By Nancy Sanchez-Diaz
Students, faculty and staff requested five changes in a student-led diversity forum addressing racial concerns on Tuesday, July 21.
The meeting, hosted by Black Student Union (BSU), was one of a series of diversity forums, which began earlier this summer with unrest following the George Floyd killing.
Students and professors in attendance asked for these changes:
- More staff/faculty of color
- Diversity inclusion workshops to teach faculty and staff about cognitive bias
- A more culturally inclusive curriculum
- Correcting the underfunding and overall lack of enthusiasm for diversity groups and organizations on campus
- A safe space for students to speak up about racially charged incidents on campus
A total of 100 participated in the Zoom meeting, which lasted about two hours.
The mood of the meeting was awkward and uncomfortable.
Students were unwilling to speak at first, until faculty and staff chimed in to encourage them. The conversation was respectful, and all faculty and staff seemed receptive to students’ suggestions.
President Christopher Capuano, Campus Executive Steve Nelson, Associate VP of Communications Angelo Carfagna, and Provost Gillian Small were among the staff who listened to questions and concerns.
Capuano encouraged students to speak out with any suggestions, saying that there is a larger plan in the works. He did not indicate a timeframe for the release of this plan.
“We are working on a plan to facilitate inclusion and eliminate any bias that exists in our community because any form of bias is unacceptable,” Capuano said.
“It’s going to take more than just me, we have to do that together, so we are compiling a list of suggestions,” he said. “It will form the basis of our plan.”
An alleged disproportionate funding among clubs and organizations for diversity was addressed by a few students.
“We ask for more money every year and we always get the same amount, yet other organizations are throwing these huge events, and we’re unmatched,” said senior nursing major Enviasia Mitchell. “How are we able to reinvent and market ourselves when we’re being limited?”
Mitchell did not give the name of her organization.
Another student recalled her experience as president of another cultural organization, Nubian Ladies.
“I cannot speak on the great things without mentioning what happens behind closed doors,” said Jade Rodriguez, president of Nubian Ladies.
“From room reservations getting lost to a lack of support from staff, to a general lack of enthusiasm when it comes to raising awareness for our events. Minority organizations seem to be the most underfunded, and we do so much on and off campus. We demand every organization to receive the same amount of spotlight,” she said.
When asked about inclusion, a staff member called for a change to be made to the curriculum.
“When I think about inclusion, inclusion at FDU would include having people who look like the students, particularly at the faculty level,” said Jennifer Jones, a new mathematics professor at FDU.
“The coursework also has to explicitly address diversity and race, there should be no gaslighting around any of it.”
When asked for the ratio of African-American faculty to students, Provost Gillian Small said the number was a low one.
Capuano also mentioned that we are a Hispanic-serving university.
“While we don’t have the exact number, we do have about 35 faculty of color, most of whom are Black and are at the Metropolitan campus,” Capuano said. “This represents 10% of the full-time faculty. We need to do better.”
Another student stated that diversity training for faculty and staff is important and urgent.
Maame Mensah, senior psychology major and president of BSU, said, “There needs to be a diversity inclusion workshop, something that allows staff to have these difficult conversations. A lot of people aren’t aware of the microaggressions that are ingrained in their lifestyles. Training is necessary and important to advance into a progressive future.”
Capuano needs help with the completion of this plan, and asks that any questions, concerns or suggestions be sent to his email, firstname.lastname@example.org.
The most recent diversity forum was June 30, when Capuano promised to have more dialogue with the FDU community about diversity.