Augustana Observer

Augustana Observer

Augustana Observer

Diversity forum provides outlook in right direction

On Monday, April 11, President Bahls, Dean Campbell, Dean Lawrence and the Office of Multicultural Student Life hosted a diversity forum for students to come and give feedback on the president’s diversity statement.
As a student who has long strived to be active on campus in making it a more equitable place for all, I attended with some reservations. It is not the first time forums have been hosted along these lines, and in the past it seems little has come as a result of these events. By and large, the students in attendance are already of a like mind, committed to ending the racist and otherwise bigoted culture that exists on our campus. The students who really need to hear why such discriminatory speech and behavior is unacceptable are usually no where to be found.
True to form, the audience at the diversity forum was largely composed of the same students who protest for a better campus community.
But what seemed different this time was the attitude and approach of the administration present. They seemed willing to take the ideas students have been bringing up for years seriously at long last. There were still some answers that seemed to skirt around direct responses to what students were asking for, but as Augustana is still largely a bureaucracy
Hearing President Bahls own his own privilege as a white man was a heartening moment for me. It is not often that institutional leadership is willing to claim their own privilege in such a manner. It is not a solution in and of itself by any means, but it was one of many positive moments from the forum.
My hope is that as I leave Augustana behind, I will be able to look back on my alma mater and feel good about the work being done to seriously and thoroughly address the issues of racism and other bigotry seriously.
Too often, these forums seem productive in the moment but no follow-through occurs. That cannot continue to be the case.
As I wrote in my article last week, one facet of supporting diversity on campus is to direct financial and faculty support to underserved interdisciplinary departments that already seek to address the lived realities and needs of students of color and students of other marginalized identities.
The forum presented many other excellent ideas on how to continue on with the momentum of change, such as mandating diversity training for all student leaders in clubs, Greek Life and athletics. Improving curriculums and the school calendar to include discussions and entire events to combating racism and confronting privilege were also mentioned.
All of these ideas are fabulous, and would do much to improve the atmosphere on Augustana’s campus for the students who are suffering at the hands and words of their peers. But they can only make these improvements if they actually come to pass.
As students of Augustana College, we have to take seriously our responsibility to be the change we want to see in the world. We have to start with ourselves, and using our individual privileges to end cycles of violence and oppression. Hopefully our college administration will continue in the right direction in giving us the institutional frameworks and resources to make that a reality.

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Diversity forum provides outlook in right direction