Longwood Title VI office to address racial discrimination

Published 6:00 am Friday, September 4, 2020

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Longwood will become one of the first universities in the commonwealth with an office dedicated to addressing reported episodes of racial discrimination or harassment, President W. Taylor Reveley IV announced Tuesday, Aug. 25, acting on a main recommendation of the Equity Action Task Force that was created in June to create actionable steps toward a more diverse and inclusive campus.

Jonathan Page

Director of Multicultural Affairs Jonathan Page, a longtime leader of equity and inclusion efforts on campus, will lead the Title VI Office, the name of which references Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

In his 12-plus years at Longwood, Page has directed campus offices concerned with social justice, inclusion and diversity, and he will now take on the title of Title VI Coordinator in addition to his oversight of Longwood’s multicultural affairs office. He will likewise serve as a special adviser to President Reveley directly.

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Among the immediate priorities of the Title VI Office will be to institute proactive programming and training university-wide, establish communication channels for the campus community to report instances of discrimination, and structure formal protocols and procedures to address such incidents.

Reveley appointed the task force in June, with a charge that included developing recommendations for a Title VI Office, for engaging all students with the Moton Museum and Prince Edward’s civil rights history, and for planning campus conversations on diversity and inclusion during the fall semester. The task force prepared a detailed set of recommendations, which are being shared with the campus community.

W. Taylor Reveley IV

“During the summer, I asked this group to act with urgency to develop meaningful steps that would have an impact on our campus and answer the genuine call for reckoning on racial injustice that has been taking place across the country,” Reveley said. “It is easy to talk, but I am grateful the task force is moving us forward with real action — steps that make us leaders in higher education on these important matters.

“This moment of reckoning for the nation will continue and echo far into the future, and I know it matters deeply to our students and community that Longwood be a place that confronts these challenges head-on, reckoning honestly and working to do better when we fall short,” he added. “Jonathan’s leadership will be a powerful catalyst with this next step with Title VI.”

Only three other universities in Virginia have an office specifically devoted to Title VI oversight — the University of Virginia, Virginia Tech and Virginia Commonwealth University. Longwood’s Title VI Office will work parallel to the university’s existing Title IX Office, which addresses issues of gender-based discrimination, as well as the University Diversity Council, which is in the planning stage of a five-year strategic diversity plan.

“One of the main emphases behind the creation of the Title VI Office came from our conversations with students about their experiences on campus,” Page said. “What we’ve seen is a number of bias-related incidents, but we’ve found that a lot of students weren’t reporting those because they had a feeling that not a lot was being done.

“A key piece of this new office is to address that and be transparent with campus about what’s going on,” he continued. “In the past when these incidents have happened, they’ve been held in pockets and not widespread, making it difficult to not only address the frequency and severity of those issues, but to accurately assess them.”

And while the creation of the Title VI Office and the work of the Equity Action Task Force overall is groundbreaking for Longwood, it is just the latest in a series of large-scale steps the university has undertaken to become an active, driving force of cultural progress for campus and beyond.

In recent years, Longwood has spearheaded the creation of the University Diversity Council, engaged in a partnership and affiliation with the Moton Museum, and earlier this year announced the Bicentennial Initiative to engage in a multi-year study of Longwood’s institutional history.

“What we’re trying to do with the Title VI area is really anchor it with Student Affairs; we want it to be student-centered,” Page said. “Student Affairs, Admissions, anything that will touch the students, we will try to anchor to, because we want to enhance the student experience and be able to address those needs and concerns of our entire student population.”