As part of the continuing response to recent acts of intolerance at UR, the College Diversity Roundtable submitted a list of 20 recommendations on addressing these acts to the Deans’ Office of The College. The roundtable feels that if the suggestions are implemented, they are a way to provide concrete and enforceable solutions to intolerance on campus.
The recommendations include suggestions for improving policies and procedures, promoting educational programming and implementing training for faculty, students and staff.
“These recommendations have been a collaborative process,” Director of Minority Student Affairs Norman Burnett said. “We tried to gather feedback from students as to the recommendations that would improve the campus climate.”
The list of recommendations is only the first step in “changing our campus into a community of learners that is truly welcoming, safe and conducive to the success of all persons,” according to the document submitted to the Deans’ Office.
Many of the recommendations center on improving communication in the campus community. “Problems with communication affect all aspects of campus life, and something as basic and procedural as communication shouldn’t cause such problems,” senior and SA President John LaBoda said. LaBoda is also a member of the Diversity Roundtable.
A clear statement of the college’s mission and values as they relate to diversity is one of the recommendations. The roundtable also requested clearer process for reporting acts of intolerance, notifying the campus about the occurrence of and response to these acts.
With regard to programming, the Roundtable recommends that the College make their policy on diversity and acts of intolerance clear at freshman and transfer orientation programs and that they discuss this policy with student groups. The recommendations also call for a higher priority to be placed on diversity issues in Residential Life programming.
Program Director of the McNair Program and roundtable participant Beth Olivares emphasized that the implementation of these ideas must be a collaborative effort. “A change in the institutional culture must happen at all levels, simultaneously, for it to be successful,” she said.
A large part of the Roundtable’s suggestions is concerned with developing an awareness campaign that will emphasize the importance of diversity within the educational setting. This would include interactive dialogue between students, support for The Messenger, better distribution of the Diversity Resource Guide, and a speaker/lecture series.
As part of this series, the Diversity Roundtable will sponsor a speech on Monday entitled “Journey to a Hate Free Millennium” by Brent Scarpo. The talk will be an interactive program that will look at the subject of hate by implementing a documentary on hate crimes such as the killings of Matthew Shepard and James Byrd and the shootings at Columbine High School.
“The message of this talk is to acknowledge hate, understand why we hate and how it effects our community, and what we can do about it,” said Minority Student Affairs Counselor Diversity Roundtable member Ben Ojala.
The talk will be held in Hubbel auditorium at 7 p.m. and is free and open to the public.
As part of the roundtable’s recommendation that there be more open dialogue among students, a committee of peer facilitators has been formed. The committee is composed of students from various campus groups and backgrounds who will organize discussions on hate and intolerance among UR students. “Community dialogues were not started to solve the problem, but to start discussions about broad issues,” said Minority Student Affairs Counselor and Diversity Roundtable member Gladys Pedraza-Burgos.
Pedraza-Burgos hopes that drawing on students from different backgrounds will allow the groups to eventually begin centering their dialogues around a specific theme such as homophobia or racism. “One of the things we see coming out of this is to allow students to develop specialized programs,” she said.
The idea behind the student-led discussions is to allow an open dialogue about the basic emotions surrounding hate and to share values and beliefs. “I hope this will get people talking about issues of diversity,” said sophomore facilitator Lucas McCarthy. “It’s important for people to know how others feel.”
Two discussions were held last night, but turnout was poor. Sophomore Sheila Vakharia said that nobody showed up to her discussion, but she believes this could have been due to the rush to act quickly and the weather.
She is still hopeful that the discussions will be effective. “Talking is the first step,” she said. “Some of these topics make people feel uncomfortable, but that’s why we need to talk about them.”
Another peer dialogue group plans to meet tonight in Burton lounge at 8 p.m. Everyone is welcome.
Built into the roundtable’s recommendations is a plan for following through. They have requested regular verbal and written reports on the College’s efforts and progress in implementing the suggestions and have set deadlines for some of the recommendations to be turned to action.
“Building deadlines into the recommendations is a way to remind ourselves to examine what we have accomplished, encourages the use of timelines, and basically helps to ensure that the work gets done and reported,” Olivares said.
The roundtable hopes their recommendations will be the start of a more open and tolerant campus. “Some of our recommendations speak to large issues, some are details,” said sophomore and member of Diversity Roundtable J.R. Santana Carter. “All [of them] will better campus life.”
Dean of the College William Green is pleased with the recommendations and said that progress is being made on implementing them. “With the production of these recommendations, Diversity Roundtable comes into its own,” he said. “This is what it was created to do.”
Students who wish to be involved in the roundtable or who have issues to discuss can contact them via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Taylor can be reached at email@example.com.