Greetings Knox Administration and Faculty,
As a preliminary note to this letter, Senate would like to recognize that there are many issues regarding diversity on this campus pertaining to racialized issues, gender identity, orientation, differently abled students, etc. However, given the campus climate, we would like to address in this discourse the issues pertaining to representation of faculty of color on campus. This does not discount other pressing issues and we hope that this letter is the catalyst to spark a continual dialogue regarding diversity and inclusion and ways to progress as a campus body.
Firstly, the Student Senate would like to thank you for taking the time to read this letter expressing our concerns regarding representation on our campus. Given recent events regarding the Africana studies department, the Senate would like to address the administration in continuing to address the larger issue of representation and diversity at Knox within academics, extracurriculars and the larger campus setting. As members of this community, we believe the concerns regarding racial inclusion have been secondary to other student concerns on campus. As you know the representation of faculty of color versus white faculty shows an astronomical disparity. While the decision to keep Professor Shabazz does help to alleviate this disparity, it is only the first of many steps needed to address a much larger issue on this campus. We understand that the changes in the diversity of the faculty will lag behind changes in the diversity of the student body, but we encourage the administration to truly represent Knox’s values of inclusivity by making proactive efforts to better support the current and incoming students of color on our campus. Members of the Senate Diversity committee have surveyed the student body in various parts of the campus to assess the impact that this lack of representation has on students. General sentiments include displeasure of misrepresentation in faculty, staff and representation of students in organizations. Additionally, the redistribution of resources for marginalized groups is of grave concern. Below are excerpts from interviews conducted by members of the Diversity committee in Senate. The question was posed: “In what ways do you see a lack of representation on this campus/in your organization/in the classroom?”
As pertaining to Leadership and Activism on campus:
As one of the major HRC organizations at Knox that dedicates itself to feminist social justice activism, SASS supports the need for a more diverse faculty. Although all intersections of diversity are important, with the huge population of international students, undocumented students, and students of color that Knox has, there is no better place to start than racial diversity. We believe that the overall demographics of faculty and staff should match that of the student body and on top of that, each department of study should make a conscious effort in representing their students through their faculty.
–Eden Sarkisian, Class of ‘20 – Current SASS co-president
As pertaining to Greek Life:
“At Knox and in panhel we’ve been working on it with our new VP Diversity position but I still think there’s a huge tendency to think of Knox as being so vastly different from big schools that we don’t have any of the same issues with diversity that they do. We do. We still deal with de facto segregation, isolation of communities of color, tokenization, lack of representation, inability to include a variety of gender identities, and pigmentocracy – all of which we need to work on as a community and all of which we’re trying to do. Something I’ve been really concerned with is inherent classism (high dues) and transphobia (gendered language) in Greek Life. And on top of that there’s the issue of systemic exclusion of the lower class and therefore disproportionate exclusion of people of color which we absolutely need to work on. So we’re working now on kind of laying the groundwork with these panels to figure out what needs to be done and then we need to figure out how to accomplish those things.”
– Libby Richmond, Class of ‘18 – Current Panhellenic president
As pertaining to academics:
“I definitely feel that there aren’t enough faculty of color and that Africana, Gender/Women Studies are pushed to a margin and not very developed departments. As I’ve gotten older I’ve also realized that the departments themselves are very segregated. For example, my major (ANSO) is very diverse in race, ethnicity, and sexuality, but there are absolutely no white men who are ANSO majors (and almost all of us are women). I have compared this with my experience in art classes for example, which always feel majority white (but still predominantly female). I would be very interested in a report where campus demographics are broken down showing where students end up majoring in comparison with their race/ethnicity and sexuality. My hypothesis would be that students tend to study topics where there is content and are professors who remind them of themselves – therefore as a queer student of color I’d be drawn to classes where there are either professors that look like me or topics that include me.”
–Donna B. Class of ‘17
These sentiments are expressed by members of our campus who have taken a keen interest in eliminating the racial representation gaps at Knox. As the governing body of the student population, we feel it is necessary to address areas of concern. Student Senate, along with other student organizations (MSAC) would like to work closely with the administration to establish tangible markers for progress regarding representation on campus. We have several suggestions to help make these markers for success into realities: first, by altering the structure of Orientation Week for incoming freshman; next, to reexamine the policies that we have for hiring staff and instituting a structure to ensure that the policies are enforced, and providing more support for the Center for Intercultural Life. These suggestions amongst many others can help pave the way towards reducing and eventually eliminating the racial disparity on our campus, helping us to further fulfill the standard of being “one community.”