Augustana Observer

Augustana Observer

Augustana Observer

Power outage rocks campus
Power outage rocks campus
Jack Brandt September 13, 2023

Bahls helps address cultural diversity


A group of students and administration sat down to have a discussion on diversity and inclusion on campus last Thursday night. Of the people present in the discussion were: President Steven Bahls, Samuel Payan, director of multicultural student life, Evelyn Campbell, dean of students as well as Provost Pareena Lawrence.

Of the 16 students that were present in the discussion, all were ranging from first-years to seniors coming from different backgrounds.

Many of the questions that were the focus of the conversation centered around what kind of changes needed to be made, as President Bahls said, in order to make students feel a “sense of belonging” in the institution.

Right off the bat, students shared their concerns that were not being addressed by the college with its handling of situations, or lackthereof. Many shared personal experiences in which they have experienced first hand microaggressions and racism in classroom settings, and even from the professors themselves.

Microaggressions are the “everyday verbal, nonverbal, and environmental insults, whether intentional or unintentional, that communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative messages” that target individuals based on their involvement of a “marginalized group,” taken from the Diversity in the Classroom in the UCLA Diversity & Faculty Development back in 2014.

One student shared their struggles as a first year, feeling as their own room wasn’t even theirs anymore, as they were being judged for speaking their own language on the phone with their parents by their roommate. But this was not an individual incident, as many students shared similar stories while at a predominately white institution.

Of the solutions given from the students, a consensus agreed on having students and faculty trained on having a “cultural sensitivity tutoring,” as junior Lizandra Gomez-Ramirez said. She, and other students, were getting tired of having to constantly explain to their peers their misconducts, as it “gets really emotionally draining.”

There was also talk of hiring more staff that are people of color, especially with having more professors of color teaching classes that are on diversity. There was criticism on the diversity and global perspectives already offered at Augustana, as how Lawrence was asking why they aren’t sufficient enough. The students agreed that the classes were stretching the word “diversity” with the material taught.

Bahls and other administration apologized on behalf of the college after hearing what they students had to say, and said that he was a “little embarrassed at what has been going on at Augustana.” Bahls said to watch what the school does, as changes will be made on ways to make everyone feel at home in the college.

“The meeting was insightful, productive, but at the same time to me, not surprising as an alum,” said Payan. “In a lot of ways I remain hopeful and optimistic with President Bahls commitment in making a change.”

An email was sent out to the campus and to individuals to make an appearance to add to the discussion, and all were welcome to participate.

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Bahls helps address cultural diversity