Augustana Observer

Augustana Observer

Augustana Observer

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February 24, 2024

Forum over discrimination creates call to action

In Centennial Hall, Academic Dean Pareena Lawrence used the words of Martin Luther King Jr. to reiterate the college’s mission due to recent concerning events over racial and political discrimination.
“Education is not just about acquiring knowledge in critical thinking but also about morality, ethics, knowing right from wrong,” said Lawrence.
The meeting focused on multiple incidents, which include a derogatory message written in a residence hall bathroom, a demeaning picture, the Right to Life flags being knocked down and the use of a confederate flag to threaten students.
An open forum to discuss the recent incidents was held on April 24. The forum opened with messages from Lawrence and Dean Evelyn Campbell concerning the college’s mission.
A campus wide email was sent, encouraging the Augustana community to attend. About 100 students, faculty and staff were present.
“We held this forum today on very short notice to come together and state that intolerance and incivility is unacceptable at Augustana,” said Lawrence.
Students, staff and faculty members were all able to contribute to the conversation. Moderated by Assistant Professor of Sociology Paul Croll, a microphone was passed around.
“We also need to think about the people who are not here,” said Croll. “We need to think about the people in the middle, who didn’t come today, for whatever reason, and would never act in that way, but are silent when things like this happen.”
Croll addressed the bystander effect, urging those in attendance that a simple phrase, “Dude, that’s not cool,” can make a big difference. Croll encouraged the students to support each other and stop allowing such incidents to occur.
“We need voices to say, ‘that doesn’t happen here,'” said Croll.
Director of Residential Life Christina Lorge-Grover emphasized the number one, one being a single person able to impact the community in a negative or positive way.
“One individual is all that it takes to chip away at the foundation of a community,” said Lorge-Grover. “However, all it takes is one courageous and brave individual to stand up for truth, justice and equality here at Augustana.”
Theatre Arts Professor Jennifer Popple spoke as well, along with Director of Multicultural Student Life Patricia Santoyo-Marin.
The floor was opened to the audience, and while stories were shared and support rallied by the 100 students, faculty and staff in attendance there were still concerns on what steps will be taken to address the issue.
Associate Professor of English John K. Tawiah-Boateng voiced such unease.
“When we leave here, what difference is it really going to make?” said Tawiah-Boateng. “Are we preaching to the choir?”
Tawiah-Boateng suggested taking action by creating signs, similar to those supporting LGBT rights or warnings against sexual harassment, on campus to spread the message: stop racial discrimination.
“I know, personally, that a lot of the time we want the minorities around, but we don’t highlight them too much,” said Tawiah-Boateng. “I’m not saying this is official policy; this is just practice.”
Student Government Association president Cameron Onumah and SGA vice president elect Megan Funke also commented on the matter.
Both Funke and Onumah spoke about making sure this issue comes to the forefront as a concern for the student body.
Onumah spoke about his own struggles on campus.
“You have no idea how many times over the past four years I would’ve appreciated someone who would just say, ‘Dude, that was not cool,'” said Onumah.
Funke, representing president elect Richard Benson, spoke about SGA’s commitment to promoting equality on campus.
“We are deeply concerned and frankly disgusted by the offensive actions targeted towards certain student groups on campus,” said Funke. “As future leaders of student government, we will not tolerate this behavior.”
SGA has decided to take action, led by Benson and senator Darien Marian-Burton. They will be releasing a public service announcement.
There is a display available in the Thomas Tredway Library for the community to pledge to commit to standing up for diversity. The idea, which was created by Assistant Professor of Art Vickie Phipps, was signed by the 98 students, faculty and staff members present at the forum.

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Forum over discrimination creates call to action