Last year our campus faced a number of frightening and disheartening problems surrounding inclusion and diversity. An individual disrupted Sankofa’s Halloween party dressed as a member of the Ku Klux Klan. On a different occasion, students protesting racism in Appleton were met with heckling and bigotry. Meanwhile, a group of students of color published a list of demands outlining the numerous ways they were being marginalized and mistreated on campus. They were faced with cruel and unsympathetic comments both in person and on social media. GLOW separately raised concerns over discrimination and faced similar inappropriate reactions when they published their own list of demands.
Due to these various concerns, changes were implemented around campus. Many of these diversity initiatives were summarized in an email sent out by Nancy Truesdell shortly before the beginning of the school year.
The Diversity Center has been moved to a newly renovated space on the entrance level of Memorial Hall. This action highlighted the importance of the center as a resource to all on campus and presented diversity as a top priority. The space has become safer, more accessible and more visible to the Lawrence community.
Gender-neutral bathrooms have become prevalent in several university buildings. Ormsby now has multiple “single user, self-contained” gender-neutral bathrooms that are fully equipped with showers, a first for residence halls at Lawrence.
New staff include Vice President for Diversity and Inclusion and Associate Dean of the Faculty Kimberly Barrett, whose duties entail “enhancing the diversity of the faculty, faculty development, especially in areas of inclusive pedagogy, and affirming the educational importance of diversity in educational programs,” according to Lawrence’s website; Julie Esch Hurvis Dean of Spiritual and Religious Life Rev. Linda Morgan-Clement, whose duties entail “reinforcing a welcoming and supportive community environment for spiritual and religious exploration and expression of all faiths, beliefs and religious traditions”; and many other new hires in the student success, counseling, career services and athletic departments. New faculty positions have been added across several departments in order to diversify the perspectives available within and outside of class.
The science departments in particular have worked towards creating a more inclusive and cohesive environment through the establishment of Lawrentians Enhancing Diversity in the Sciences (LEDS). The initiative includes faculty and staff in addition to students. Open dialogue and honest communication are encouraged through LEDS-sponsored events. These conversations have prompted many faculty members to address inclusivity directly in their individual course syllabi.
These changes are a great start toward making our campus a place where everyone is safe, welcome and able to learn. However, there is still more that needs to be done to correct the inequities on our campus. Lawrentians must be willing to be vulnerable and have open conversations. We all are responsible for looking critically at ourselves and unpacking some of the privileges and biases we have. Only then can we be more constructive members of our community. Listening is a vital part of this process. We, The Lawrentian Editorial Board, want to offer up the pages of our newspaper to provide a platform on which one can speak to these issues and their experiences by submitting Letters to the Editor or opinion pieces. In order to create a more diverse and inclusive space, the Lawrence community must come together and actively facilitate change.