The AS Review: What motivates you to seek out this position?
Casey D. Hall: Well, I have been involved in leadership and diversity for over four years, so before I came to Western. But I have four years of experience in the Associated Students in many capacities as well as leadership positions on campus. I have been a part of Queer People of Color, which is an Ethnic Student Center club for four years now. I’m the current Vice-President of Queer People of Color. I also was involved in hall council, I have gone to national and regional conferences about diversity, including I was one of seventeen selected to go to a national gay and lesbian journalist association conference and while I was there I wrote largely on diversity within the LGTB community including articles on disability and race and ethnicity and the transgender identity within the LGTB community. I also worked as the LGTB alliance program coordinator and that meant that I designed and facilitated weekly workshops in terms of diversity. During that I tried to talk more about diversity within the community. I did workshops about being Queer and deaf and multiple identities like ethnicities and race within the community; transgender in the community. So I try to look at it from a very comprehensive approach in general. I also was part of the Ally network which is a group through Prevention and Wellness services that addresses oppression and privilege for all groups, especially groups you don’t necessarily identify with who are trying to learn more about other people’s privilege and oppression. And I’m the current Resource and Outreach coordinator. Last year I was the assistant-editor of the AS Review. As the ROP Director I helped facilitate and empower the 8 offices within the ROP, which includes the LGTB Alliance, the Women’s Center, Social Issues Resource center and the Veteran’s Outreach Center. So I have a lot of experience in the area. It’s my personal passion. There’s not a day that doesn’t go by that I have conversations. Like I just came back from a 30-minute conversation about the intersections of identity and how we need more of that addressed on campus. Largely it’s because its so much a part of my daily life that that’s a large part of who I am. I’m seeking out the position also because I see there’s a great opportunity to help Western broaden its idea of diversity and ensure a comprehensive approach in terms of diversity. Because I believe that you should never prioritize identities, that everyone deserves to be represented on their own terms, to feel safe and all identities should be addressed. And I don’t think you can say any of the offices on campus get more or less attention from the VP of Diversity, so I really want to make sure that their approach is met. I think there are certain groups on campus that haven’t had much attention in general, like veterans on campus. That’s one group that really hasn’t got any attention. Students with disabilities definitely needs more attention and LGBT identites, especially transgender identities and bisexual identity is really lacking in attention as well. There’s a lot of room for growth in how we address students of color on campus and socio-economic status on campus and religion on campus. I think that all of the identities have room for growth in how they address these issues and I’d really like to help students working on those issues to feel empowered and see the changes they want on campus. And I’d really like to facilitate that, which is why I’d like to be on the Board of Directors.
ASR: What groups of students might be easily overlooked by the AS Board and what will you do to ensure that you represent them in your work?
Hall: Like I was saying earlier, I think veterans are an example of students that are easily overlooked and I think that’s partially just because of the political climate of Western. I think the largest thing is going and talking to students. There’s a new club being established currently for veterans and I’d really like to go to the meetings with the club and see what veterans are facing, or what needs they need to have addressed and include that –start including these identities into our regular discussion or how we conduct policies and how we address everything from publicity, to programming, to academics, to lobbying. Everything that we do, I mean diversity is a part of everyone on campus. It’s something that needs to be addressed. I think it wont be finished until we address our people with disabilities. I think there’s a lot of accessibility issues that aren’t being addressed. For instance if you look around here, in an area of chairs there’s no room for wheelchair access. So I think we need to look at how we deal with current, ideal spaces on campus and it’s as simple as making sure chairs aren’t so pushed together that people can’t navigate the spaces as well as making sure there are silent language interpreters, making sure that there’s not flash photography at events to affect hearing aids. I think that the largest thing in terms of solving this is a campus wide survey and really assess different areas of what needs to be done. What are the problems? I think if we do surveys or a large, comprehensive survey we can really see what issues there are for all the different identities including those that aren’t addressed currently. We have a lot of room for improvement in how we address those identities. I think that we can make strategic goals to make sure that we have policies regarding how we set up events and what’s available in terms of disability resources at events an things like that as well. I think transgender identities are another group on campus that aren’t necessarily addressed as much, including housing. That’s one of the things I focused on in my platform. I think that housing and bathroom access for transgendered students needs to be readdressed and I think that there’s Trans(?) addressing transgender issues on campus. I really just want to connect with clubs and students that are already focusing on these identities that are getting as much face time and really make sure that we address the issues that they face in the way they’d like to see. So that includes housing. I’m really concerned about housing because of the fact that it’s really alienating for transgendered students. My understanding is that we address housing on an individual basis currently but we don’t have any co-ed housing really and I don’t feel like the full range of options are available for transgendered students. I think its forcing, well not necessarily forcing, but encouraging transgendered students into single-room dorms with their own bathroom. It’s isolating, especially if the student doesn’t want that type of situation. But I think that transgendered students need a full range of options and the most comfortable living conditions, including bathrooms that are gender neutral. So those are things that I’d like to look at and some of these things are things that are long range goals, but if we start working on making sure that these are things that we value and these are things that we want to include in our policies and start considering all of the access in diversity, all of the policies we create, that we will know that these issues will be addressed and setting plans that are—there are things I wont be able to address next year—but there’s also setting the tone and stage for years to come in terms of all of these issues. I think a big part of it is meeting with all aspects of diversity on campus and the groups that are addressing diversity issues on campus. There’s just so many aspects that need to be addressed. For instance mixed identities. There’s MISO on campus, there’s also Queer People of Color and there’s other groups on campus that address—there’s a group on campus for Jewish Women as well, talking about cultural aspects of being a Jewish woman. I think that multiple identity organizations allows people to talk about diversity. It’s mutually exclusive when everyone has—I mean that’s the concept. My campaign slogan is everyone is a piece of the puzzle, but everyone has pieces within them as well. Everyone has multiple identities. I think that a lot of times we talk about diversity as though there’s people of color, there’s people of disabilities and there’s queer people but they overlap and are amorphous. I think that we need to change the way we look at diversity in general and make sure that everyone realizes that they are responsible for everyone’s safety on campus and the AS Board needs to be responsible for providing that safety to all students on campus and that voice to all the students on campus that have all of these identities, because we’re here to represent our students and those students exist and need their voices heard. All the students and all of the identities are critical.
ASR: Since you came to Western what has been one important issue facing students that went unaddressed or was dealt with poorly and what issue would you say has been addressed most positively?
Hall: I think I have trouble creating a hierarchy in terms of issues in general. I think there’s a lot of things that we aren’t addressing well and that’s a mixed bag because I think we’re not doing anything perfectly. We’re not addressing any aspect of the board or any aspect of diversity perfectly. We’re definitely not addressing diversity perfectly. There are a lot of areas that need improvement. We have a lot of clubs on campus, we have the Ethnic Student Center, we have programs in the Research and Outreach Program. We have great clubs like Students for Disability Awareness. We have resources on campus like the Equal Opportunity Office, the Ally network. We have a lot of resources on campus and I think that’s great we have a lot safe space in this zone, but we are going to find things that we would like to strive to improve. We also listen to cultural dilemmas and I think that’s great that we’re utilizing the many resources on campus both through the fact that we have these resources on campus but also to follow through when we say that we value diversity. That’s the first step in order to address issues of diversity on campus. I think that that’s great and I’m glad that we’re doing that but there’s plenty of areas for improvement. For instance having as inclusive of a concept of diversity as I talked about earlier. But also things like, recruiting other students from diverse backgrounds. We just need to be honest about where we’re at because I feel like a lot of students come to campus expecting the campus to be more diverse because of how often we about diversity and how we represent students at conferences and at events and things. A lot of times it seems like the university really tries to make sure that identities are represented and it’s not necessarily that we misrepresent diversity on campus but I think perceptions that they get give them a different picture or have a different expectation of what the campus looks like based on the brochure pictures and things like that. So I think that we just really need to be honest with students about where we’re at and let them know and really be invested in improving where we’re at currently. We’re not perfect about diversity. These are all the resources we have in terms of diversity and we’re still learning. We want to know what you need and what you’re interested in and what you’d like to see change as well. I think that that’s one big component. I also think that we can recruit students to campus but we have to make sure that we have the services and support on campus and that students know about them. So I think that we need better publicity in terms of resources in the student center and the financial aid office and making sure that students really know what these services are. For instance, with the budget cuts coming up I think that we need to make sure that students know that there are financial resources. Because we don’t want—with the hike in student tuition—it’s going to be harder for students from diverse socio-economic statuses to come to universities and we need to make sure that we can help students coming from lower income brackets to find the resources that are available and that we continue to value diversity in our revising process. Part of that is, there’s cost effective ways—there’s a new club on campus, Making Western Diverse, and their focus is making sure that we are recruiting students from diverse backgrounds and I think that we should rework some things that are focusing in that area, like providing the resources from the AS Board for a club to get the training that they need, for a club to get the transportation that they need to reach these students, to get the publication funding to be able to create materials. I think that would be a wise investment to allow students to go through training but also to help with the recruiting process, but making sure those students have those resources when they get here because –and you know, improving curriculum, making sure that students are represented while making sure that professors are capable of handling various aspects of diversity and making sure professors have the resources. We can provide some training for professors. Making sure that we hire multi-cultural professors, that we hire professors from multi-cultural backgrounds on the different aspects of identity and we want to make sure that students see themselves represented in our staff and faculty. But also that our staff and faculty are comfortable addressing these issues. We can’t expect everyone to be perfect in issues of diversity, because with everyone’s background not everyone is going to be an expert on identities. It’s unrealistic to expect everyone to be the end all expert, but I think it’s inexcusable that students feel uncomfortable in class or unsafe in class. That’s a particular area that we need to improve on. So, making sure that the hiring process involves multi-cultural competency regardless of a person’s background or situation. I mean yeah, you can’t naturally address diversity in math class but that doesn’t mean you check your personal identities at the door and students need to feel comfortable in all situations. So, I think there’s a lot of areas for improvement and I think we’re doing a good job in a lot of areas, but it’s just a matter of keeping the momentum going and making sure that we never sit back and say, Western’s diverse. It’s kind of become a catchphrase, a buzz word. That’s why I want to do a comprehensive survey to see where we’re at. Who’s leading in these different areas? I think we need to know what we need to do because we can address these issues better and students can feel safer. We should have those lofty goals so that we can look at the little increments we can do now. As soon as you say we’re addressing diversity and you convince yourself that you’re perfect, that’s a dangerous place to be, rest too much on your laurels and stop addressing the students’ needs. There’s always going to be room for improvement. To summarize I don’t think you can pick one issue that was best addressed or worst addressed. None of the things you address in diversity are perfect. I think there’s room for improvement in every aspect and I’d prefer to not just dwell on one thing.
ASR: What are your three biggest goals for next year?
Hall: Well, I’ll have to make this broader. My first, biggest goal would be to ensure that the VP for Diversity as well as the AS Board use diversity in a very comprehensive way. That identities across the board are addressed. That student voices from groups across the board are addressed and I think that’s the biggest thing I want students to realize. Our diversity on campus comes from experiences and identities and we need to make sure those needs are met and that all students feel safe. That everyone sleeps alright and everyone can feel safe. That’s one of my lofty goals. It very difficult to meet but I think it’s important that that’s where we’re heading, that that’s the direction we’re going. The first start is to recognize the comprehensive quality to diversity and include all identities, sexual status, socio-economic status, women, gender identity, sexual orientation, ability and disability, race ethnicity and religion, just to name a few. I guess that would be my first step, my first goal, to make sure it’s comprehensive. My second goal would be to increase communication in terms of how we address diversity and make sure students know about the Western Village or Viking forum online and make sure that we’re engaging those students. On my platform is also making sure that I’m going to various groups’ events just to see and support their meetings and checking in with clubs to see how things are going. Working with various groups on campus but also getting voices of students who aren’t necessarily always directly involved in aspects of diversity through having a campus climate survey and little surveys here and there on specific issues. I think also I like the idea of having some sort of process. I suggested having a Web Site, some sort of digital dropbox or some way to allow students to anonymously report the issues that they’re facing so I can get an idea of the kind of things students are facing on campus and how we can address that on a systemic level. I’d also like to have inter-group dialogue, have students come together. Have BSU and the LGBTA come together and talk about what each group is working on and what each group’s needs are. Talk about the intersection between the LGTBA and the LSU and how they’re not—these identities—are not mutually exclusive, that needs on our campus aren’t mutually exclusive. We’ve had different inter-group dialogues between different clubs. Having things like community forums about diversity issues that arise or just in general the concerns. And also just being available as a resource on campus for students that come in to see me and talk about everyday things and know that it’s a safe, confidential place and that I’ll listen to any concern you may have. So, inter-communication is a big deal as well as what I’d really like to see a lot of clubs do that. Then third, I think that assessment and strategic planning which I guess is a part of the other two, but I’d really like to do a campus climate survey to do focus groups and group discussions early on to have a discussion for where we’re at. Set some goals for the year itself with the help of students that are involved in committees and set some goals for what we’d like to see happen. What’s realistic that we can see happen in a year? Some nice tangible goals and change that we can see in a year’s time. But also look at what our lofty goals are and say, what’s the ultimate goal? What do we want to see in 100 years if we come back to Western, if we were to live that long. What would we like to see? But then take that back and say in the next five years, what do we want to see? Within the next three years, what do we want to see? And set some strategic planning tools—I can’t say what all these goals will be right now. I have some ideas that I represented in my platform—but although I have a lot of experience with a lot of different aspects of diversity, I can’t say I’m an expert of everyone’s experiences on campus, so I think it’s important that we work properly to set some goals that we’d like to see immediately, within a year and in the future, which incorporates my first and second goals with a comprehensive idea of diversity in mind as well as high levels of communication, interaction and collaboration in order to set those goals and meet them for the year. I think those would be my three goals.
ASR: When a student comes to you with a question that is beyond the scope of your job, how will you respond to this student?
Hall: I think it’s important that a VP be very understanding of the scope of the position of the VP for Diversity but also being able to be transparent about that and let students know really what can be immediately done. That’s what I mean about talking about things that can happen in a year and things that can happen in 5 years and those lofty goals that are extended. I think letting students know what can be done with whatever it is that they’d like to see happen. Even if it’s something small that can be done or even if its just making sure their voice can be heard, it’s something that goes beyond your scope to make sure that its known that that’s a concern. It’s hard without a specific example but I would say that that would be the best approach, to be transparent about what can be done and what my responsibility is. I do not want to invalidate someone’s needs and concerns because everyone’s concerns and needs are valid and I think making sure that they understand that their concerns are valued, that you maybe don’t necessarily have the power to change whatever they would like to see changed in the level or scope that they’d like to see, but that there are steps that we can take to varying degrees depending on the situation to work toward the level that they’d like to see. And letting students know what resources are available on campus, like they can start a club. I think understanding them as the community, help direct students to groups or positions or resources that could assist them in their personal use. Also letting students know the scope of what’s available to them in terms of resources, in terms of change.