"Vice President Jose Villalba" Archive

An Update on Remembering and Honoring

On August 10, President Susan R. Wente shared her institutional commitment to promoting and sustaining a sense of belonging and inclusivity. In her message, she emphasized the ongoing nature of this work, and more importantly, recognized that it will take every member of the campus community to achieve success. In that same letter, the president said the Office of Diversity and Inclusion (ODI) will lead the next steps for engaging the Wake Forest community in structured, open dialogue concerning the guiding principles for naming adopted in April 2021 by the Board of Trustees. The goal is also to collect names of individuals, themes and concepts which are not currently honored or remembered as fully as possible on campus.

This next phase of working toward the shared commitment of a more equitable community will be grounded in the work of the former Advisory Committee on Naming (co-chaired by Trustee Donna Boswell and Divinity School Dean Jonathan L. Walton) and the Advisory Committee on Re-naming (co-chaired by Trustee Donna Edwards and Vice President of Diversity and Inclusion José Villalba). The ODI engagement opportunities aim to expand the community’s knowledge around honorifics and remembrance.

“Honoring and remembering our values should be central to our mission as a University,” Villalba said. “These initiatives will ensure that all in our community have an opportunity to share their perspectives and insights.” Read more

Next Steps in our Shared Commitment Toward a More Equitable Community

On Aug. 10, President Susan R. Wente shared a message to campus. Read the full message on her site.

A landmark week for equity and inclusion in the Supreme Court

A message from Vice President for Diversity and Inclusion José Villalba 

Dear Wake Forest Community,

Last week was a particularly affirming week for members of the LGBTQ+ and immigrant communities, as well as their loved ones and allies. In the span of four days, the U.S. Supreme Court issued decisions in two landmark cases. On Monday, June 15, a majority of Justices ruled that the 1964 Civil Rights Act protects gay, lesbian, and transgender employees. And on Thursday, June 18, a majority of Justices ruled that the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program could continue. 

The ramifications of these cases for employment and immigration law, respectively, will continue to be researched by legal experts and be the subject of public debate. For now, the impact on underrepresented members of our campus is positive and empowering. The recent court decisions are affirmations of Wake Forest’s non-discrimination statement, in place for many years, that declares the University will not discriminate against these groups. Our campus community will continue to emphasize the full dignity of all students, staff, and faculty. Now more than ever we elevate the voices and lived experiences of undocumented and LGBTQ+ community members. 

Sustaining our support for one another

A message from José Villalba, vice president for diversity and inclusion and professor of counseling.

During these times of sorrow, anger, confusion and fear for our country, our community and our University, it is important that we acknowledge that our friends and colleagues are still very much reeling from recent – and repeated – waves of injustice, racism and inequities. African American members of our community in particular are experiencing trauma in very real and pertinent ways right now.

Our African American colleagues in particular are simultaneously balancing their work loads, a national pandemic, and wondering about how the University’s next steps for the fall and beyond will impact their day-to-day lives. These experiences are compounded by a society that once again has made black people fear for their lives. Black caregivers wonder how many more times they will have to have a talk with their children about how to and not to engage with law enforcement, and black trans folk are feeling scared that they will be uniquely targeted as being “less than.”

Because some in our community have reached out to ask me what they should “say” or “do,” I am sharing with you what I have shared with them.

  • Reflect on why you want to share your care with your African American colleagues, as well as why the events that have transpired lately should matter to you as an individual.
  • Use your reflections as starting points when deciding how to offer your support, focusing on your colleagues’ experiences, pain and discomfort rather than yours. 
  • Statements of support should be followed by actions including one’s self-education on anti-racism and the perpetuation of structural oppression, joining with local organizations that work towards a more equitable community, and minimizing the prevalence of health disparities (to name a few).

If you want to get a sense of what your African American colleagues in particular might be experiencing at this moment, consider reading, “Maintaining Professionalism In the Age of Black Death Is … A Lot” and, “Your Black Colleagues May Look Like They’re Okay, Chances Are They Are Not.”

People with good intentions and differing levels of knowledge are trying to help their colleagues, students and neighbors. Many in our community, through social media, phone calls and emails, have said to our African American community members: “I see you;” “I’m sorry;” “Let me know how to help.” May these statements of empathy lead to sustained actions and expressions of love and support, both on this campus and throughout our nation.

Categories: Guest PostInside WFU

Follow up to malicious emails

The following message was sent to students, faculty and staff on Sept. 28:

Dear Wake Forest community,

Three weeks ago, seven individuals and five offices on our Reynolda Campus received vile, anonymous emails, spreading messages of white supremacy and hate. Recipients of the emails felt threatened, and concern for the wellbeing and safety of our community continues to spread with each retelling of what our campus has experienced. We continue efforts to protect the campus community, comfort those who were targeted and to support all of you who feel the trauma of these toxic words.

Three questions continue to arise—from some of you, as well as your family members and Wake Forest alumni.

Do we know the emails’ source?  Our own cybersecurity team worked swiftly to determine the source, and contracted with an expert national cybersecurity firm to assist in that effort. The emails’ sender—as all too often with hate-speech trolls—is untraceable. Other universities have been targeted with similar emails over the past year and all have proven difficult to track.

Is our campus under threat? Immediately following these emails’ arrival, Wake Forest police chief Regina Lawson contacted local, state, and federal law enforcement specialists—including the FBI’s hate crimes division and the domestic terrorism division that specailizes in white nationalists —to review the emails and conduct a thorough threat assessment.

As Chief Lawson communicated to faculty and staff after this review, and as indicated in the email to campus on September 19, while none of the emails contained actionable threats or detailed a specific attack on our campus, they still elicited the fear the sender likely intended.

Given lingering campus concerns, the University retained a separate, third-party threat assessment firm to provide an additional level of scrutiny, and to determine if any further security measures were appropriate. The firm delivered its findings on Friday, which underscored the initial law enforcement conclusion that the campus remains safe. Specifically, the assessment concluded, “nothing in the emails indicates an immediate, ongoing, or likely threat of physical violence.”

How can I help? The latest threat-assessment report offered helpful suggestions to empower us all to be better stewards of our community’s safety. The experts recommend:

  • Maintaining situational awareness; noticing undue focus or interest in activities, relationships or patterns of behavior
  • Noting and confronting inappropriate behavior in a timely and respectful way
  • Reporting concerns about the behavior of individuals that is disruptive, disrespectful or harmful to members of the campus community

The mantra that we are all familiar with from traveling through airports, train stations and other public areas, “if you see something, say something,” holds true for our campus. Looking out for one another and caring for those who feel unsafe is a vital step we can take to restore a sense of security in our community.  If you see something of concern, please contact the University Police Department at 336-758-5911.

Finally, the threat assessment by the contracted third-party experts suggests the more public attention drawn to the emails, the greater the gratification for the author. However, we understand the importance of assuring our community that we are taking all prudent steps to keep you safe and that our conversations around the vital topics of equity, privilege, race, gender and empowerment will not be silenced.

For those who feel unsettled or uncomfortable, we ask that you seek support from these helpful resources: The University Counseling Center (336-758-5273), the Chaplain’s Office (336-758-5210) and the Employee Assistance Program (336-716-5493). These dedicated and talented professionals in our community are eager to provide care to those in need.

We strive to be one community and one Wake Forest. Please seek to see the good in others, and to extend your hand of understanding and friendship first. Our community is not perfect, but we can make it better each day with our own actions toward one another. As Dr. Maya Angelou used to affirm to her Wake Forest students: “Change happens at the speed of trust.” Our trust is in each of you, as we build paths to inclusion and belonging by walking them together.

Sincerely,

Nathan Hatch, President
Rogan Kersh, Provost
Jane Aiken, Dean of the School of Law
Michele Gillespie, Dean of the College
Charles Iacovou, Dean of the School of Business
Penny Rue, Vice President for Campus Life
José Villalba, Vice President for Diversity and Inclusion
Jonathan L. Walton, Dean of the School of Divinity

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