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The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

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Day of Dialogue promotes conversations on inclusion

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Students, faculty and staff pray in the Chapel of St. Joseph’s at the welcome session. PHOTOS: MITCHELL SHIELDS ’22/THE HAWK

The Day of Dialogue, an event intended to promote conversations about diversity, equity and inclusion, took place on St. Joe’s campus Feb. 20.

The day included 19 different sessions spanning from 12:30 p.m. to 6 p.m. and was attended by 1,134 students, faculty, staff and administrators. The Day of Dialogue had over 30 facilitators from various departments, disciplines and outside organizations with the goal of equipping St. Joe’s community members with education and resources to promote an inclusive environment, according to organizers of the event.

Natalie Walker Brown, director for Inclusion and Diversity Educational Achievement, said the Day of Dialogue was meant to give people an opportunity to talk about their experiences in “safe and brave spaces.”

“It is especially important for a predominantly white institution to give minoritized voices a space to talk about things,” Walker Brown said. “For people of the majority to sit and listen to their experiences and understand that not everyone experiences the world the way that they do.”

The welcome session, held in the Chapel of St. Joseph, featured a prayer from Thomas Brennan, S.J., chair of the English department, and an introduction to the event by Cheryl McConnell, Ph.D., provost and vice president for Academic Affairs.

The Day of Dialogue was held in response to a history of racist incidents on campus, according to organizers of the event.

“People are at different places in their identity development and thinking about race,” said Aisha Lockridge, Ph.D., associate professor of English. “We need to give them some tools if they’re ready and want to do something.”

Lockridge co-facilitated a session to educate faculty on inclusive pedagogy.

Lucy Ford, Ph.D., director of the managing human capital program, attended the session and said professors can always learn more about integrating diversity into their classrooms.

“I don’t consider myself an expert, even if I teach it,” Ford said. “I want to be part of this for students. It’s a time to make SJU safe for everybody, not just those with privilege.”

Nicole R. Stokes, Ph.D., the new associate provost for diversity, equity and inclusion, had officially been on St. Joe’s campus for six days before the Day of Dialogue but had been working with the organizers before her arrival. Stokes said open dialogue is the first step to making St. Joe’s a more inclusive space for everyone.

Stokes speaks at the Plenary Session, which closed the Day of Dialogue.

“Diversity, equity and inclusion work is a community lift,” Stokes said. It cannot be done on the backs of the underrepresented. It has to be a community effort, and everyone in the Saint Joseph’s community has to see it as part of their work and their experience here.”

Amber Abbas, Ph.D., associate professor of history, said she canceled her classes so her students could attend the Day of Dialogue and continue discussions as a university-wide community.

“The questions that we talk about today are crossing all of these spaces, our classes, our service, our leadership,” Abbas said. “If we think about how we want to transform our community into one that is truly inclusive, we have to be thinking across all those bases.”

In addition to sessions about inclusive pedagogy, other sessions covered topics including trauma-informed care, neurodiversity, intersectionality, language and vocabulary, allyship and deconstructing white privilege.

Dominic Polidoro ’21 attended the Leaning Into New Experiences and Situations (L.I.N.E.S.) session, which featured a series of monologues inspired by real students dealing with issues surrounding their identities.

Polidoro said this session helped him understand the strides St. Joe’s needs to take towards racial inclusion.

“Continuing the conversation would be most helpful in shaping St. Joe’s,” Polidoro said. “Starting the education process is the most important.”

Campus-wide education is not only important for current St. Joe’s students, but also for the future of the institution, according to Lockridge.

“At St. Joe’s and for many other schools, our growing populations are going to be black and brown students,” Lockridge said. “We have to get there if we want to bring those students in and create open and productive classroom dialogue.”

Jordan Sweeney ’21 said the Day of Dialogue reevaluated what structures are in place at St. Joe’s.

“This is a foot in the door for the deconstruction of whiteness, of predominant whiteness and dominating whiteness on this campus,” Sweeney said.

 

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