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January 21 marked the anniversary of Emmanuel College’s campus-wide Listening Forum, an innovation by Administration to hear the grievances of students regarding the mistreatment and under-representation of students of color.
The event, open to all students, staff, and faculty, was held in the campus auditorium and featured opening addresses by President Sister Janet Eisner and Director of Multicultural Programs Jeffrey Smith, Jr.
Smith announced that students who wished to speak would be limited to 90 seconds, however this precaution went unneeded.
After a prolonged silence, several staff members urged students to discuss the recent changes to Emmanuel College policy following the Black Student Union’s dialogue with President Eisner.
Laurie Boyd ’16 responded by reading a quote from Beverly Daniel Tatum’s book, “Why are all the black kids sitting together in the cafeteria?” :
“Talking about racism is an essential part of facing racism and changing it. But it is not the only part. I am painfully aware that people of color have been talking about racism for a long time. Many people of color are tired of talking, frustrated that talk has not lead to enough constructive action or meaningful social change. But in my own work, I have seen the effectiveness of talking about racism and teaching others to do the same.”
Boyd continued in her own words, stating that she was proud to see the efforts Emmanuel was taking to continue providing a Listening Forum to students. She urged the group to remember that diversity is not limited to race and may manifest in ways such as socioeconomic status or sexual orientation.
Kristina Ofoedu ’17 spoke to the new diversity and inclusivity statements present in all Emmanuel College course syllabi. She elaborated, “the statement reminds everyone to focus on the learning.”
Sarah Higgins ’16 discussed her experience growing up as the only person of color in her primary and secondary school classes. She said that at Emmanuel she felt her experience was appreciated and that the administration’s willingness to listen was part of her decision stay at Emmanuel.
“Coming from Brockton to Emmanuel, I’ve used my blackness as a motivation,” stated Shumon Jenkins ’18. Jenkins said that while he was proud of the discussions taking place on campus, he continues to want to know more and do more to promote diversity on campus.
President of the Black Student Union, Ashley Jeannot ’17, elaborated on Jenkins’ experience, reminding the group that the topics being discussed were not merely academic. Students such as herself have the experience of feeling as if they belong to two radically different worlds on a daily basis.
Devon Wright is a staff writer for The Hub. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photo credits: Kayla Lantos ’17. Kayla is a staff writer for the The Hub. She can be contacted at email@example.com.