Members of the Knox community have discussed ideas to create a more inclusive environment on campus in response to junior Ariyana Smith’s protest at a women’s basketball game over winter break, as well as other acts of student activism, such as the student walkout during Spring Term 2014.
Dean of the College Laura Behling said that the senior staff of the college has worked with a higher education consultant on campus inclusivity issues starting in the summer of 2014. She also stated that the Human Resources department of the college is working on providing diversity and inclusivity training to faculty and staff, although no specific date has been set for it.
“Our Human Resources office is actually starting to line up some training for faculty and staff on diversity and inclusivity training. I don’t have anything more specific at this point on that, but we know that that’s coming and that HR has taken the lead on getting some folks to campus so all of us can go through those workshops.
“… It’s all being finalized, but it’s a company that does training on diversity and inclusivity for academic institutions, so we’re working on the programming for that and that would be for all employees. I anticipate that it will be mid to late Winter Term,” Behling said.
Student Senate Diversity Chair and junior ChanTareya Paredes said that she thinks that diversity, inclusivity and sensitivity training for the college would be beneficial, but without appropriate follow-up will not be effective.
“I think those are steps, but if we don’t use them properly and utilize them to their fullest potential they can just act as band-aids,” she said. “A lot of the things that we’re doing on campus right now, they may have started out as steps, but essentially they’re ending up as band-aids because there’s no follow-up.”
Dining Services employee Deana Coleman said the administration should pursue projects past an initial event.
“They kind of hold an event or a forum to get people stirred up about it, but then nothing ever comes from it. That just kind of falls back on the administration. They need to do a better job of actually caring and not just making it seem like they care.”
Title IX Coordinator Kim Schrader also said that trainers from the University of Michigan’s Intergroup Relations program would be coming to Knox during winter term to work with the Athletics Department staff. The college has previously worked with the Intergroup Relations program to develop their Intergroup Dialogues course. She said that athletes would eventually go through this training as well.
“I’m not sure if this initial trip will include athletes or not. They are actually taking into consideration many different factors and they’ll make a recommendation to us and institutionally we’ll make a decision about how we want to structure that, but that will be based on their recommendations for how it can be most effective.”
Paredes said that ideally, she would like to see Intergroup Dialogues become more integrated into the Knox education and potentially become a graduation requirement for students. She said that first year preceptorial courses should also focus on these issues.
In addition to these initiatives, Athletics Director Chad Eisele said that members of the department are taking online courses through collaboration with the Counseling Center.
“One is about being able to have conversations with people who may have suicidal thoughts or depression — how to have conversations. And the other is LGBT conversations,” he said.
Assistant Librarian for Instructional Services Ryan Lynch hopes that the college will develop extensive training for faculty and staff on diversity and inclusivity.
“I think we really need to work hard as a faculty and staff to get appropriate diversity training and not just some webinar we’re required to do and send a certificate to HR, but extensive proven training. … It might be expensive, it might be annoying for some people, but I think we really need to work on making ourselves better people. We are here for the long run. [Students] are here for four years,” Lynch said.
Professor of Political Science Sue Hulett said that she is hesitant to make training and courses for faculty and students mandatory.
“I don’t like mandatory things. People, whether staff or faculty or students, it seems to me our job is to educate others and educate ourselves,” Hulett said. “It’s not to coerce a particular dogma or coerce viewpoint. It’s to expose ourselves and our students and others to different perspectives, to get them to do critical thinking about it.”
Dean of Students Deb Southern also said she is working to reconfigure the events calendar to keep the college community more informed about everything happening on campus. She said that by having a central calendar, the college could streamline communication so the community can be more holistically informed of campus events.
Professor of Political Science Karen Kampwirth said that she wished the college would have taken a clearer stance in support of student activism after Smith’s protest.
“I think the college should have taken a clearer position in favor of political protest. There shouldn’t be a penalty for principled protest — she didn’t hurt anyone. … In addition to the open forum, I think the college should take a clearer position. Knox College can’t solve the problem of racial profiling or police violence, I don’t expect that Knox College will solve that problem on its own, but it should be on the right side of history and it should be clearly on that side,” Kampwirth said.
Chief Communication Officer Megan Scott said that the college is working to fill the gaps that students have identified in its ideologies.
“We recognize that there are issues and that there are gaps in rhetoric and the lived experiences everyday, and we are committed as an institution to address those issues and to move forward as a community. … There are difficult conversations and difficult dialogues that have to happen, but at the end of the day we’re all wanting to make sure that Knox is living up to our values and ideals as an institution.”
Director of the McNair TRIO Program Sarah Moschenross said she would like to see more social justice training take place on campus and to see more students get involved. She stated that she thinks the “discomfort” on campus is not a bad thing and might provide growth for the college.
“Growth doesn’t always come from when everything is happy and feels good. Growth comes from the hard work of unrest, and I think students and faculty and staff and administration should find a way to be patient with the unrest and keep working on the conversation and finding solutions and ways to be a better Knox,” she said.