Diversity Committee Tackles Campus Issues

What action is being taken on campus to create change and to allow our community to move forward? The school has many committees organized that allow faculty and students alike to look at what could be improved on our campus. One such organization is the Faculty Diversity Committee.

The Faculty Diversity Committee is made up of several faculty members, teachers and students. The members include professors Nancy McHugh, Kelly Dillon, Sha’Dawn Battle, Tomoko Tsuzuki-DeBoer and Yu Bin, along with student representative Seneca Neal, among others.

According to McHugh, the Faculty Diversity Committee is “supposed to serve as an advisory and action committee for not only promoting diversity on campus, but actually making sure there is diversity on campus.”

The committee meets once a month to have conversations about various diversity issues on campus and how to address them. In one meeting, the group discussed ways to ensure a diverse pool of candidates for the new Provost on campus, what to do about bullying between teachers and students, the Shades of Pearl symposium in April and how to encourage diversity in the Witt Series, particularly with Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.

The topics discussed within the Faculty Diversity Committee are not topics frequently discussed among students. Many students are aware of and fight for anti-bullying between fellow students on campus, for example, but few are aware of the problem of students bulling teachers or vice versa, or of how to combat it.

The committee brought up including an anti-bullying clause in the faculty handbook as first steps towards preventative action. “[Teachers] need to be able to teach in a safe space,” Dillon said, “students need to be able to learn in a safe environment”.

“It’s good to have students with different points of view,” Battle added, “it keeps the dialogue going.”

But to Battle, there’s a fine line between having a generative discourse between different points of view and those who speak with hostile intentions; procedures need to be put in place to prevent such a problem.

The committee then discussed integrating more diversity into the Witt Series event. “We are interested in diversifying the series in meaningful ways,” Battle said, because aside from Black History Month, Witt Series is largely homogenized.

They then transitioned from this into what the school could do to honor Martin Luther King Jr. Day next semester. They brought up the idea of giving all professors the choice of teaching a class that took their particular discipline’s perspective on MLK’s life or on related topics, whether that meant a lecture about the systematic racism of the Flint water crisis in an environmental science class, or the rhetoric of the “I Have a Dream” speech in a Literature class. If a professor chose not to teach on that day, their students would sign up for a workshop, like the Celebration of Learning, “It would be informative, instructional and interactive” Dillon said of the workshops.

The Shades of Pearl symposium in April is called “The Lived Experiences of Women of Color”. Battle, a chief organizer of the event, hopes to send some invitations to organizations and even to surrounding universities like Wright State for co-sponsorship, and she encourages students who want to share their own experiences as women of color to submit ideas to Shades of Pearl. Posters can already be seen around campus for the symposium.

The members of the committee are worried that the amount of power they have, will not be enough to enact any change, but with dedication and persistence in the years to come, hopefully the school can see some change.

 

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