Cultural Competency series shines light on safety and polarization

In an effort to create a space free of harassment and intimidation for all members of the Lawrence community, the Cultural Competency Lecture series this year will focus on issues of safety and understanding political polarization. 

The first event of the series was a panel discussion, titled “Keeping Each Other Safe,” via Zoom on Thursday, Sep. 17. The next panel of the series will take place on Tuesday, Sep. 29, at 6 p.m., during which faculty members will facilitate conversation about understanding polarization and how to diminish it on campus.

During the opening panel of “Keeping Each Other Safe,” members of the Lawrence community joined each other to discuss their own experiences as well as concerns about ensuring the safety of all Lawrentians.

Vice President for Diversity and Inclusion and Associate Dean of the Faculty Kimberly Barrett introduced the conversation as one of many which will take place this term. These conversations will primarily revolve around discussing safety with polarizing opinions. Before breaking participants into small groups to discuss provided questions, Barrett introduced the concept of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.

As safety is one of the most basic needs in the hierarchy, Barrett pointed out the importance of feeling both emotionally and physically safe. Without these properly established, a person will struggle with different levels of functioning, thus not accomplishing academic or professional goals.

With the importance of ensuring safety in mind, participants were broken into small groups of roughly three people to discuss several questions. This included sharing experiences of incidents that have created safety concerns and how they were handled as well as identifying the types of behaviors or situations that have the potential to make community members feel unsafe during the election season.

After these small group discussions, participants were brought back to the larger group where they could share their concerns with the panel. Members of the panel included Dean of Students Curt Lauderdale, Associate Dean of Wellness Services Richard Jazdzewski, Assistant Director of Campus Safety Breanna Bernard and Captain Daniel Weiske and Officer Ryan Peterson from the Appleton Police Department (APD).

Throughout the conversation, many resources were provided as well as procedures for reporting incidents and supporting someone during times of crises. 

In terms of reporting, Weiske and Peterson urged people to be timely in their reports of incidents to protect evidence. This can be done by using the emergency number 911, calling the APD’s non-emergency line 920-832-5500 or filing a report in-person. These reports can be anonymous if desired. 

Jazdzewski encouraged participants to remain mindful of campus resources for supporting individuals emotionally. Counseling Services will be adding another therapist in the upcoming weeks, which Jazdzewski explained would help further support students. Walk-in hours in Counseling Services have been replaced by a Counselor on Duty who will be available to those who call or email Counseling Services during their business hours of 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Jazdzewski also reminded people of the Sanvello app, which provides mindfulness practices, journaling and many more resources. When using their Lawrence email to sign in, Lawrentians have full access to all of the app’s contents.

Lauderdale emphasized the strength of Lawrence’s current on-call practices. With the resignation of former Residence Hall Director Cassie Wessing, there are now four RHDs who rotate availability 24/7. A dean from student life is also on call every day if the situation were to escalate.

In addition, Campus Safety is also available at all hours of the day, every day. Officers are available to guide and refer students by phone or in person if necessary. This term, safety rides will not be available to students, but Campus Safety is offering safety walks instead. This change aims to avoid the potential spread of germs that could arise from riding in a vehicle together.

Participants were encouraged to program the Campus Safety phone number (920-832-6999) as well as the Lawrence University 24/7 Counseling Line phone number (920-419-8167) into their contacts.

To prepare for potential anger that may ensue after the election, Campus Safety officers will be taking on additional shifts. Their priority is to ensure the safety of people on campus and reassured participants that they are in a good working relationship with APD.

When asked about how APD has assessed itself in the face of the many incidents of police brutality across the nation, the APD captain spoke of the importance of relationships and communication with different members of the community.

Lauderdale repeatedly encouraged participants to check in with themselves and be mindful of who is showing up to these events for support and also who is not. He reminded folks to think about those who are raising their hand for help and those who may not feel safe to do so.

Barrett, as well as members of the panel, expressed hope that these continuing conversations about safety will educate people about the numerous resources around them and combat the extreme polarization that they see as surrounding politics.