Campus / News / November 8, 2017

Senate hosts diversity dialogue

Students and faculty broke into small groups during the discussion held by Student Senate to brainstrom ways to address issues of diversity in speakers and events on campus. (Dan Perez/TKS)

Senior Emma Lipson decided to go to Student Senate’s discussion on cultural sensitivity in campus events after she saw some of the problems in the theater department. During the event, she was excited to see students, faculty and staff working together in small groups.

“I thought it was really great that it was a mix of students, faculty and staff because all three of those positions bring important viewpoints and I think so much of the time, not only do we only talk with our friends and who we know, but we really only talk with the group we’re a part of,” Lipson said.

Between 35 and 40 participants met on Nov. 7 in Ferris Lounge in an event scheduled by the Student Senate to address issues brought to the forefront by a Sept. 25 event featuring an alumna who is now an FBI special agent and by the recent controversy over the now-canceled production of the play “The Good Person of Szechwan”.

The CIL and the Campus Diversity Committee co-sponsored the event.

Director of the CIL Tianna Cervantez led the discussion, starting off by explaining some of the background to the event.

The FBI event led to a teach-in held by Visiting Assistant Professor of Africana Studies Kwame Zulu Shabazz the night before the event and the controversy over the play led to several forums and discussions held in place of auditions.

Students who came were brought in from both of these discussions. Lipson was brought in by the controversy over “The Good Person of Szechwan.”

“I came because I do theatre at Knox College so I just wanted to hear what people in other parts of the campus were saying about how we can be inclusive of all viewpoints,” Lipson said.

After giving the background of the other events, Cervantez told the group she saw this conversation as a continuation from an email sent by President Teresa Amott, Vice President for Student Development Anne Ehrlich and Interim Vice President for Academic Affairs and Dean of the College Michael Schneider at the beginning of the year. The email encouraged the Knox community to create a “culture of respect” on campus.

The participants then split into smaller groups of around five that included students, faculty and staff in each group. The groups discussed ideas to make sure that events were held in ways cognizant of how they would affect different demographics on campus.

Each group wrote down what they came up with on pieces of poster paper and then reported out to the whole group. The posters will be used by a Student Senate ad hoc committee created to address the issue and the Diversity Committee in further discussions about best practices and any future policy changes.

For some student participants, working alongside faculty and staff was a welcome change to the way these discussions usually take place.

“I thought that the idea of faculty, staff and students was just like revolutionary in the sense that it doesn’t really happen often and I’ve pushed that idea of bridging that gap,” sophomore Yasmine Davila said.

The discussion also tried to bring in a variety of ideological positions. Knox Conservatives treasurer junior Ben Haertel said Student Senate President senior Sofia Tagkaloglou had reached out to the club to invite them.

“I was just interested to come and add to the conversation, if I had anything to add,” Haertel said. “Sort of try to represent conservative interests on campus in the framework of these sorts of discussions.”

After the event, Cervantez said that having different people and views show up to the event was a welcome change from how similar events had gone in the past.

“Oftentimes when we present opportunities such as this I feel like it’s the same people showing up, it’s the people that are concerned about it. But I felt like there was a great representation of different groups of people,” Cervantez said.

She also noted the importance of faculty and staff being a part of these conversations alongside students.

“I think it also helped the students to see that they’re not the only ones that do care about this. That our faculty are and do have a vested interest in helping create an environment on our campus that allows us to challenge and engage in these ideas,” she said.

Connor Wood, Editor-in-Chief
Connor Wood is a senior with a double major in English Literature and Environmental Studies. He started as a volunteer writer and then staff writer his freshman year and was a news editor his sophomore and junior years. He has also worked as a communications intern for the Aldo Leopold Nature Center and as an intern with Unified News Group, both in the Madison, WI, suburbs.

Tags:  best practices campus events cil diversity committee FBI guidelines speakers Student Senate

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