On Oct. 29, Chancellor Venkat Reddy announced the appointment of Stephany Rose Spaulding to the role of interim associate vice chancellor for equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI).
Former associate vice chancellor for EDI, Andrea Herrera, was terminated from the position due to a dysfunctional working relationship with Reddy, according to an article by the Denver Post and a faculty letter written by Herrera.
Herrera returned to her faculty position as a professor of women’s and ethnic studies (WEST) on Nov. 1.
Spaulding first assumed the associate vice chancellor for EDI role part-time while continuing to fulfill her duties as WEST director and associate professor through the fall semester. She will take on the position full-time beginning Jan. 1, 2021 and will help lead the national search for a permanent new faculty member to fill the position.
Spaulding discussed her work, her assessment of current EDI efforts and her aims for the future in an interview with The Scribe.
What is your history at UCCS and in the Colorado Springs community?
I have been at UCCS for the past 10 years. I came in 2010, hired as a tenure track professor in women’s and ethnic studies, and since then I have earned tenure as well as become the chair of women’s and ethnic studies. One of the reasons that I was hired was because of my scholastic interest, which is in critical white masculinity studies as it pertains to popular culture. As an academic, I look at literature and film, as well as music and stuff like that, and how race dynamics function in those spaces.
I’m grateful that I’ve been able to share my expertise with our campus community but also with our community at large here in Colorado Springs. I’ve played a very active role in social justice work, and I see the work of equity, diversity and inclusion as an extension of that call for human dignity and decency.
What does the Office of EDI do? How does it affect students, staff and the UCCS community as a whole?
It’s a broad stroke, as well as a mouthful to even say, but I would sum it up and say that the focus of our work is to make sure that we create an inclusive environment for our campus — for all stakeholders, for students, faculty, staff and community — that we are doing everything to value our whole selves and making sure that everyone feels that they are respected and honored on campus for the diversity that they bring, their multitude of identities and everything that comes with us in our relationship to the university.
How does this department relate to or differ from resources that students would seek out when facing discrimination on campus?
It’s definitely intertwined. There is a specific office that handles issues of discrimination, but our work in the associate vice chancellor’s office is to really create an environment that prevents discrimination from happening, that addresses what our biases are to mitigate any acts of exclusion, and to do our best in that kind of work.
How would you describe the state of EDI at UCCS currently, and what more needs to be done?
I think that the campus is in a fairly respectable place, that we’ve had work and initiatives that we’ve done before and that are current, but there’s always room for growth and development. I think that supporting our students even more should be happening on campus, and again from a breadth of experiences — LGBTQ+, BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and People of Color), first generation, veterans, our older population — just doing more to make it a supportive campus so that students, as well as faculty and staff, know that they are welcome.
I would love to, of course, see more diversity in the classroom, and to ensure that students are, again, supported in their experience because they are able to see representation that reflects their present in our classrooms. So, hiring more faculty and the staff that support faculty and support students, is necessary.
I love some of the things that we have underway. The MOSAIC office is being expanded, the physical space is being expanded; students have a physical sense that their presence is wanted on campus. I think that (CU President Mark Kennedy’s) diversity initiative funding was a tremendous support for each of the campuses this year. So those are some good things that are happening, and, of course, I always want us to be doing more.
How have these efforts been impacted by COVID-19?
This pandemic has, in a tremendous way, economically hit our campus, as well as campuses across the country, so we aren’t unique in that necessarily. It has financially impacted the work that we are committed to on our campus, but it has not stifled that work. We are still committed to doing it, and you see that with the (CU) President as well as the Chancellor here at UCCS.
It has also opened up the possibility for us to examine blind spots, especially as it relates to accessibility. This pandemic articulated the ways in which internet access and technology access have not necessarily been equitable across the board, and what those weaknesses are for students, as well as staff and faculty, who don’t have access to broadband, who don’t have access to the technologies — even before you get to the use of the technology, like being able to understand and learn it.
I would say that that is a growth opportunity for our campus, but even with that, it’s allowed us to think more innovatively and creatively about the use of technology in our university life, not just for classroom instruction but university life, because it has opened opportunities for people who might not have necessarily been able to come to campus events to participate in campus events virtually, and to have those recordings stored into perpetuity, and all of those things. So, it’s been both challenges as well as new places for us to envision how we can do things better.
Will you be involved in the national search for a new faculty member to fill this position permanently? Do you know what that search will look like yet?
It’s something that is still being shaped, and the Chancellor as well as myself are committed to listening to what the campus wants in whoever comes in this role next. We are conducting some listening, conversations and opportunities so that the campus itself gets to shape this office. It’s not that distant in the future, it’s certainly on the top of my mind as well as the Chancellor’s mind, but we don’t want to necessarily rush, in the sense that we want to hear from you all. We want to hear from staff members and alumni and everybody about what can make this role be most effective.
How do students and faculty become part of that conversation and share their input?
We’ve had the space in our town halls, we’ve had a couple of listening sessions already, and we’ll have some more listening sessions. We’ve had some conversations with students already. Even if the time doesn’t work, when these sessions are scheduled, any and everybody can always reach out to me directly and send an email to [email protected].
Is there anything else you’d like to share?
My philosophy, so to speak, around diversity, equity and inclusion is that it is all of our work, that we are all accountable for making sure that our environment is an inclusive environment. I encourage, really, everyone to participate in the process and to voice their concerns as well as their solutions to what we are facing on our campus. So, please, don’t think that your voice is not needed or desired, and share what you’re thinking.