The AS Review: What motivates you to seek out this position?
Josh Foley: What motivates me on campus specifically, to seek out the position of diversity is I see a lot of work with the ESC [Ethnic Student Center] and a lot of work with visible minorities, and my platform is the invisible minority and I want to make Western better by focusing on students with disabilities, the queer community on campus. I want to focus on veteran status or religious status. I want these very invisible minorities to have some light shined on them and I want to educate Western about these minorities that no one really knows about and frankly, it seems as though no one really cares. But there are so many resources for these people and for everyone. And I want to just make diversity more visible on campus and that’s why I sought out the position. So my platform is the invisible minority, but I also want to make the ESC more visible. I want it to be more of an active resource on campus. Definitely with like admissions. I want to work closely with admissions and the LGTBA [Lesbian Gay Transgender Alliance], disability services and the ESC and make them very closely connected so that at Western preview we could have tables set up where students could like find out more information about diversity opportunities on campus. And that’s mainly why I sought this position.
ASR: What groups of students might easily be overlooked by the AS Board and what will you do to ensure you represent them in your work?
Foley: It’s very easy to overlook definitely veterans or multiple identity students or students with disabilities. Those are the three most forgotten on our campus. Even a recent on that I was talking about is young mothers, young parents on campus. These are students that are a small percentage of our school, but much bigger than people like to believe and I want to bring their voice out. I want to address it on, through email and through a couple of signs. Everyone has a voice and I want to amplify it. So I want to take these extremely invisible minorities, like the ones I just mentioned and provide their voice. I want to be there for them. I want them to know that Western recognizes them and wants to give them just as many opportunities as the most privileged person on campus. So, I want to bring a lot of the voices that I just mentioned to the AS Board and I want to see outlets for voices to be heard anonymously, because a voice that has been silenced for so long, it’s hard to use that voice.
ASR: Since you came to Western what is the most important issue facing students that was addressed or dealt with poorly and, uh, what issue would you say has been addressed most positively?
Foley: An issue that has been dealt with most poorly on campus would probably be, most issues are handled very well. I see a lot of issues that, something happened and the issue was taken on and corrected, essentially. But I think one of our biggest issues on campus is the safe space in the classroom. The professors, the dialogue that they use, not stopping students from using inappropriate language in the classroom, creating a safe space where students feel like welcome to learn in the classroom. And I want to try and work a lot with professors next year to change that, because I feel like it’s a very hard issue because they work for the school and they don’t have to attend staff meetings if we have one. They don’t have to get trained diversity if they don’t want to. And I want to really work on that and try and either create posters for the classroom that the professor has to stare at all the time and so they automatically would be like, “Oh I guess I shouldn’t use language like that.” Just simple things that we can try and influence the classroom so everyone feels safe.
Something I’ve seen was handled really well on campus specifically? The emergency responses on campus are really good. When something happens, and they send out an e-mail that’s like, this happened on campus, we just want to warn you, such as if someone was attacked off campus even, they warn everyone. And that builds a more aware campus. Safety is a huge issue with every minority and that helps build that. Something that I would add to that is, a lot of times when they send out messages, it’s kind of, in a way, blaming the victim, by like saying that there was a woman attacked off campus, so women make sure that you don’t walk at night, walk with someone. What it really should be saying is, we need to create programs on campus for men to not have to feel like they need to gain power by beating up a woman, or we need to create spaces on campus that don’t blame the victim but cater to the issue, which is hyper-masculinity, ignorance or misunderstanding. But I think overall our responses to emergencies and stuff that happens on campus is very good. And now they have the texting, which is awesome—so, yeah, emergency response.
ASR: What are your three biggest goals for next year?
Foley: My three biggest goals. I’ve already kind of touched on them. One is working closely with admissions. I want to have a very visible, kind of diversity campaign during Western preview on Friday. I want to try and get volunteers that will represent Western during Summerstart, so students maybe living on campus would be willing to do it. But it’s really hard get someone to volunteer. But I really want an LGBTA presence, I want an ESC presence, I want a disability awareness presence on campus during these times that students are wanting to come to our campus. In working with admissions I can do that. I actually have a meeting set up to talk to admissions about doing this. So even if I don’t win, I’m still going to work on a close relationship with admissions to get these things, in order to create a better campus. Along with that I want to create a space where we can have posters, and not just a free speech space, but a place where we can encourage diversity. The group that we created [Queer Allies], created a huge banner that, it said, “We support queer rights,” and it has like a bunch of signatures on it. It has over 350 signatures, but we have no place to put that because every banner space has to be for advertisement. And I kind of want to change that and I’m hoping I can do that while working with admissions or just with the AS myself. The second thing that I want to do is try and work with professors to change the classroom atmosphere, either by passive programming which is having a sign that says like, “These are identities that professors have offended,” or something—something like that. I was just talking about this: tokenism in classrooms. I’ve been in classrooms where I was called out solely because I identify as gay to answer questions for students who had questions that the professor felt were homophobic or something like that. And the professor actually called me out, like, “Do you think this is homophobic?” And I was put on the spot. And no minority enjoys that feeling. And I really want to educate everyone that that’s not okay and I want to empower students to feel the confidence to say, “That’s not okay, professor,” or pull them aside after class and be like, “That wasn’t okay, that’s my friends.” I don’t think it’s the minority—the person who’s called out, the token—I don’t think it’s their responsibility to say back, “That’s not okay,” because it’s very hard. They’re in a situation where you’re automatically knocked down and your privilege, whatever privilege you may have had, is just shed from you. It’s very hard to stand up for yourself. So I want to work very closely with professors. And the last one, the most legitimate, most concrete thing that I want to do is I want to get a campus climate survey, which is a survey that assesses the students’ needs on campus and it will assess everyone’s needs and it will serve as a way to say, students that are minorities may feel uncomfortable, there’s a place where they can mark, yes I feel uncomfortable in the classroom and yes, I feel uncomfortable in my residence hall. And we can have this concrete assessment of where students feel on certain aspects of our campus and we can move to change them and help that and make our campus more accessible and safe for every student and not just the majority. And through that, I’m hoping to create a more gender-neutral campus, because I know many people who identify as trans[gender] who have felt extremely uncomfortable on campus and that will be legitimate proof that say[s] these students don’t feel comfortable using gender system bathrooms or don’t feel comfortable rooming with someone who is the same sex, but maybe not the same gender. And I want to be able to work toward gender neutrality through the campus climate survey. So those are my three main goals. Working with admissions, working with professors and getting a campus climate survey.
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?
Foley: Well the best thing to do is, you talk to them about it, you talk to them [from] where they came from with it and you also, you work with them to direct them to the place they need or the person they need to talk to. Because of course, the VP for Diversity is not going to be able to change the entire campus overnight and so it will be a lot of collaboration and a lot of redirecting and helping them to that area. It’s easy not to say, like, “Oh I guess I’ll redirect them to Western’s Web site and they can find someone to talk to,” or if they want change in Washington state, redirecting them to a club that can do that. But I want to be with them the entire time because most likely they have a concern that makes them feel unsafe in the state or in general. It’s something that I want to work with them and maybe there is something that I can do that is within my scope, but also maybe I can work with them to empower them to take the initiative and roll with it. And I can be there right beside them because I’m sure if they have a concern, it’s probably my concern also. I’m not saying that I’ll know every issue that every student faces, but I’ve definitely worked a lot with power and privilege and I know what it feels like to want big change and so the best thing to do when someone comes to me with something outside of my scope, I redirect them out and empower them.