Campus Conversation on Diversity Continues

By Rajaa Elidrissi, Staff Writer
Monday, December 3, 2012

After the heated “Diversity University: In Theory and In Practice” forum in mid-November, the University community has reassessed the climate of diversity on campus. Student groups and administrative leaders have made several distinctive efforts to make the demands of marginalized students a reality.

A forum called “Misunderstanding Minority” was held in the Daniel Family Commons on Thursday, Nov. 29 to address further issues of equality. The forum was organized and supported by various identity groups on campus such as Ujamaa Collective, Asian-American Student Collective, Invisible Man Collective, Ajùa Campos, and the Caribbean Students Association. The Office for Diversity and Institutional Partnerships and the Wesleyan Student Assembly (WSA) Committee for Inclusion and Diversity were also involved in organizing the panel discussion. The student panelists included Lynna Zhong ’15, Committee for Inclusion and Diversity Chair Christian Hosam ’15, Victoria Chu ’13, Malik Ben-Salahuddin ’13, and Kelsey Henry ’15. Visiting Professor of American Studies Amy Tang and Assistant Professor of African-American Studies Lois Brown served as the moderators for the panel.

The forum sought not only to address the racial climate on campus, but also to discuss the definition of being a student of color and to acknowledge the disunity within the Students of Color (SOC) community. According to the panelists, the goal of this discussion was to recognize issues that pertain not only to the African-American and Latino/-a community, but also to Asian Americans and any other students who do not identify with those communities.

The forum began with introductions from each of the panelists and moderators, and the conversation soon turned to discussion topics brought up at the “Diversity University” forum, as well as topics relating to inclusiveness and the SOC community.

“There’s an idea that student of color activism can only affect students of color,” Hosam said.

Hosam’s statement elicited a discussion about involvement in student of color issues. According to the panelists and various student attendees of the forum, there has been a lack of involvement and activism surrounding racial issues.

“I [have been] disappointed with the racial climate, and instead of talking about our grievances we have to have an action plan,” Chu said.

Prior to this forum, President Michael Roth sent the University a follow-up email on the Diversity University forum. In his email, Roth outlined three main areas his administration would focus on in the coming months: improving interactions between students and Public Safety (PSafe) officers, increasing the scope and intensity of the Making Excellence Inclusive program, and increasing opportunities for positive interactions between the campus and Middletown.

“The powerful emotions and thoughtful observations of the forum should energize and shape specific steps to improve our campus culture,” he wrote in the email. “I am committed to helping us take these steps, and I know that many share that commitment.”

Roth wrote that he would report on the groups’ progress after spring break and would schedule another forum to discuss what has and has not been accomplished.

Director of Public Safety Dave Meyer, who also attended the Diversity University forum, said PSafe will work with Roth to address issues students raised.

“Forums are a time to vent, but we’ll be working with other administrators to address concerns,” Meyer said.

Roth indicated that he remains hopeful about the University’s future commitment to diversity issues.

“Many of these issues and concerns are not new, and neither are efforts to address them,” he wrote in his email. “Members of our community have made sincere efforts in these areas over the years, for which we should all be grateful. We will build upon their efforts and rely upon their experience.  We will ask for their recommitment, enlist others—together we will do more.”