By Cecilia Cress
Elm Staff Writer
The Washington College community has fostered programs to increase diversity and inclusion education for faculty, staff, and students over the past year, after students’ calls for expanded training.
With the help of the Diversity Committee, several of these new diversity and inclusion efforts took effect at the beginning of the spring 2021 semester, including: mandatory racial bias training for student athletes, diversity and inclusion training for Resident Assistants and Peer Mentors, and a required diversity education course for all incoming students through the EverFi program.
Despite these new programs, discussions of how to properly address and educate all members of the WC community on the many aspects of racial diversity and inclusion are still ongoing.
One of WC’s most prominent diversity education initiatives, JEDI — which stands for Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion — will host four virtual discussion sessions throughout the spring semester.
According to the official JEDI training flyer, these workshops are: “Identity & Privilege,” a workshop on April 2 and May 11 that “explores the social identities of participants and the privileges that accompany some identities within society”; “Mitigating (Micro)Aggressions,” a discussion on April 13 about different ways bystanders can combat microaggressions they witness in their daily lives; “Courageous Conversations” on March 23 and April 21, an information session “designed to provide participants with the tools to engage in difficult conversations around areas of identity”; and “Anti-Racism,” scheduled for March 29 and May 10, where participants will be introduced “to the concept of anti-racism.”
According to Co-Chair of the Diversity Committee and Assistant Professor of Mathematics Dr. Emerald Stacy, these informational and discussion-based workshops are meant to be a clear, cohesive, and personal experience for each individual attending. Because of these small, controlled environments, each session is capped at 18 participants.
The JEDI initiative was created by the Diversity Committee in response to the letter of grievances and demands sent out by the Black Student Union in March 2020. These demands included mandatory faculty and staff diversity training.
“There was a discussion between the Diversity Committee and Faculty Council about what training the Diversity Committee would recommend be the mandated training, and at the time there was a question — because JEDI was still in process: Would JEDI be able to fill that role? I think the answer is no,” Dr. Stacy said.
Dr. Stacy believes that JEDI’s “small, labor intensive” sessions do not allow them to have the capacity to enable mass training sessions for everyone at WC. So, additional programs still need to become available.
Because of this continued need for more changes, the faculty council recently passed the decision for all faculty to undergo expanded diversity training, and the staff council is currently working towards a similar decision.
“We’ve recommended that all faculty and staff go through the same diversity training that all students went through last summer. Even though that training was student-oriented, it’s important that they go through it to understand what the students went through when they took the training, so that there’s a shared vocabulary,” Dr. Stacy said.
Staff Council Chair and Program Manager of Chesapeake Semester and the Research Fleet Program Ben Ford said that this diversity training expansion decision came from a recognized need from the student body and WC community.
Ford said the staff council is in full agreement and support with the faculty council of the need to expand diversity training.
Like the rest of the WC community, the Athletics Department has also worked on new diversity training expansion projects for athletes and teams.
“This year we were really concentrating on having open conversations, starting a dialogue, and then working towards yearly programming on what that would look like for the future,” Director of Athletics Thad Moore said.
These discussions will continue into the foreseeable future through the athletic Ad Hoc Committee composed of Director of the Office of Intercultural Affairs Carese Bates, Field Hockey Coach Anne Kietzman, Women’s Basketball Coach Alisha Mosley, Moore, and others.
According to Moore, he reflected on the goal of these discussions within the athletics department by posing the question, “How can we as student athletes in an athletic department be a help in driving the change we so desperately need?”
Working in conjunction with the Student Athlete Advisory Group and BSU on different diversity training ideas and initiatives, the committee met on March 9 to discuss next steps. These included suggestions such as the mandatory student athlete program titled “Microexpressions.”
Moore said the Athletic Department is focusing on ways to “drive change” within the WC community regarding racial diversity and inclusion.
“In athletics and within WC, it’s a close-knit community, it’s a family. In the athletic department, we try to make that what we stand on, that we’re going to create a family environment…We have to become more accepting, and in order to do that, we’re going to have to have difficult conversations and be able to move forward from that and respect everybody as individuals,” Moore said. “As opposed to building gaps, we need to build bridges.”
JEDI currently has its own WC email address, firstname.lastname@example.org, where all students, clubs, teams, sororities and fraternities, friend groups, or anyone else can request a group JEDI session to facilitate these important conversations.
“None of us are perfect. None of us are done growing, and in JEDI there’s this space for all of us to grow. So, the participants are learning, the facilitators are learning, the sessions are evolving…and I think that having this space for everybody to grow is really important,” Dr. Stacy said.
Featured Photo caption: After students demanded the expansion of diversity training in 2020, agents across campus responded by creating new programs and making declarations towards universal training. Photo by Ben Wang.