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The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

Fit to be king
Lilli Dellheim '25 M.A., Special to the Hawk • July 13, 2024

Changing for the better

How we can effectively move forward

As students scrambled to meet their final academic and extracurricular obligations in the final weeks of last semester, the St. Joe’s community as a whole grappled with the enormity of tackling racism on our campus.

At an open forum held on Dec. 4, students, faculty, administrators and alumni gathered to share their thoughts on how St. Joe’s should move forward in the wake of news that, on Sept. 28, a first-year student left a racial slur on the dorm room door of two African-American students  in Villiger Residence Hall.

Upcoming initiatives and changes to university policy were announced in a Dec. 10 email from University President Mark C. Reed, Ed.D. An update on measures outlined in the Dec. 10 email, including structural changes to the Community Standards adjudication process and new diversity education initiatives to be implemented in First-Year Experience and orientation programs, was sent to the campus community on Jan. 17.

The transparency surrounding the status of these promised changes is a step in the right direction. If the administration is to continue building trust with the St. Joe’s community, especially regarding issues of bias and diversity, then it should continue to communicate regularly as progress is made.

Furthering the practice of transparency, the administration should update the St. Joe’s community when the “third-party consultant” is chosen to audit our Community Standards processes, as well as provide a timeline of the consultant’s review. Overhauling our Community Standards processes will help to prevent mishandling of future bias incidents and is among the most important of the changes announced.

It is also imperative that, as university leadership works to fill several senior-level administrative positions, the search for a Chief Diversity Officer be prioritized.

A Chief Diversity Officer could aid in overseeing the completion of the university’s promised improvements.

Moreover, a well-structured Office for Inclusion and Diversity (OID) is essential to making sure that students of color are supported at St. Joe’s. The OID has now been without senior administrative leadership for six months, leaving it in an untenable limbo that currently has no definite end date.

The current task force Reed has appointed to serve as a liaison between his office and the University Student Senate and Black Student Union, while temporarily effective, is not a solution in the long term.

A notable update outlined in the Jan. 17 email was the announcement that Cary Anderson, Ed.D., associate provost and vice president for Student Life, will oversee changes to existing residential and First-Year Experience programs, with the goal of educating students on issues of diversity.

Anderson was involved in responding to the Sept. 28 incident which, by the university’s own admission, was mishandled. As his recent track record indicates that his handling of bias incidents can be improved, it is inappropriate for Anderson to independently oversee the development of new programs whose ultimate goal is to reduce bias incidents on campus.

Anderson admitted to using the n-word twice during a Nov. 12 meeting with the two victims, later apologizing and saying that he intended to express “disappointment with the use of racist language around campus.”

These mistakes in responding to an incident of racial bias cannot be overlooked and they should disqualify Anderson from overseeing the implementation of new diversity education programs.

Even as we evaluate ways in which university policy and administrative responses to bias incidents may be improved, we cannot forget that it was a student’s racist actions that brought our campus community to this moment of reckoning.

We need to monitor the language we hear used everyday in class and among our friends and peers to ensure that discriminatory attitudes are not allowed to propagate. To rid our campus of racist beliefs and behaviors, we need to remind ourselves that the work to overcome implicit bias is continuous and difficult, but it has to be done.

Policy reform cannot stand alone; changing beliefs and attitudes is the only way to enact permanent change on our campus.

Updating our curriculum to better promote diversity is another important step; students who do not want to participate in open forum discussions or trainings ultimately will not. Our official curriculum, by contrast, provides an opportunity to give all students the same comprehensive education on issues of diversity.

The Faculty Senate will be holding a meeting on Tuesday, Jan. 29 to discuss potential improvements. These could take the form of diversifying the authors selected for class readings across majors and making students more aware of how racism permeates all levels and aspects of society.

The current plans for change made thus far are certainly good progress–but it is up to all members of the St. Joe’s community to ensure that they are not only policy changes, but lasting cultural changes.

—The Editorial Board

This week’s Editorial Board is comprised of the Editor-in-Chief, Managing Editor, Editorial Page Editor, Opinions Editor, Assistant Opinions Editor, Copy Chief, Copy Editor and Assistant Lifestyle Editor. This editorial reflects the views of the Board and not the entire Hawk staff.

Correction: A previous version of this editorial stated that the Chief Diversity Officer position had been vacant for six months. “Chief Diversity Officer” is a new title for the university’s senior diversity officer position, which was previously called the assistant provost for Inclusion and Diversity. 

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