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The Charger Bulletin

A Letter from the Division of Student Affairs

The Charger Bulletin

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Members of the UNH Community,

During last month’s Fall Break, the Division of Student Affairs hosted a pair of diversity educators to co-facilitate a day-and-a-half-long workshop on the topics of cultural humility and systemic racism. Debra Leigh and Sheila Moriarty, faculty members from St. Cloud State University (MN), led the group—which also included invited guests from the University’s IDEA Council—through an exploration of the history of race relations in America; white privilege*; and the stages of becoming a white racial ally. The co-facilitators charged the white participants to release any guilt, anger and/or pain related to the realization of their collective white privilege and encouraged them to take a close look at how they can use their privilege to be allies for people of color (ie, via actively speaking up when they observe incidents of racial discrimination, serving on committees and task forces seeking to positively contribute to the campus racial climate, etc.). Leigh and Moriarty also encouraged everyone to be candid in their conversations during the workshop and to not let fear of retaliation or of saying the “wrong thing” keep them from speaking up. Culturally-humble and -sensitive supervision was also touched on; supervisors were cautioned that failure to listen to and learn from their supervisees of color when they share their experiences of being discriminated in the workplace could result in the creation of a hostile work environment.

Day Two focused on cultural humility in practice and encouraged the group to use the context provided on the first day to assess their respective departments, the Division and the University using the “Continuum on Becoming an Anti-Racist Multicultural Institution”. Many of the small groups identified that both the Division and the institution are in the early stages of the continuum where racial and cultural differences are either seen as deficits or are tolerated vs. being seen as assets; concerns were raised that changes on campus regarding issues of inclusion have been reactionary, short-lived and unsupported for the long term. In order for change to “stick”, there has to be a compelling reason to change and the communication of that reasoning has to be supported by everyone from the top down. The second day ended with group members role playing cross-cultural scenarios focused on the experiences of students and colleagues of color seeking to navigate a predominately white institution.

In response to an idea generated at the workshop, the Division staff have begun meeting for monthly “coffee conversations” during which pairs of staff members continue to process the workshop, share their experiences at UNH related to their racial identity, and discuss ways in which individuals can effect change in their departments, in the Division and campus-wide. These conversations will take place for the duration of this academic year and participants are being encouraged to reflect on what they’ve learned from each interaction. Other anticipated next steps developed include facilitated on-campus town hall meetings on issues of race and diversity, lunchtime discussion groups, and development of a one-credit course on cultural humility for first year students.

The Division of Student Affairs Inclusion Committee encourages everyone to have these conversations with their staff/team and if anyone has any suggestions for further conversations, programs, etc. for the benefit of the greater UNH community, please reach out to us.

Signed,

Division of Student Affairs’ Inclusion Committee:
Judy Desphande, Health Services
Kathy Forkin, Career Development Center
Sarah Gersick, Counseling and Psychological Services
Alicia Hall Richardson, Accessibility Resources Center
Kathy Kautz, International Services Office
Shelissa Newball, Office of Student Activities
Wanda Tyler, Office of Intercultural Relation
Alycia Washington, Campus Recreation
*white privilege or white skin privilege = a set of advantages and/or immunities that white people (or people with white skin) benefit from on a daily basis beyond those common to all others. It can exist without white people’s conscious knowledge of its presence and it helps to maintain the racial hierarchy in this country.

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The Student News Source of the University of New Haven
A Letter from the Division of Student Affairs