Grand Rapids Community College has put together a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion taskforce which hopes to include GRCC students and staff on some important changes to the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion.
President Charles Lepper initiated the taskforce and enlisted the guidance of Sophia Brewer, associate professor in the Library and Learning Commons, Lina Blair director of Student Life and Conduct, and associate professor, Kate Kryger.
Blair and Brewer sat down with The Collegiate to explain the goals of the taskforce as well as how students can get involved.
“The purpose of the ODEI task force, affectionately known as the triad is to write the mission and goals for ODEI” Brewer said. “So we’re starting fresh and new and we’re using feedback from our campus community, our campus stakeholders to rewrite the mission and goals for the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. Another charge we were charged with is to kind of define what equity and belonging means for this campus. We don’t have a unified or institutional definition for those terms.”
“We want to learn from students, faculty, staff, and our community members who care about this work. We want to understand what students need in terms of how we can do better around equity and belonging so they can expect us to ask them a lot of questions,” said Blair.
The group was also assigned with a goal to rewrite the job description for the chief equity and inclusion officer, a position previously held by B. Afeni McNeely Cobham who was suddenly removed in Nov. 2022.
“We have a new president with Dr. Lepper and there’s a new opportunity for us to kind of just redefine and look at that office and really see how that office might best benefit our campus community,” said Brewer. “We want to make sure that position specifically can put experiences and (has) goals and actually adheres to the goals that we are going to identify.”
In an interview with The Collegiate, Lepper mentioned wanting to incorporate belonging to the ODEI, a goal that is seemingly held by the taskforce as well.
“Moving forward we want to make sure that that position specifically can be successful because that sense of belonging is what really helps with not only our enrollment, but helps students feel like they have a place here at GRCC that they have a voice here at GRCC,” said Brewer.
The taskforce is focused on student involvement with students encouraged to participate in any way they can. “I think students should be involved in every decision that has an impact on them and this job has a big impact on students,” said Blair.
The team is expected to continue gathering information until the end of June before they begin drafting the job description for the new chief equity and inclusion officer. Students can participate by leaving their suggestions on the bulletin board on the first floor of the Student Center building, attending Student Alliance meetings or emailing the taskforce directly at ODEI_Taskforce@grcc.edu. There is also a meeting on Wednesday, April 12 from 4-6 p.m. in the Applied Technology Center room 120/122. You can attend the meeting virtually if you’re unable to make it.