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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

Faculty Senate brainstorms more diverse curriculum

Faculty Senate conducted a discussion about campus climate and what faculty can do to incorporate issues of diversity into the university’s curriculum during its meeting on Jan. 29.

Ron Dufresne, Ph.D., associate professor of management and president of the Faculty Senate, said that the discussion has been brought up before. According to Dufresne, they began the conversation last fall when a campus climate survey revealed that “a fifth of students have feelings of not being welcomed on campus.”

Dufresne said the incident last September in which a racial slur was left on a student’s dorm room door created even more urgency from the faculty level.

“It brought what we already knew was an issue into starker contrast,” Dufresne said. “That’s what prompted the need for us to not engage, but to re-engage in this conversation. It’s something that we have to keep at the forefront of our conversations.”

During the meeting, Faculty Senate brainstormed ways to address diversity in curriculum and faculty policies. Members were split into four sub-groups that were led by individuals who influence curriculum decisions, including multiple department heads. Each group addressed one of four solutions: overlays, core classes, one-credit courses that tie into co-curricular programs and faculty policy changes.

The group that discussed faculty development was led by Elaine Shenk, Ph.D., associate professor of Spanish and linguistics. Shenk said in an email to The Hawk that her group discussed ways to incentivize professors to make their classrooms more diverse. Ideas included making inclusion and diversity a factor in the tenure and promotion evaluation and hiring processes and using more diverse readings and examples in class.

Shenk said she felt called to be a leader in the ongoing conversation about diversity and inclusion on campus.

“As a white professor, I actively engage in this discussion because it’s absolutely my responsibility to do so,” Shenk said. “I’m also inspired by many people on campus who are speaking out. We all want change in this regard and it takes some concerted action to seek those changes.”

Dufresne said that the solutions to complex issues are also complex and because of this, not all of these changes will take effect immediately. Some may not be implemented until 2021.

“It would be unreasonable to think that we could make a meaningful, systematic change in a day,” Dufresne said. “It shouldn’t be immediate because we have to really make a series of systematic, well-informed decisions.”

The discussion about the creation of a one-credit course or series of experiences requiring structured reflection was led by Susan Clampet-Lundquist, Ph.D., associate professor of sociology and director of the faith-justice studies minor. The group referenced a program at Albright College that requires students to reflect on a series of events that help them understand diversity and inequality as their inspiration.

Clampet-Lundquist recognized a need for diverse experiences when her students expressed a concern that St. Joe’s is not preparing them for the real world because they do not have relationships with people different from them.

“Ultimately, we want to be about pursuing social justice, because that’s in our mission statement,” Clampet-Lundquist said. “Even if we want to be about preparing people for the real world— if we’re failing on that, that’s another problem something like this will help to fix.”

Clampet-Lundquist stressed the importance of understanding others in upholding the university’s mission statement.

“At our university, often times we find that racial issues are underplayed and structural inequalities get ignored,” Clampet-Lundquist said. “We are trying to figure out different methods of being the transformational institution that we hope to be. It’s not going to make positive change for everybody, but we could be truer to our mission and be a true welcoming community to everybody.”

While these plans will be developing over the next few months, Dufresne recognized that they alone will not solve the issue and that the initiative will not end when these changes are finalized.

“Even whatever we do in the next couple of years still won’t be enough,” Dufresne said. “This needs to be an ongoing, continuing conversation. We can’t presume to think that we can work hard on this for a year or two and be done. Our work will be never-ending.”

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