Let’s Keep Talking About It: Diversity At Dominican

April 19, 2016

By Melissa Rohman

During a year committed to promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion, three instances of racially motivated vandalism made their mark on Dominican this December, February, and most recently April. No one has come forward this year for racial bigotry and defacing university property.

On April 1, a student found racially motivated graffiti scrawled in a female bathroom stall on the third floor of Crown stating, “We cannot move on when you still cling to the past, African Americans. Slavery ended.”

In response, President Donna Carroll immediately sent an email to all Dominican students, faculty, and staff stating, “Please know that such a cowardly act only strengthens my resolve to affirm those whose lives are diminished by such attacks and to work even harder to eliminate racial bigotry at Dominican.”

After the graffiti was found and removed by maintenance that day, Carroll encouraged faculty to talk about the incident in their classes.

President of Dominican’s Black Student Union Jasimine Watson stands by Carroll’s feelings regarding the graffiti found April 1 and determination to eliminate racial bigotry on campus. However, Dominican’s Student Government Association President Will Schuneman declined to comment.  

Yet, as Dominican steps up its efforts to fight racism and become more inclusive, the incidents of racist graffiti and vandalism around campus have increased over the years. According to university records, in 2012 someone drew a swastika on a white board outside a student’s dorm. In April 2013, one white student yelled the n-word at an African-American student who was walking outside Murray Hall it. In April 2014, a Swastika was drawn on the Coughlin elevator.

Director of buildings and grounds Dan Bulow and manager of public safety John Tsouchlos are in charge of investigating, documenting and removing any vandalism found on university property. Both Bulow and Tsouchlos felt that the most recent graffiti finding was cowardly and reflect poorly on the Dominican community.

So, if this is the third time that racially motivated vandalism has been found on campus during a year so invested in promoting diversity and inclusion, has Dominican really made progress with diversity, equity, and inclusion of all students, faculty, and staff?

This year, a Chief Diversity Officer was hired and the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion was opened. A “Silence No More” protest was held in November on campus to speak out against micro-aggressions against, specifically, the African American student population at Dominican.

This summer, a faculty academy on diversity and inclusive teaching will be held to educate faculty on diversity and inclusion programming. Campus staff will also be developing diversity and inclusion programming. Lastly, the President’s Advisory Council on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion is talking also about short term and long-term strategies for the occurrence of racial bigotry in the future.

“So has there been progress? Yes, of course. But, there will always be resistance to change. For substantial progress, people need to be willing to have a real conversation and must be willing to listen,” said Diversity Advocate senior Justin Wheeler.

However, will checklist planning and programming to promote diversity be enough to lessen and hopefully rid of racism at Dominican? Maybe. Perhaps asking for a checklist of solutions to solve racism isn’t what we should truly be asking for.

“We have to respond to all these incidents of bias, but I think we need to do it in such a way that we can distinguish what kind of biases they are, provide care to the people who are being targeted and create a campus climate where we learn to live together inclusively,” said Chief Diversity Officer Sheila Radford-Hill. “And that’s something we have to learn.”

Radford-Hill proposes that the campus completes a campus climate survey, which hasn’t been done in the last decade. Without a campus climate survey, she believes Dominican is not fully equipped to handle racial bias and make progress with diversity.

“I think that we are just not equipped to deal with issues of bias on campus…we have to understand the problem and we need to be equipped as a community to reduce bias on our campus,” Radford-Hill said.

She also explains while those who are tired about having to continually talk about diversity, equity, and inclusion may feel compelled to stop talking all together, the fact is it will be tiring, but it’s worth continuing to talk about.

“I recognize that racism is a true paradox. There’s no really good solution because any solution that concerns the race problem is going to be bad for somebody, or at least they perceive that as being the case,” said Radford-Hill. “But it’s a paradox that if we do not dialogue about it, not only are out race relations in peril but I think our whole democracy is in peril. Yes, we’re going to get tired and yes it’s unfair, and when a person is tired we need a moment.”