Administration responds to SUNY diversity policy

Oswego State has started to implement the new SUNY-wide diversity policy announced by Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Sept. 10.

“Under the leadership of President Deborah Stanley, SUNY Oswego continues to move forward in increasing the diversity on our campus climate that is embracing and supportive of that diversity,” said Jerald Woolfolk, vice president of student affairs and enrollment management and Oswego State’s interim chief diversity and inclusion officer.

According to Woolfolk, Oswego State already started the process of incorporating some of the new policies in the spring of 2014.It was at that time when the Division of Student Affairs and Enrollment Management established the Committee of Diversity and Inclusion, which is made up of students, staff and faculty. The committee was designed to provide diverse programming for the campus.

Last spring, Oswego State President Deborah Stanley appointed Woolfolk the interim chief diversity and inclusion officer, which is one of the standards listed in the new SUNY diversity policy.“My role in this position is to provide diversity training opportunities to faculty, staff, and students as well as provide a forum whereby individuals can voice their concerns regarding issues on campus concerning race, gender, disability, ethnicity and sexual orientation,” Woolfolk said.

According to Woolfolk, Oswego State must work hard in its efforts to ensure faculty and staff reflect the diversity in the student body and the administration plans to implement a national search to find a permanent appointment for the college’s diversity and inclusion officer in the near future.

Woolfolk believes that this policy is necessary.

“The state of New York is one of the most diverse states in our country, and as our campus demographics change, we must ensure that the services we provide meet the needs of the students we serve,” Woolfolk said. “…People want to be able to interact with people who look, feel, and have similar life journeys as they do while also developing new ways of thinking, embracing new ideas, and learning the value of all mankind.”

Woolfolk admitted the diversity officers are concerned that by broadening the definition it would be easy to overlook and dismiss the true intent of the diversity policies, which is to provide solutions to continuing historical inequalities.

Woolfolk embraces the definition of diversity as:

“The concept of diversity encompasses acceptance and respect,” Woolfolk said. “It means that each individual is unique, and recognizing our individual differences. These can be along the dimensions of race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, socio-economic status, age, physical, abilities, religious beliefs, political beliefs or other ideologies. It is the exploration of these differences in a safe, positive, and nurturing environment. It is about understanding each other and moving beyond simple tolerance to embracing and celebrating the rich dimensions of diversity contained within each individual.”

According to Stanley, Oswego State has made diversity and inclusion a priority for some time and has seen some tremendous progress in recent years.

“Oswego has a long standing reputation as a welcoming campus, but we want to make sure that the welcome extends to everyone, no matter their place in the diverse divisions of the human family.” Stanley said. “…The newly approved SUNY-wide policy supports us in our continuing efforts to achieve our diversity, equity and inclusion goals.”

Stanley commends Woolfolk in her leadership regarding diversity and inclusion on campus.

“We have the greatest students in the world here at Oswego, and I see the interactions among them daily whether in Marano, the residence halls, or just out on the campus. I see the learning taking place every day,” Woolfolk said. “I am confident that our students will continue to learn from each other and continue to move our campus forward with respect and dignity. That’s the Oswego way.”