The Office of Intercultural Affairs’ “safe space” is vital in helping students feel welcome on campus

By Nia Anthony

Elm Staff Writer

On college campuses, it’s important for all students to feel welcome, safe, and seen. With Washington College’s diverse student body, the school’s Office of Intercultural Affairs is a place that allows students to be represented and educated. 

The WC Office of Intercultural Affairs aims to make the campus welcoming and have the student experience amplified. According to their official website, “The Office of Intercultural Affairs is committed to creating an inclusive environment and community essential for all students’ cultural development and academic success.”

The Office of Intercultural Affairs is currently housed in Caroline House, but is moving to the basement of Minta Martin Hall following renovations. During the pandemic, the Office of Intercultural Affairs is staying active by welcoming students to their events. 

From Nov. 9–13, OIA hosted a virtual Diversity Week — complete with Zoom events, talks, and an online resource folder on the office’s website. 

Nov. 9 kicked off Dialogue Day, which encouraged conversations about diversity and inclusion. Defining diversity and inclusion is beneficial to the whole of the student body. This allows us to be mindful of the ways that we treat other students and faculty members. 

Dialogue Day also included talks about racial bias fatigue led by Director of the Office of Intercultural Affairs Carese Bates. This talk aimed to help students wrestle with the constant presence of racial instability. 

The day ended with a talk about unconscious biases, which aimed to help students realize when they are being exclusive. 

WC’s OIA also has a comprehensive page on the school website featuring numerous resources for students — including a page dedicated to the LGBTQIA+ community, one detailing how to identify and report bias incidents, and a link to the Center for the Study of Black Culture. 

According to President of the Student Government Association Elizabeth Lilly, the OIA is integral to the WC community. 

“This space is important not just to fulfill the need of a physically safe space, but it will offer more space and resources to offices and organizations supporting initiatives of diversity, equity, and inclusion,” Lilly said. 

“Though the development of [the safe space in Minta Martin] is not occurring as quickly as students originally hoped — largely due to expectable bureaucratic processes involved in funding and contracting work — the plans and progression of the space is moving along well due to the Jesse DuPont grant and additionally from the SGA,” she said. 

Having this space is incredibly important to maintaining a fair and multicultural environment.

When students at WC feel safe, included, and seen, we all thrive as a community. The OIA helps students exist freely. 

The WC diversity statement reads “We, the students, faculty, staff, and Board of Visitors and Governors of Washington College…strive to create a place where all can study, work, and thrive…” 

With the OIA safe space, WC is stepping in the right direction to achieve this. When there are resources for every experience, everyone feels welcome. 

Featured Photo caption: Washington College is planning renovations to the basement of Minta Martin Hall, where the Office of Intercultural Affairs will eventually be housed. Photo by Izze Rios.

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