Panel of administrators discuss state of diversity, inclusion on campus

Rebecca Savransky, Campus Editor

Six Northwestern officials spoke Friday about the state of diversity and inclusion on campus and how the University can better address surrounding issues to create a welcoming environment for all students.

At the beginning of the event in Fisk Hall, Austin Romero, Associated Student Government vice president for diversity and inclusion, gave a brief introduction about all of the panelists before asking participants to explain what their departments have done to address inclusion efforts at NU. The SESP junior moderated the discussion.

Dona Cordero, assistant provost for diversity and inclusion, talked about the steps her department has taken to develop a diversity curriculum requirement. The Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences is already offering courses that could fulfill the potential requirement and has committed additional funds to create more courses, she said.

Cordero said the process of developing the classes spurred the creation of different learning outcomes.

“One of the learning outcomes that we really wanted, that we thought was very important was that the courses focused on the United States,” she said. “The reason for that is because a lot of the issues that are the impetus for this requirement are issues that have happened on campus.”

Cordero noted the Medill School of Journalism, Media, Integrated Marketing Communications has established a diversity council and is working to take steps to fully develop and implement the course requirement .

Noor Ali, assistant director of Multicultural Student Affairs, explained the purpose of MSA, which she said is to “create a safe space for students of marginalized identities.”

Ali said MSA organizes many events and collaborates with other offices to create educational programs about identities and experiences of different students.

In her presentation on the goals of the Women’s Center, Renee Redd, the center’s director, addressed issues of including the community as a whole within discussions about gender. This year, the center organized a series on power and privilege, which began with a conversation about microaggressions.

“It has, I think, certainly for the Women’s Center staff, reinvigorated us and given us a lot of hope about the possibility for change,” Red said about the series, “Power and Privilege: A Call to Action.”

She said she hopes the center will bring about increased awareness that everyone is involved in these topics.

“We really want to bring to everyone’s attention that gender issues is something everyone needs to be concerned about and aware of how it impacts us all,” she said.

Devin Moss, director of the LGBT resource center, gave a short history of the center and described several projects that are currently in the works.

“One of the thing that we are challenging with now, is the actual name LGBT and really looking at gender and sexuality more holistically,” he said

He added that the resource center has also looked into supporting transgender individuals through implementing gender neutral restrooms, among other goals.

Lesley-Ann Brown, executive director of campus inclusion and community, said her office works to put on several programs throughout the year to encourage communication, including programming to increase dialogue, leadership programs and education and training.

She mentioned that one of the big projects that was put on this year is called Step UP!, which involved training about 1,200 students and staff on how to safely intervene as bystanders. She added that some of the center’s main goals include making NU an inclusive and safe space for all students and promoting collaboration.

“Collaborating across the board has been really really important for campus inclusion,” Brown said. “One of the strengths of the department is really our ability to collaborate across the University in the interest of students.”

Other topics addressed included discussions on students with disabilities and how the University can better address issues that these individuals battle. Alison May, assistant dean of students and director of Services for Students with Disabilities, said her department has been promoting universal design, which involves professors designing their courses to more effectively to allow students to show their knowledge in different ways. She mentioned that professors designing their syllabi more flexibly would give students the opportunity to excel in class and promote students’ strengths.

“It’s one basic way that professors can pretty much teach their courses in very much the way that they already are but they can adjust them so that you all feel, everyone, not just students with disabilities, feels that they’re being graded fairly and have an opportunity to demonstrate their knowledge in a particular course,” she said.

She added that her department is regularly working with Residential Services, Facilities Management and the Office of the Registrar in an effort to ensure courses are accessible to all students.

After each panelist addressed some of their goals and accomplishments, a question and answer session was held. Students’ questions included pushback that has been seen in implementing diversity programming and how to include more students in these discussions.

Communication sophomore Sanjana Chetia, co-president of College Feminists, said that as a queer person of color, she relates to a lot of the issues addressed at the event and thought the panelists discussed important issues.

“Going to events like this and hearing voices both from the administration and student events where you hear student voices and trying to get full perspective of what’s going on on campus to inform what you’re going to be acting on is really critical,” she said.

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