Oct. 6, 2012 by chosam
The following is a re-post from my WesSpeak in the Argus that was published this Friday. Please be aware that there is a discussion this Sunday at 7 in Wyllys 114 about the Making Excellence Inclusive Task Force with Chief Diversity Officer and Vice President for Diversity and Institutional Partnerships Sonia Mañjon and Dean for Diversity and Student Engagement Renee Johnson-Thornton this Sunday. If you have ever felt like your concerns were marginalized and/or misrepresented by your student representatives, I urge you to come to this meeting to share your voice and your suggestions about the WSA’s role in promoting diversity and inclusion on this campus.
Do you feel included on this campus? Do you feel that your interests are represented? Do you feel that your individuality is celebrated or do you feel that you are often pressured to subsume parts of yourself to make others feel comfortable? If you’re not satisfied, you shouldn’t be satisfied allowing your voice to be left out. I am chairing a new committee on Diversity and Inclusion within the WSA. If you feel compelled to join, please e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information. The appointments process will begin after Fall Break. There will also be a discussion about diversity and the WSA this Sunday at 7 PM in Wyllys 114. You should stop by.
Before this effort begins, I felt I should give some context about why this is vital to our campus. Racism, sexism, classism, homophobia, ableism. You name it, it exists here! How they manifest themselves certainly complicates the issue of promoting diversity on campus.
For example, after the Argus article about this committee was published last week, I along with other WSA members received an e-mail from one of the heads of the Wesleyan Students for Disability Rights (WSDR) about omitting issues of disability rights in our discussion. While it might be easy to account it to journalistic oversight, I’ll openly acknowledge that it was something that I don’t have the appropriate frame of reference to discuss in a nuanced, appropriate way. However, the purpose of this committee is to provide an institutionalized venue for introspection about our views towards prejudice and discrimination as a campus. I’m better because of having something that I was ignorant towards highlighted to me; this will now be something that I will be attuned to when looking for potential members as well as initiatives going forward in addition to issues of race, class gender, location, etc.
Ultimately, this committee is being formed to highlight the cycles of oppression that persist on campus and begin the work of interrupting them (cycles, I must add, that are no one person’s fault). It isn’t designed to place blame. It’s intended to ask questions. How do we increase representation from underrepresented groups on all levels of campus – in student organizations (it should be noted that the demographics of the WSA, in which this committee has found a home, does not match the demographics of the undergraduate student body), in jobs, in academic disciplines? What administrative structures keep faculty/staff diversity stagnant? How do we reconcile ourselves to a new reality in which our financial aid policy has shifted and socio-economic diversity may necessarily decline (socio-economic diversity, it should be added, is married to racial, geographic, ethnic diversity as well). Bringing together groups that would not have come together otherwise, planning events that serve as catalysts for broader discussion, highlighting prejudice and discrimination on campus, at all levels. Once we begin to reverse these cycles, then we can start the work of coming together as a campus in a much more powerful and productive way.