The Student Diversity, Engagement and Success program hosted the Spring Diversity Forum Kick-Off event with Chancellor Dwight C. Watson and Campus Leadership on campus in the Hamilton Room in the University Center. Students and faculty were invited to hear stories from people of different backgrounds and their experiences here on campus. Sharing personal experiences and holding a conversation on how to improve everyone’s time here on campus was accomplished by allowing questions from the audience.
“The thing about our Diversity Forum is telling our story, it’s a three-day event, a reflection, a celebration; I hope each of you will tell your story to another Warhawk. Many of you know my story as a black gay man who grew up in the segregated south in some very interesting times and if you don’t know my story, please come and talk to me and I’ll be willing to talk to you about it,” said Chancellor Watson.
The Chancellor’s transparency set the tone for the event moving forward. Whitewater prides itself on improving even before improvement is necessary. The campus is not perfect and there are students who do not feel comfortable on campus or in their own skin, making it hard for them to fit in.
“We know that there have been some occasions on campus where people didn’t quite understand or felt disenfranchised about some things happening on campus. As a result, the people sitting to my right have had conversations on conversations about academic freedom and freedom of expression and how our university’s beliefs fit into it,” stated Dr. Kenny Yarbrough, Chief Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Officer.
It is important to make people feel comfortable and included when on campus and interacting with their peers. That trend should continue in the classroom setting since that is the reason everyone is here. Although the problem of students not being comfortable with what is being taught could have started in high school, the difference is college students now have a voice to express displeasure and possibly make a change.
“We have received students who come to us complaining about what is being said in the classroom. It is a large part of our responsibility not only within the division of student affairs but the institution and I think we recognize together what our gaps are and we have to be transparent in what our gaps are and this is our first step,” stated Dr. Artanya Wesley, Interim Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs.
The Diversity Forum is a great opportunity for campus and community members to learn about the positive and shifting impact of diversity here on campus. It is clear that the goal is transparency with the university’s community as they provide stories and open discussion on how to improve the diversity and inclusion on campus.