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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

BeCivil co-president advocates for more inclusion on campus

The Hawk News
RJ Hall ’24, co-president of BeCivil. PHOTO: MADELINE WILLIAMS ’26/THE HAWK

When RJ Hall ’24 walks into a room, you know he’s there. If his exuberant energy didn’t already light up the space, his quick wit would. 

It seems like Hall is always on. At the very least, he’s always busy. Trying to get some time with the English major might be difficult, but you could catch him while he’s getting his morning coffee at Saxby’s, playing the violin at Sunday mass or just strolling through campus wearing something eye-catching that reflects his bright personality. 

Hall identifies as a member of the LGBTQIA+ community and wanted to get involved in diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) work in college after not having inclusion resources available at his high school in South Jersey. His high school was small, conservative and Catholic, and Hall said he frequently felt “othered.”

“Coming to college, I knew that [inclusion work] was something that I wanted to be a part of,” Hall said. “Especially myself, I understand how LGBTQ students are excluded in religious institutions and in higher education in general.”

Hall said he was surprised to discover a DEI presence on St. Joe’s campus his first year, as well as university-sponsored events such as the annual Day of Dialogue.

“I was like, ‘Wow, I didn’t know that there were leaders who were really dedicated to this sort of thing,’” Hall said. “That was one of the first safe spaces I ever experienced on campus that was actually talking about these topics.”

But it wasn’t perfect, and Hall wanted St. Joe’s to take its efforts even further. 

“When you say that you care about inclusion and equity, I will hold you to a higher standard,” Hall said. “I was pushing. Because a lot of St. Joe’s programming puts emphasis on inclusion, I get afraid that sometimes we think that we’re doing everything and we’re doing enough.”

Hall became involved in the University Student Senate to do even more. 

Hall was elected to Student Senate in spring 2021. In the fall of 2022, he became president of BeCivil, a student-led initiative through Student Senate that facilitates DEI conversations on campus. These conversations include how to be mindful of other people’s identities and experiences while destigmatizing these topics.

The more Hall did, the more he became known for speaking up and supporting marginalized students.

Hall succeeded the role of BeCivil president from Taylor Stokes ’22 and Zoë Welsh ’22, who started the initiative in 2019. Now it’s his turn to put his stamp on BeCivil, alongside Co-President Cierra Parker ’24, who said she and Hall make a dynamic duo.

“I’m definitely a creative thinker, and RJ pulls through. He’s very logistical and thorough,” Parker said. “He gets things done. And together we’re the most awesome team. There’s no doubt about it.”

BeCivil Workshop Facilitator Tommy McBride ’23 recounted a time where a student came out as bisexual during a diversity workshop with Alpha Kappa Psi, a co-ed business fraternity. McBride said Hall helped make the student comfortable enough to share that part of her identity with other members of the organization.

“RJ is probably one of the most passionate and well spoken leaders and discussion facilitators I’ve ever encountered, honestly,” McBride said. “He brings such a sophisticated and vulnerable perspective to every diversity workshop that we do.”

BeCivil Communications Officer Lena DeFeo ’23, said Hall taught her how important it is to hold loved ones accountable if they are not facilitating inclusion, and recalled a time where a mutual friend was using disrespectful language. 

“RJ was so adamant, and he was so kind, but he really held her accountable because he knew that was not a true display of her character,” DeFeo said. “I think that’s the biggest lesson I’ve learned from him, that accountability really matters, not just in a public setting, but in your personal life.”

Hall said he believes that change begins within small communities.

“I think that the most impactful things in our lives happen in our circle,” Hall said. “The most important people in your life are your family, are your friends, are the community that you’re in, that circle of life that you’re in. I’m really inspired by people, a lot of them at St. Joe’s, that are able to work for their community and their personal life and then it trickles outward.”

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