One of my campus roles is to serve on the Diversity in Action Coalition, a committee constituted and funded by our President, Dr. John Schwaller, to address programming, training, institutional structure, and institutional response to issues of diversity across the campus. The Coalition has broad administrative representation encompassing our offices related to diversity and minorities and also going beyond them, and a half dozen faculty members and reps from the many student clubs relating to diversity — BSA, LGBTA, CLASS, etc — join us each semester.
In August, we proudly announced that despite our rural nature and our distance from major centers of American diversity, our population of students of color had reached 10%. And then as the fall semester progressed, we saw what that meant in human terms, as distrust and ill will against our black students led to an increase in reports of racially motivated incidents. We were none of us comfortable with this state of affairs, and we spent hours talking in circles — how do you change culture? How do you enforce values? How do you demonstrate that you are listening, and care, and are supportive? What can you do, as administrators, to start the dialogue?
You start the dialogue, that’s what.
So when we opened this semester by launching a video and discussion series about race and racism, I wanted to be sure I did my part, as I could. We guess that at least 1000 people walk through this facility every day… and I wanted to make sure they saw something meaningful during Black History Month while the College debates and discusses these issues. This is just the first in a series of campus events and initiatives, and I hope to be able to support and publicize them all, and maintain our libraries as safe, fair, and welcoming spaces for our entire community.
Public Affairs provided the videos. I’m linking the long one, the one looping in our lobby, below.
I made the posters.
Library staff, specifically Jim and Keith, provided the iMac, headsets, splitter, table, and poster display, worked with Physical Plant to fix the outlet in that wall, and asked CTS to image the iMac to run the video on a loop.
And most importantly, our students provided the heart and the soul of it all. May their courage and their choice to speak make a difference, and may we continue to support them, visibly and meaningfully.