Updated diversity statement more inclusionary

By Blake Batten

Elm Staff Writer

Washington College has evolved its diversity statement to be more modern in its inclusion of all members of the community.  

Prior to this, the diversity statement has not changed since 2006. 

Faculty, students, and staff worked for three years to update the language of the statement to include people of “all races, ethnicities, nationalities, gender identities and/or expressions, sexual orientations, socioeconomic statuses, cultural backgrounds, cognitive or physical abilities, emotional and behavioral characteristics, ages, and educational levels,” according to the statement.

The new statement was voted on by the Board of Visitors & Governors last semester. It was passed over the summer and is now posted on the WC website.  

According to Assistant Director of Intercultural Affairs Carese Bates, the previous statement was “problematic” because it was too narrow in its explicit inclusions to reach everyone in the WC community.

 “I think prioritizing diversity on this campus is extremely important because it sends a message about the testament of humanity we uphold as a college campus,” Student Government Association Secretary of Diversity senior Felicia Attor said. “People need to be able to walk around campus and feel permanent on the campus, and feel like they belong here, and feel like they are included in all aspects because that is our collective humanity as WC.” 

Despite the statement being updated recently, faculty and students hope it will be continuously changed to stay current and perpetuate an open dialogue within the College community. 

Students are also becoming more active and inclusive, according to sophomore Kennett Vail-Rojas, vice president of the Latin American Student Association.

“Student involvement seems to have been growing in the past years and this semester is no different. People are proud of their culture and it is good to see it,” Vail-Rojas said. 

To help create that conversation, the Diversity Committee is working to make the diversity statement better known on campus. It is one of their three goals for the year, and they are currently coming up with solutions. 

One way the diversity statement is already making an impact on campus is the recent removal of the painting, “A View of Chestertown from White House Farm,” from Bunting Hall.

Students from Black Student Union and SGA worked with President Kurt Landgraf and the Starr Center for the Study of the American Experience to better understand the portrait’s dilemma.

“Through this council, and the Diversity Committee in Senate, we work on the various ways we can realize inclusivity from the Diversity Statement on our campus. We do this by planning events throughout campus to foster the intercultural and cross-identity exchange of various people on campus.” Attor said.  

Bates said she hopes that one day the diversity statement will be as highly regarded and recognized as the Honor Code, seeing it in places like the Casey Academic Center or on syllabi.  

It was included during this year’s freshman orientation. The statement was given as much respect and attention as the Honor Code, presented directly beside it in the PowerPoint presentation.  

It is not just the Diversity Committee that had a role in updating and expanding the diversity statement. According to Bates, members of every department care about the nature of this statement and how it impacts everyone on campus.

 “We are a small but powerful college, and we have a communal feel. We want all people to feel included and have a sense of belonging,” Bates said. “This statement is the first step of achieving that goal.”

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