Texas State will implement new efforts this spring aimed to broaden knowledge and improve its voice on diversity issues, the university’s interim chief diversity officer announced in a Jan. 12 Staff Council meeting.
As part of Dr. Stella Silva’s updates, Texas State has contracted Life Anew, a restorative justice consultation agency dedicated to employing restorative practices in communities in an effort to build and encourage conversations that will result in meaningful relationships. This program is aimed to assist staff in improving the university’s communication with students during the upcoming semester.
The agency will be present during the spring semester with a cohort of focus groups. These groups will consist of Life Anew personnel and recruited staff members. The groups will discuss focused social and diversity issues while receiving helpful feedback from Life Anew.
As a whole, the operation will help address faculty, staff and student concerns about issues and local troubles that have risen in the past year concerning topics related to the Black community and outlook toward the University Police Department. Silva says this will be done through implementing restorative justice methodologies to help staff become better communicators and become more transparent with the way the university communicates with its students.
“We are contracting this company and it’s very expensive,” Silva said. “Right now, what we’re trying to do is to address faculty, staff and student concerns specifically related to the last year and other issues and incidents that have happened across campus related to the Black community, UPD and the way constituents at Texas State are feeling.”
Life Anew will be virtually active with staff but will eventually be physically present on campus.
Silva also spoke on eliminating some of the restrictions executive order 13950 places on diversity training. The Sept. 22 order issued by the Trump Administration mandated that no federal workforce institution would engage in training comprising of “race or sex-stereotyping or scapegoating”. As a result, any diversity training at Texas State had to be submitted to a diversity training review subcommittee.
However, on Dec. 22, an injunction was filed to put a halt to the order. Due to the injunction, Silva says the review subcommittee is in consultation with the General Counsel, awaiting approval to allow diversity training to continue without review. Tentatively, training will continue to be reviewed.
“The executive mandated basically made it to where diversity training may not be implemented for federal contractors. We are considered a federal contractor because we have several federal contracts such as several forms of financial aid,” Silva said. “When we get an update from General Counsel, we will announce and update and continue training without need for review.”
Toward the end of the staff council meeting, COVID-19 updates were discussed. Staff Council representative for the vaccination planning workgroup, Noah Fuller, reports the group is developing a plan for vaccine administration in preparation for the arrival of the first order of vaccines.
Fuller says Dr. Emilio Carranco, director for the Student Health Center, expects the first order of vaccines to arrive soon.
“Dr. Carranco is under the impression that we will have the first round of vaccines available within the next few weeks. Possibly within the next week,” Fuller said. “He is also hopeful we will receive some sort of initial communication notifying us when the order will be coming our way so that we don’t get caught by surprise, and we can anticipate the number of vaccines.”
Carranco is also said to expect a number of partial vaccines like other institutions and organizations have received, limiting the number of people able to be vaccinated. Other partial vaccines will continue to flow in and make up for the incomplete lot of people vaccinated when other orders arrive.
Later in the meeting, Fuller informed staff the LBJ Student Center ballrooms have been secured to hold vaccination administrations and the first round of vaccinations will be specifically for those working in some kind of front-line health care. That includes employees at the Student Health Center, members of the nursing program and other professions in health-related fields.
A waitlist will then prioritize vaccinations by referring to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s guidelines. Fuller says the high-risk population will be further up the waitlist as the general population remains closer to the bottom.
Mass notifications will be sent out concerning event locations, times and sign-up information through university communications. More will be discussed during the university’s town hall meeting on Jan. 15 with University President Denise Trauth and other university leaders.
Texas State’s Staff Council meets on the second Tuesday of every month. For more information on meeting agendas and minutes, visit the council’s website.