Commissioners cater to students’ interests

Every year since 2002, UVM President Daniel Mark Fogel has met with committees representing diverse groups around campus.These faculty, staff and student committees aim to research, monitor and report on the status a variety of issues, including the status of women, racial diversity, diversity and inclusion, lesbian, gay and transgender equity and social change.”Our charge is to look broadly throughout the University for issues that aren’t being addressed and that need community focus,” Susan Comerford, commissioner for the Presidential Commission on Racial Diversity, said.”We are identifying through research the key areas where we can make a difference for the whole campus community and then working along with other commissions on campus to make the change,” she said.Past changes resulting from the Presidential Commissions include the “blue light” phone system expansion, implementation of a six-credit diversity requirement, expansion of UVM’s anti-discriminatory policy, introduction of the English Language Learners (ELL) Initiative and an increased ALANA enrollment by 87 percent during the last eight years, according to a letter from the president to the UVM community.All committees but the the President’s Commission on the Status of Women (PCSW) were formed during Fogel’s term in office beginning in 2002.Comerford said that one of the most important goals of the commisions is to prepare students colleagues to become leaders with a deep knowledge and understanding of diversity, with which they can go on and continue to create communities of inclusion in the future. “By having Presidential Commissions, we have the support of the president and the authority to look at issues across campus,” Comerford said. Commissioner Dot Brauer from the Presidential Commission on Lesbian, Bisexual, Gay and Transgender Equality (PCLGBTE) said she feels it is important that the president hears from representatives throughout the community that represent the University as a whole.  “It creates a forum where members of UVM’s community who are LGBTQ and their allies come together on a regular basis to discuss and examine issues of climate, curriculum, policy and practice at UVM that impact LGBTQ students, staff and faculty members,” Brauer said. Brauer said that serving on a commission also provides important leadership and service opportunities for community members and helps develop their understanding of the overall functioning of the institution.Despite this, the Presidential Commissions are not widely known among the student body.”I didn’t know it even existed,” junior Liza Cannon said. “Its surprising that the president is actually spending time on something like this and not on administrative duties.”Comerford and McShane said that the Comissions are very interested in recruiting student members, because students are crucial to incorporating the interests and needs of the UVM community.