speech by apologizing profusely and told the faculty that this was a time to “vent.”

Academic Affairs Committee Chairwoman Nicole Monnier said she was particularly vexed by the trouble developers were having with what she saw as a pedestrian technical issue.

“This is not new, and it’s also something that lots of people have already solved,” she said. “I kind of feel like there’s an answer that’s already there and you haven’t found it.”

Several faculty members suggested solutions, including having dedicated, stationary computers or reducing the online training to PowerPoint presentations.

Rodriguez said she is working with developers to improve the current Title IX training system, which lacks instructions for dealing with certain scenarios, such as written accounts of sexual harassment in an assignment.

“My students have written about being raped,” Hudson said. “I’ve never gotten an answer about how to approach these kinds of tricky, delicate questions.”

Title IX reforms

Dennis Miller, Faculty Council’s representative to the Intercampus Faculty Council, discussed proposed changes to Title IX policies that will be presented to the Board of Curators on Feb. 5.

Miller said the proposal, which IFC and Faculty Council have been working on over the past 6-8 weeks, includes recommendations for adjudicating student cases and the role of advisors and witnesses in Title IX hearings.

Miller said his main concern is not with the proposed changes themselves, but how they are implemented by the new provost. He said the goal is to review the implementation of the new rules 18 months after they are put in place.

Roberts said the new executive order, which contains the changes, is a substantial improvement from its predecessors, executive orders 40 and 41. He said that administrators collaborated with UM System attorney Marsha Fischer to create the new draft.

“Sitting through one of those meetings, you can spend thirty minutes on a phrase with her,” Roberts said. “I wish you could have seen the discussion on two adjectives that we had in there.”

The Faculty Affairs Committee reported it will continue to analyze the Collaborative on Academic Careers in Higher Education (COACHE) survey results, which indicated a higher rate of dissatisfaction among faculty of color.

Harry Tyrer, chairman of the committee, said administrators were “trying to figure out who was angry and why.”

Roberts announced that Loftin formed a new standing committee to focus on non-tenure track issues.

Monnier said the committee is still searching for NTT faculty members.

Faculty Council will hold its next public meeting Feb. 12.

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