Calling for open conversation after “IT’S OK TO BE WHITE” posters were placed on campus, Student Government Association hosted a campus forum for students and staff.
The forum was planned in collaboration with the Office of Diversity and the President’s Office with approximately 90 people taking part. It was designed to give a platform for students to talk about their reaction to the signs and diversity on campus.
SGA President Ahna Van Valkenburg ’18 launched the event by thanking students for thinking critically about this topic and acknowledging there are no quick fixes for the problems being discussed.
“SGA doesn’t plan to fix everything tonight,” Van Valkenburg said. “We want to set aside time for intentional conversation.”
President William Craft welcomed the crowd of students, faculty and staff, stating this is only the beginning for addressing this topic.
“At Concordia, we cannot be silent. We need open, civil conversation about the pain of prejudice and necessity of diversity to fulfill our college mission,” Craft said.
The event was moderated by Chief Diversity Officer Dr. Edward Antonio and framed by Diversity Coordinator Amena Chaudhry. To begin the conversation, Chaudhry stated some guiding principles for keeping the conversation productive and respectful.
The room was broken down into small groups of about six people with a student facilitator to move them through a series of questions including reactions to the signs on campus, how they were addressed, and concerns, comments and questions people have.
The conversation moved to a large group setting where people voiced their thoughts, questions and concerns – some questioning how words in the college’s response were chosen, others asking when talk will turn to action. Antonio acknowledged how his new role is working on this topic and the urgent need.
“This is difficult and painful and challenging work,” Antonio said. “At Concordia, this is what we are called to do.”