Renewing our commitment to an engaged and inclusive community

A message from Vice President of Campus Life Penny Rue to the Wake Forest community.

In my first year at Wake Forest, many people — students, faculty and staff — took time to tell me what was special about Wake Forest, and for that I am grateful. It helped me begin to know this place in a deeply meaningful way. Others took the time to tell me what they think is wrong about Wake Forest, and for that I am even more grateful. Wake has a quest for excellence, and in that quest we must be fearless in our ability to look honestly and constructively at our community.

One of the most searing moments of my first year was a Town Hall meeting, organized by students last spring, to share concerns about bias and mistreatment from university police. Their stories were poignant and painful, and they underscored what I had already learned: that not all Deacs feel the same sense of inclusion. As one African American student had said to me, “Oh, we feel welcome, Wake is a welcoming place. We just don’t feel valued.” This must change.

As a previous message to the community sent by Assistant Provost Barbee Oakes and me stated, the recently released report investigating bias in the police department was conducted by independent consultants. What is clear in reading this report is that we have much work to do to improve our police interactions and to gain the trust of the university community. This pressing need connects us to a national conversation about injustice in our country, as it should.  These actions have already begun, and include comprehensive bias training for police personnel, recruiting for diversity in the department, independent investigations of complaints, and improved community relations and communication. (See the Action Plan for a more complete list of actions.)

In addition to the steps being taken to improve policing, we are creating opportunities to listen closely to student concerns and pursue a more just community, including an upcoming Deliberative Dialogue on Campus Climate led by the Pro Humanitate Institute. Bias incidents are receiving prompt response due to our new on-line Bias reporting option. A group of student leaders are working with the Pro Humanitate Institute to bring Sustained Dialogue to the Wake Forest campus. Intercross-cultural capacity educational opportunities are being developed by the Office of Diversity and Inclusion and the Center for Global Programs and Studies. Below you will see our division’s strategic priorities. These will guide us through the challenges we face together.

  • Lead a comprehensive approach to student and community wellbeing
  • Integrate civic engagement and responsibility locally and globally
  • Foster an inclusive culture of peer engagement, leadership and accountability
  • Cultivate a community where all students feel a sense of belonging and are valued contributing members
  • Prepare students to lead in a diverse environment with cultural fluency

It has been my life’s work to partner with students to strengthen a shared sense of community and inclusion. I and my colleagues pledge to work side by side with interested and committed students to create a healthy climate for all. I invite you to share your thoughts about how best to accomplish this critical goal. Working together, I know we can accomplish it.

Please join me in renewing our commitment to creating a truly engaged and inclusive community characterized by student ownership and engagement.