Staff Senate discusses minority student engagement, new COVID-19 policies

Leo Bertucci

As WKU prepares for students to return to campus in August, the university is attempting to figure out how it should enforce its new social distancing and face masks policies. At the same time, WKU is continuing to build programs that teach students, faculty and staff how to create an inclusive environment for underrepresented minority students.

The Staff Senate discussed these developments in a Zoom meeting on Wednesday.

Lynne Holland, the assistant vice president for Student Life, and Molly Kerby, the associate provost for institutional effectiveness, informed the Staff Senate on how they can positively impact the campus experience of a minority student.


Holland said that minority students at WKU have been able to receive assistance through the Intercultural Student Engagement Center for the past four years. The ISEC program has a 77 percent retention rate, meaning more than three quarters of first-year students in the ISEC program return to WKU the next year.

“We want to be good at this,” Holland said. “We want students to choose to come to WKU because this is the place that they know that, irrespective of what happens in the classroom, we believe that they matter, we believe that they’re important, and we’re here to help them get to where they want to go.”

Kerby informed the Staff Senate about what the university’s Diversity, Equality and Inclusion team has recently implemented. As part of the We Are One WKU campaign, students, faculty, staff and community members can enroll in an academy. Those in the academy will receive implicit bias training, but they’ll learn about WKU’s history with racism and sexism.

For example, Kerby said that people in the academy might discuss historical topics, such as “Ogden (College of Science and Engineering) and Potter (College of Arts and Letters) being named after slave owners.”

“We’d like to make this One WKU campaign an idea of having deliberative dialogues on our campus to talk about things, so that it’s a collaborative learning experience and it’s a collaboration of solving some of the problems we have as well,” Kirby said.

David Oliver, the Environmental Health and Safety director, said that WKU is striving to obey the health guidelines that are set by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear. WKU will require people on campus to wear face masks in public indoor spaces and outdoors when six feet of social distancing cannot be maintained.

“In the classroom, there’s an expectation that everybody’s going to wear a mask,” Oliver said.

Oliver said that if a faculty or staff member sees someone who isn’t wearing a mask, they can ask them to leave or contact their supervisor about it before they contact the WKU Police Department.

“We’re not going to call 911 because we see someone who is wearing a mask,” Oliver said. “But if it escalates, we will deal with that appropriately.”

In other business, the Staff Senate unanimously passed a proposal that would change its bylaws so that four new standing committees could be formed.