LIKE MANY DENISONIANS, I have a Facebook account and clicked on the “We Too Are Denison” FB page after reading the March 11 article about the project. I commend Shakia and Ruby’s initiative and the efforts of so many students who are willing to share their experience with micro (and macro) aggressions on and off the Hill. This forum is striking a chord with students here and on other campuses across the country with similar campaigns. I wanted to be an additional voice offering a response.
I value the organizers’ description, “This gives us a unique opportunity to take an honest look at ourselves and begin to create a better community for all of our members. This project will serve as a reflection of the marginalized experiences on this campus and as a step towards a better Denison.” Indeed, let’s recommit as a community of learners to doing this.
Might I offer a few steps for how we can do this? Take a quiet moment to read the papers held up by familiar faces on the FB page. Figure out ways to address those and become a better version of ourselves. Talk with a close friend and then a complete stranger about this project. Practice how to intervene in the moment when something ignorant or bias-laden is spoken. Consider how to contribute to a sense of belonging in community by regularly speaking up for and with those who are marginalized, whether here or in the world beyond Denison. In the few weeks since this first appeared on Facebook, I have reflected on these steps. We all have capacity to do more if we support one another.
I too believe that action should follow thought. I get to work with some amazing students and colleagues in the division of student development, academic affairs and other units. This project has certainly prompted conversation and a desire to take action. A few are mentioned here:
#1: Raise awareness of the Bias-Incident Response Protocol
We want to help raise awareness of a system that can help: the Bias-Incident Response Protocol, available on the myDenison Campus Resources tab.
Student Development’s Response Protocol for Bias and Hate-Related Incidents was created in June 2013 in order to have a mechanism for responding in a consistent and comprehensive manner to bias-related incidents that occur between students. Students, staff and faculty members were involved in the development and implementation of this protocol. Every student, staff and faculty member has a rightful place at Denison and reported incidents of violence, intimidation, bullying, harassment and hate will be addressed with the intention of seeking a resolution that strengthens our community and upholds its members in their diversity.
#2 Involve more faculty and staff who can support this work
This past year, over 25 new faculty and staff members stepped up and were then trained to serve as Denison Campus Reporting (CARE) Advisors to help students report and address incidents of disrespect (including micro-aggressions). We are working to add adviser bios to the webpage. Next week our advisers will gather again for additional training and we will draw their awareness to the experiences reflected in We Too Are Denison.
#3 Enhance the Climate Watch page on myDenison
General descriptions of incidents that damage our campus community are posted to the Campus Climate Watch page as a way of keeping a pulse on campus climate, what is surfacing, and what we can do collectively to intervene. The Campus Climate Team of faculty, staff and students meets regularly to review and post incidents and identify ways to help and educate. CCT has plans to improve the page design and content.
#4 Collaborate to create conversation and change
When we were developing the response protocols, students gave a lot of feedback. It was important to have a system in place to manage such incidents, but students emphasized the need for educational efforts to create a better Denison. As we refine the reporting system, better advertise it, and turn more attention to wider community engagement efforts, we hope to work with student organizations and individual students to promote an educational approach and build community. Student Development staff met last week and discussed several ideas and programming initiatives. Student organizations continue to do superb work to help strengthen our community; we are aware that upcoming events may further engage this topic.
Those who work with matters of identity and community development are learning from this project. While statements and acts presented on the page occur on campuses across the country, Denison is a place where people engage these issues and work toward change. We want students and faculty who come to this campus to embrace this important work. Thank you to all who continue to engage this work in a wide variety of ways. I LIKE this about Denison.
Bill Fox is the current Dean of Students.