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The Faculty Senate met on Monday with guest speakers from the Equity, Civil Rights and Title IX Office (ECRT) to discuss student and faculty wellness during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

ECRT Associate Director Tanesia White, who supervises a team to investigate incidents of discrimination against faculty, spoke to the Faculty Senate about new changes coming to ECRT. These changes include hiring an assistant director who works with the equity specialist and revamping the ECRT website to showcase updated resources and policies.

“For the most part ECRT is charged with responding to concerns of harassment, discrimination and sexual based conduct,” White said. “The new strucuture of ECRT makes it easier to address sexual based, protected class discrimination and disabiltiy discrimination.”

Also present at the meeting was Karen Williamson, the new Prevention, Education Assistance and Resources (PEAR) director within ECRT and the director of the Sexual Assault Prevention and Awareness Center (SAPAC) at the University. Williamson discussed how she is working to develop resources for student and faculty communities alike.

“I have learned a lot in my role at SAPAC, and because SAPAC is focused on student life, it was hard to pivot focus on faculty,” Williamson said. “So really looking at this new PEAR model and structure to work closely with SAPAC is important so that prevention education and resources are consistent across our population on campus and also tailored to specific communities.”

Tom Waldecker, director of the Faculty and Staff Counseling and Consultation Office (FASCCO), spoke about different resources FASCCO provides, including support groups and assistance with family conflicts, grief, loss and anxiety. Waldecker said these sessions are confidential and free, with typically no waitlist, and the staff usually see people for five to six sessions. He also said COVID-19 has created difficulties, as the incidence of anxiety has risen as a result of the pandemic.

“What has happened in the last two years since COVID-19 is that issues with anxiety have skyrocketed,” Waldecker said. “Anxiety itself, a lot of studies will show, has doubled in the last two years.”

Todd Sevig, director of Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) at the University, said the most common stressors for students and faculty are isolation, lack of privacy, parenting and relationship challenges.

“This year we have seen a lot of social anxiety in terms of it being a bit unnerving coming back to campus and having to interact with people,” Sevig said. “I think this will get better as we go through, but it’s definitely been a big part of the year.”

Later in the meeting, the senate presented a list of candidates for the Senate Advisory Committee on University Affairs. Only two of the eight candidates were present at the meeting: Tom Braun, professor of public health, and Art & Design Professor Rebekah Modrak. The other candidates submitted prerecorded speeches while Braun and Modrak  presented their speeches live and replied to questions asked by other committee members in a Q&A format. 

Daily Staff Reporter Sherez Chaudhri can be reached at