Sexual assault, campus issues and more tackled at Ask Ora

“We would never say there are not things happening here. And that’s why people need to be vigilant and aware.”

After a month of turbulent events around the country surrounding sexual harassment, assault and trust of higher education officials, Oakland University President Ora Hirsch Pescovitz sat down with students to answer their questions and address concerns during the second Ask Ora open forum. Pescovitz was joined by Vice President of Student Affairs and Chief Diversity Officer Glenn McIntosh at the Jan. 31 event that took place in the Oakland Center’s Gold Rooms.

Questions were asked in person, via email and on Twitter through the #AskOra hashtag. Getting through more questions than the last Ask Ora event, the president addressed a wide spectrum of issues. Some of the questions and answers are highlighted below.

I am a doctoral student in reading language arts. I am, I think, the only African-American male in my program… What is the university doing to recruit more men of color within its doctoral programs?

McIntosh: About a year ago we issued a climate survey and when we got our results back it gave us a snapshot of how we looked in our faculty, staff and student ranks. Since that time, we’ve comprised a diversity council and one of the things we’re looking at is students at the graduate and undergraduate level and asking the question, “Do we have representation of all groups?” And as Ora said, that comprises of a number of different categories. When it comes to African-American males, it’s really letting various communities know that we have outstanding programs at the master’s and doctoral level and that we have opportunities for them to come here.

The main reason I commute instead of live in the dorms is the lack of kosher food… What steps are being done to bring more kosher food to campus?

Pescovitz: … I’ve been asked this question a few times and I do know that we are very interested in being a warm and welcoming community to as many students as possible. This would not just include kosher food but halal food as well… We are very interested as we expand [the Oakland Center]… and we want there to be more food choices.

How do you plan to fix the little things [in some of the buildings] that can’t have a full remodel?

McIntosh: We have a pretty lengthy deferred maintenance list. So it’s really about setting priorities. As we upgrade some of the buildings it allows us to do some of the deferred maintenance in those buildings… Our list is pretty long, as you can imagine, for a university our age. So it is just about setting priorities.

What is Oakland University doing to ensure that male and female athletes, as well as students in general, are safe from sexual harassment similar to what MSU is currently experiencing?

Pescovitz: This is a topic that I think is, first of all, of the utmost importance. Let me just start by saying that the events of the recent couple of months, which really as we know have been going on for now many years, has really shaken our entire state… My heart bleeds, really, for the victims of sexual abuse, sexual harassment and sexual assault… This could happen anywhere, and it probably does happen much more commonly than we realize. The first thing we have to think about is if anyone is aware of such an episode anywhere… you need to report this. We have wonderful ways to report things here at Oakland University. We have an amazing police department and we have available to us here, a reporting system. We have handouts that we brought with us today… And there are probably suspicious episodes happening here. We would never say there are not things happening here. And that’s why people need to be vigilant and aware.

With the music program growing so much, practice space [in Varner Hall] is really becoming an issue. Anytime between 12-6 p.m., there’s no space for us to practice. So we’re ending up sitting in Varner until 2 a.m. or 3 a.m. just to get practice space.

Pescovitz: Why don’t we get you some time with our facilities people? I see the right people here that you need to meet with and they will follow up with you… It’s not like you don’t want to work hard, we’re just not giving you the access, right? We want you to practice hard!

The entire forum can be listened to below.