Association of Faculty Women meeting with the Deans and VCAAs

The annual AFW meeting with the Deans and VCAAs took place this week. I represented Vancouver and joined several of the Deans from Pullman along with a couple of the Deans in Spokane. We had a great discussion; AFW had designed two questions to pose to us. The first was, “we hear a lot about the budget situation recently and about the impact shortages may have at WSU. As you navigate these waters, what innovations or creative approaches are you considering for the near and far future?” I addressed that question by talking about our need to grow in order to achieve three goals: to be able to expand our participation in graduate education, to be able to hire more faculty into our emerging research areas, and to be able to offer a broader range of options to our students in terms of scheduling sections (such as being able to offer more than one section of required courses). The Deans talked very frankly about the challenges they’re facing, and the need to innovate in order to continue to be a great university and to work toward the drive to 25.

The second question was, “with regard to President Schulz’s ‘Drive to 25’ initiative, what ideas are being discussed in your unit to pursue those goals, generally and particularly as they relate to women?” I talked about our focus on hiring faculty with strong research potential to complement the strong researchers we have on our faculty; on leveraging our location, which can provide advantages to researchers in some fields; and about what a great campus Vancouver is for women. Not only do we have many women in leadership positions (3 Vice Chancellors, 3 Directors on the Chancellor’s cabinet; 6 of 7 Academic Directors, both Associate Vice Chancellors in Academic Affairs, and most of the leadership team in Student Affairs), but we have a strong representation of women in STEM fields, as well distinguished scholars and teachers across many fields. 

I enjoyed being on the panel with academic leadership from Pullman and Spokane, and I felt very good about the things I was able to say about our campus. I emphasized what a substantial portion of the WSU system we are–about 10% of enrollment, and about 10% of tenure-track faculty, and that we’re a 10% the system can be proud of.

Welcoming Holly Beck to Academic Affairs

Please join me in welcoming Holly Beck to Academic Affairs in the role of Principal Assistant to the Vice Chancellor of Academic Affairs. Holly is joining us from the Chancellor’s Office, where she served as Principal Assistant from 2014 until her move to Academic Affairs, where she will support the Vice Chancellor as well as playing a major role in planning and supporting commencement, faculty recognition and other events, facilitate the faculty appointment and other personnel processes, work with the Council of Faculty Representatives, the Diversity Council and the Collaborative for Social and Environmental Justice, and respond to in-person and phone inquiries and contacts. This position will entail a wider scope of responsibilities than she had in the Chancellor’s office, and she is looking forward to working more closely with faculty and staff across our campus, as well as across other WSU campuses.

Holly has a strong background in this work, having previously worked for the Oregon State University Foundation’s Portland office, at Legacy Health’s Graduate Medical Education Department, and for a private medical practice. She has a BA from Marylhurst University.

Holly Beck is the person to contact to schedule meetings with me, or for questions relating to Academic Affairs in general. And yes, Holly Davis is also part of the Academic Office, supporting the two Associate Vice Chancellors and the Director of Blended and Networked Learning, so we now have two Hollys in our office! You can reach Holly beck via email at or 546-9535.

Inspiring Talk at AAC&U Conference

I attended the Pre-Conference Symposium of the American Association of Colleges and Universities conference, where the keynote presentation was titled “Reclaiming the Racial Narrative.” The speaker was Gail Christopher, Vice President for Policy and Senior Advisor, W.K. Kellog Foundation, who talked about the Foundation’s Truth, Racial Healing and Transformation project.

She noted that we Americans have built our history on a “false taxonomy of the human family,” which does not value every human being equally, but groups people according to a racial hierarchy. She said that we must replace that false taxonomy with an absolute belief in our equal and equitable right to realize ourselves. I thought that was a particularly eloquent way to express the racial history of our country, and to encapsulate the change we need to make.

She pointed out that because of the power of narrative, we need to change our stories, to create a new narrative and allow multiple narratives to expressed. To which I say, yes.

Part of the Kellog Foundation’s project is racial healing. She says that one of the reasons we have built our false taxonomy of the human family is because of our separation. In order to heal that division, we need to come together and know one another. “We are one human family descended from a common ancestor on the continent of Africa,” she observed. The notion that there is a hierarchy of values of human beings is an absurd notion, she insisted, and I again completely agree.

A very powerful question that some of us engaged in equity work on our campus have been talking about recently is this: when was the last time you had dinner with someone of a different racial identity from your own? The answer to that question will serve as an indicator of how racially isolated you are, or are not. That can serve as a way for each of us to start thinking about our racial experiences, our commitments to equity, and the steps we need to take to move toward jettisoning that false racial taxonomy that has shaped our world.

Christopher’s inspiring talk, thought-provoking, and offering, I think, some powerful rhetorical tools with which to examine our own thought structures and begin to talk with others to ask them to examine that false taxonomy, as well.

For more on the Kellog Foundation’s project click here.

New language for syllabi regarding reporting sexual harassment

WSU Vancouver has developed new language which we encourage faculty to include in their syllabi regarding reporting sexual harassment. One of the findings in our campus climate survey in the past two years has been that students don’t know what to do if they experience or witness sexual harassment. Including this statement in syllabi is meant to help reach more people with the information they need to report such incidents.

Please consider including the following language in all your syllabi going forward:


All WSU employees who have information regarding an incident or situation involving sexual harassment or sexual misconduct are required to promptly report the incident to the Office for Equal Opportunity (OEO) or to one of the designated Title IX Co-Coordinators.  Students who are the victim of and/or witness sexual harassment or sexual misconduct should also report to OEO or WSU Vancouver’s Title IX Coordinator, who is Nancy Youlden ( or 360.546.9571)

Kudos to our Facilities and Public Safety personnel!

As I look out from my office window this morning at a landscape of snow and ice, where our amphitheater hill has become a bobsled course, I just want to heap praise upon our facilities people and public safety people for all they’ve done during this snowpocalypse we’ve been having. My neighborhood has been an ice rink, Salmon Creek Road is a driving adventure, but our campus roads and pathways have been clear and have made for easy driving and walking. I’m really impressed by the efforts and hard work of all our people that have kept the campus in such good shape.

Thanks to James Martin and his facilities people, and to Dave Stephenson and his campus police. I appreciate everything you’ve been doing for the campus, our faculty and our students.


Two Vancouver Faculty Selected as Community Engagement Faculty Fellows

Mike Berger, School of the Environment and School of Biological Sciences, and Cassandra Gulam, Foreign Languages and Cultures, have been selected as Community Engagement Faculty Fellows by the Center for Civic Engagement, along with faculty from Pullman, Tri-Cities and Spokane.

Funded by a WSU Seed Grant for Student Success, the fellowship program will establish a community of practice for engaged scholarship, develop curriculum-based service learning opportunities for students, and address authentic needs through collaboration with community partners. Starting in February, Fellows will participate in several interactive workshops and a campus-community forum prior to designing new service learning courses to be offered in academic year 2017-18.

To learn more about the WSU CCE Community Engagement Faculty Fellows program and the 2017 cohort, visit

Congratulations to Mike and Cassandra!





Free Speech in Brave Spaces

The week before the break I attended the Association of Public and Land Grant Universities conference in Austin. The opening plenary was called “Speech and Activism: Seeing through the eyes of a new generation,”and many things were said in that session which caused me to do some thinking that I’d like to share with you.

The session opened with Erwin Chemerinsky, Dean of the Law School at UC Irvine, who outlined 5 principles of free speech:

  1. 1st amendment applies only to public universities–not to privates, because the 1st amendment applies only to government. Private universities should be committed to freedom of speech anyway, as freedom of speech is essential to academic freedom.
  2. All ideas and views should be able to be expressed no matter how offensive. The Supreme Court has affirmed that the government may not censor on the basis of viewpoint. However, obscenity, child pornography, false advertising, incitement of illegal activity (although it’s difficult to prove that speech constitutes incitement) are all unprotected by the first amendment. The Supreme Court has not ruled that hate speech is unprotected. Hate speech codes adopted by universities have been repeatedly overturned by the courts.
  3. There are categories of speech universities can punish. All ideas and views can be expressed, but “true threats” are unprotected–defined as speech that causes a reasonable person to fear for their safety. Harassment can be punished; to constitute harassment, the speech must create a hostile and intimidating environment, must be directed at a person, must involve a protected category, and be egregious or pervasive. Defacement of property is not protected speech, and can be punished. There is also no right to prevent the speech of others.
  4. Universities can have time, place and manner restrictions so long as they leave open alternative places for speech. For example, demonstrations near classrooms can be restricted during class hours. Restrictions can never be based on viewpoint. The creation of safe spaces can never allow for the punishment of students based on the expression of views.
  5. Universities and their administrations always have the power of more speech. “The best remedy for speech we don’t like is more speech.”

Cathy Scroggs, Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs, University of Missouri, Columbia, another panelist, noted that there’s a difference between censoring and censuring. She used the example of street preachers who stand in the university’s free speech area and refer to sorority women as “whores” Scroggs she says that while those using the free speech area can say that, she can respond by say that such language is not they way they speak about women in their community, thus censuring without censoring.

Another of the panelists was, Mariah Watson, past president student government at UC Davis, and the first African American to hold that position at Davis. She suggested that we should move away from the idea of a safe campus because in reality we can’t ensure the safety of every student; we should adopt the idea of a brave campus where we engage in difficult dialogues. The idea of “brave spaces” was picked up and echoed throughout the remainder of the conference.

I like the idea of a brave campus very much, and I hope that we will dedicate ourselves to being a brave campus, and having those difficult discussions. We need to recognize and report prohibited speech–harassment–if we hear it. But beyond that, I hope that we will re-dedicate ourselves to the principles of equity that we have espoused, and, while respecting free speech as protected by the first amendment, we will exercise our right to censure speech we do not censor whenever it strays from those principles of equity. We need to disagree openly and vehemently with anyone who denies the full and equal right of all our students to be here, to pursue an education, to be respected members of our university community. All our students, all our faculty, all our staff are rightfully part of the WSU Vancouver campus, and all deserve to be treated with dignity and respect. I will say that loud and say it proud, over and over. I hope you will all join me in doing so.

Our Plans and Policies Remain in Force

First, I want to acknowledge that some of our students are feeling very vulnerable, and there have been incidents on campuses nationwide which reinforce those feelings of vulnerability. Also, I have been asked by our faculty what we can do to reassure our students. I want to start by emphasizing to our campus community, students, faculty and staff, that WSU Vancouver remains committed to the strategic plan goals that we have put in place, and to remind everyone that we have policies forbidding harassment that we will continue to apply so that we have the safest, most welcoming and productive learning and working environment possible.

In our newly-adopted strategic plan, which was developed with broad campus participation and which now involves many people across campus in its implementation, we commit ourselves to promoting excellent research, to student success for all our students, to growth of our student population, to equity and diversity, and to community engagement. These five goals represent deeply held values of our campus community and we remain entirely dedicated to moving them forward. One of our objectives within the Equity and Diversity goal is to have students from all demographic groups graduate at the same rate. We can only achieve that outcome if we continue to work toward equity, toward making the campus a welcoming learning environment for students from all demographic groups.

Washington State University’s student conduct policies prevent Abuse of others or disruption or interference with the university communityDiscrimination and discriminatory harassment are also expressly prohibited. That code is worth quoting in its entirety: “Discrimination or discriminatory harassment on the basis of race; sex/gender; sexual orientation; gender identity/expression; religion; age; color; creed; national or ethnic origin; physical, mental, or sensory disability (including disability requiring the use of a trained service animal); marital status; genetic information; and/or status as an honorably discharged veteran or member of the military; and as defined in Washington State University’s Executive Policy 15, which prohibits discrimination, sexual harassment, and sexual misconduct.”

Executive Policy 15 applies to employees as well as to students. It states, in part: “Discrimination in all its forms, including discriminatory harassment, sexual harassment, and sexual misconduct (including sexual assault and other sexual violence), destroys mutual respect and a trusting environment, can bring substantial personal harm to individuals, and violates individual rights. Such behaviors are prohibited and are not tolerated at Washington State University (WSU or the University). This policy expresses WSU’s commitment to maintain an environment free of all forms of discrimination.”

WSU Vancouver remains committed to all its strategic goals, and to the policies which prevent discrimination and harassment. Please continue to encourage your students to engage in civil discourse, and to report any incidents they experience or witness. I encourage you to do the same.

Everyone is welcome here. All our students have the right to learn in a welcoming environment; all our faculty and staff have the right to work in a welcoming environment. I will be writing more about civil discourse in future blog posts.


Podcasting WSU Vancouver Research

Last week Associate Vice Chancellor of Research and Graduate Education Christine Portfors appeared on the Clark Talks podcast put on by The Columbian to talk about research conducted by our Vancouver faculty members. She did a great job of promoting the Vancouver campus as research institution and explaining the significance of some of the research our faculty are conducting. She talks about some of the work being done by our faculty working in the areas of sustainable water and brain health, about the strengths and weaknesses of doing research on a small young campus, the opportunities for undergraduate research, and the possibilities that exist here in the Portland Metro area.

To listen to the podcast, go to this link. Christine’s segment starts at 11:15:

Getting old and staying home…

Last night I had the opportunity to attend a talk given by Dr. Shelly Fritz of our Nursing program at a dinner sponsored by the Touchmark Foundation, who also sponsor Shelly’s research. Shelly gave a very engaging presentation about her study of the use of sensors, big data and artificial intelligence to help older adults live healthier lives in their homes. It was really great to be able to hear about this research that has the possibility of improving the lives of many of us baby boomers as we move into our seventies, eighties, nineties (and beyond?).

As I listened to Shelly talk about this important and really interesting interdisciplinary research that she is engaged in, I imagined myself sometime in the decade of the 2040s, living happily independent in a place equipped with devices that currently exist only in science fiction, I realized that this research is the kernel of that future. Shelly was also very articulate about the value of nurses and engineers working together on this research. She represented the values of social justice and compassion that are central to the WSU College of Nursing.

Thank you to Shelly for inviting me and to her colleagues from Vancouver and Spokane who welcomed me to their table.