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SIUE focuses on making campus diversity a priority

Diversity Summit At SIUE

Dozens of students staff faculty and administrators gathered Wednesday morning at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville for the first diversity strategic plan summit. They advocated for diversity training, for training on avoiding unintentiona
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Dozens of students staff faculty and administrators gathered Wednesday morning at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville for the first diversity strategic plan summit. They advocated for diversity training, for training on avoiding unintentiona

The 200 members of the SIUE family at the Diversity Strategic Plan Summit on Wednesday often repeated three words in their table discussions: community, continuity and conversation.

The summit — billed as a journey to “build an inclusive campus environment” — had support from the top down, several attendees noted, with SIU System President Randy Dunn to East St. Louis Charter School students in attendance and all having a voice in the process.

The 30 tables in the upstairs conference room at Morris University Center buzzed with discussion around the key goals that organizers wanted discussed and then shared with the whole room.

About 30 students participated by teleconference from the Charter School.

Toward the end of the three-hour summit, a faculty member of the department of economics warned the crowd they were going to hear something they might not like.

“It has to be curricular,” Laura Wolff said. Any efforts at improving diversity and ending unintentional bias has to be a mandatory effort, she said.

Stepping up to the microphone soon after, Roberto Aspholm, with the social work department, echoed the sentiment.

“The people who most need it are going to get out of it,” he said. “So it has to be mandatory.”

Earlier, his table of mostly professors had discussed how diversity and inclusion needed to be required for staff and students, and the facilitation needed to be handled carefully.

“We have to do it early in their college career,” said Wendy Shaw, Professor and Associate Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. It has to be a sustained dialogue as well, she said.

A need for a feeling of community resonated early with the many groups, with discussion centering on a goal to improve recruitment, hiring and retention of students and staff.

“It was months before I talked to someone who looked like me” who did not work in the same department, said Arielle Weaver, community director of Woodland Hall. And without a sense of community, “Why would they stay?”

SIUE has to keep talking, Brown said after the summit.

“For the 14,200 students and 2,600 staff, I don’t hesitate to keep the conversation going,” she said.

Earlier, she had told others at her table that honesty within oneself is crucial, and the lack of honesty is a barrier to change.

“We don’t have another 50 years” to get this right, she said.

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