Student Affairs Given Jurisdiction Over Resource Centers

On July 1, all resource centers — including the Center for Diversity and Student Leadership, the Center for International Student Engagement, the Multicultural Resource Center, the Queer Resource Center and the Women and Gender Center — moved from the Office of Diversity and Inclusion (ODI) to the Office of Student Affairs (OSA).

The change in responsibility will allow the OSA and ODI to have a greater impact on the Amherst community by promoting diversity and inclusion and allowing faculty to work on new community-building initiatives. The OSA supports students through student life and health and safety resources while the ODI works to promote a respectful, equitable and supportive environment within the Amherst community.

Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer Norm Jones and Chief Student Affairs Officer Karu Kozuma announced the move of the five campus resource centers in an email to the Amherst community on June 24, writing that they “want to increase the ease with which all students gain access to sources of community and support, while giving staff in both offices greater access to one another in an integrated approach to student well-being.”

According to the email, the move hopes to accomplish three goals: to ease collaboration between the resource centers and the OSA; strengthen the work of student-serving staff; and offer better career development for these staff.

“This transition will free up Norm to pursue initiatives in areas for which he has had too little time, including work already underway — his work with the dean of the faculty on hiring and retention of faculty, as well as a project to create a meaningful record of the histories and experiences of alumni of color, to cite two examples — and new initiatives he can jump-start to ensure that the College has the most effective strategies for inclusion across divisions, across constituencies, and overall,” Jones and Kozuma continued.

After the July 1 move, Associate Dean for Diversity and Inclusion Angie Tissi-Gassoway and the resource center team (RCT) under her leadership began reporting to the new Dean of Students Liz Agosto. Agosto was hired to Student Affairs earlier this year. The RCT, which includes the directors of the five campus resource centers, supports and advocates for underrepresented students.

In addition to moving the RCT’s staffing structure, budget and resources to Student Affairs, the resource centers’ staff have begun attending departmental and divisional meetings with the OSA. Most of the transition will come more gradually as the Fall 2019 semester begins.

“We are challenged to create these changes while still preparing for the upcoming semester. We want to make sure all of our staff and services are ready to support students when they arrive on campus. [Yet] knowing that this transition will allow for us to build relationships, systems, and structures to better support all students ability to find community and a sense of belonging on campus [is rewarding],” Tissi-Gassoway wrote in an email interview. Agosto said she hopes the move will “amplify student voices and find pathways to address student needs.” The resource centers, she added, are “vital” to those efforts.

“My current focus is on listening to students and other members of the community as I learn more about Amherst and about the needs of students,” Agosto wrote in an email interview. “As I learn more, I will look to partner and engage even more closely with the RCT, other offices in student affairs and across campus and with students to identify programs, policies or processes that can be worked on to help students thrive at Amherst.”

The move, though sudden for much of the larger campus, is intended to provide a stronger web for supporting the community across departments.

“Due to closer partnerships and collaboration, students will experience a more seamless support network across resources and offices on campus,” Tissi-Gassoway said.