Bradley University 'hungry' for more diversity, equity, and inclusion programming, new VP says
Bradley University's first vice president for diversity, equity, and inclusion has only been on the job for two months, but he already sees a campus "hungry" for change.
"This is probably the most excited I've been to start a new role at an institution. Namely, because everyone here seems so committed to doing this work," said Dr. Warren Anderson. "But more importantly, this is probably the best time for this institution to move in this direction, given everything happening around issues of social justice, and equality, and equity."
Anderson said his goal is to foster an atmosphere where all students feel they truly belong, and are supported by the institution. That's something Bradley University has sometimes struggled with, as evidenced by the #BlackAtBradleyU Twitter hashtag a couple years ago, where alumni and current students recounted incidents involving racial insensitivity on campus.
"To a tee, the alum of color, have said, we didn't have a great experience, but we love Bradley. That says a lot," Anderson said.
He said he's taking a close look at where the gaps are at Bradley, including graduation and engagement rates, and the recruitment and retention of faculty and staff of color.
"There are some things that we have to address. There are some things that we have to sort of peek under the covers and see what's there," Anderson said. "There are some things that we need to rectify to make sure that, again, everyone who's here feels as if this is a place where they've been allowed and are being allowed to grow and thrive, as it relates to cultural competency, both in the classroom outside of the classroom, but on campus and off as well."
Anderson said barriers to education don't just fall along racial fault lines, but also religious affiliation, socioeconomic status, and other characteristics.
"Fundamentally, it becomes making sure that we have a mechanism for training and development in education. So people have a good understanding of exactly what those issues are, where we currently are and what work we have to do," he said. "But more importantly, that we have a shared vision of what this work entails moving forward. That's always been the hard part."
One recent example comes from a Bradley Student Senate forum. A Latinx group wanted to put up flags around campus for a month. Anderson challenged the students to think larger, and pushed for a permanent installation rather than a temporary one.
"It's not about the dangling of pretty trinkets. It's about substantive change, and how we as an institution need to go about creating a substantive change to make sure that it's a no brainer that we want to have flags up for this month. But it's also a no brainer that those flags should represent something that individuals can see every day on this campus," he said.
Anderson said while he believes DEI work will benefit the students and staff on the Hilltop now, he's focusing on setting the stage for the decades to come.
"As an institution, we need to do better to make sure that our value system is clear. And it is unapologetic to who we are. And everyone coming in, eventually will adhere to that, more than anything else," he said.