Last summer, Chanis Brown, freshman open options major in the school of music, walked by the library construction site on campus everyday and noticed the sign that features an artist’s rendition of the new library failed to include any minority students.
Last July, Brown brought the problem to the attention of a guest speaker in her Race, Class and Gender course taught by Professor Jan Nielsen. The guest speaker was Dr. Jay Howard, director of Equity and Diversity.
After three weeks and considering all options, Howard worked with the office of Campus Planning and the sign was re-rendered to include several minority students.
After being contacted by Howard, project Manager/Architect Joan Fasulo-Harris asked the original artist to make adjustments to the sign that would include minorities.
The solution was to recreate a graphic that would fit within the frame and use adhesive to put two minority students in the front of the library, where the space had previously been empty.
Howard said the other options the College could have taken included tearing down the sign completely or simply doing nothing.According to Fasulo-Harris, the total cost of the chosen solution was approximately $800.
Katrina Wong, president of the Asian American Association at the College was surprised by the incident.
“I would be disappointed at the College if I saw the sign over the summer, since the school stressed a lot on inclusion and diversity on campus, yet they would allow such a sign to be posted,” she said. It is common sense to include everyone in signs that represent the entire campus.”
However, Wong did give the College some credit, saying, “The College did listen to the students’ responses and changed the sign to include minorities.”
“In 20 years in industry I’ve seen many incidents like this come up and absolutely nothing ever happens” to fix the problem, Howard said. In this case “my office has done everything we can do to address this issue of inclusion.”
The office of Equity and Diversity is charged with the responsibility of investigating Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) complaints and creating an inclusive environment.
Inclusion, Howard said, “means to make sure that all students and faculty are a part of the fabric of the College community.”
Throughout the summer, Nielsen stayed in touch with her class and updated it on the progress of fixing the sign outside the construction site. “For us, we’re looking at this solution as a win,” Nielsen said.
Nielsen said he believes this incident shows that “average people can affect change when they notice issues of inclusion.” Although she does not think the absence of minorities was malicious, Nielsen notes that people can be educated and avoid oversights such as these in the future.
As far as the College avoiding these incidents in the future, Fasulo-Harris said, “we are going to try to be more conscious, aware and inclusive and may run it by Dr. Howard next time.”
“I think the College made a wise decision when they included minorities on the sign,” Jocelyn Charlon, president of Union Latina, said. “I actually can’t believe that minorities were excluded to begin with.”
Also in the works, Howard’s office is putting together a Delphi Panel to discuss the topic of inclusion. The panel would be comprised of faculty members, staff and students.
Howard said among other topics, the Delphi Panel would be charged with analyzing how the College’s toughening admission standards would affect racial diversity on campus and come up with possible solutions.
The office of Equity and Diversity has also instituted a new program called the Student Organization Inclusion Awareness Program.
According to Howard, this program will allow diverse student organizations on campus to have a weeklong celebration by displaying information about their uniqueness in Brower Student Center. Such student organizations include the Black Student Union, Uni?n Latina, and the Jewish Student Union.