A Voice at the Table Features

Affirmation over tolerance: taking things a step farther.

Recently, our school participated in another round of Diversity Week. Student organizations and departments were tabling, having general assembly meetings and working hard to push the image of a diverse campus. While I, a black woman, am excited to see a week dedicated to being vocal about differences in identities versus pushing silent assimilation, I find myself once again kind of let down. I’m happy that we’re dedicating a week to highlight cultures that aren’t white, but diversity is more than race. I had hoped that organizations would have discussions about what it’s like for POC (people of color) to navigate a PWI (predominately white institution) and have to face varying levels of oppression within our classes and workspace here. I had hoped to see financial aid to talk about financial literacy and its relation to POC. I especially hoped to experience a Diversity Week that would actively engage with trans and queer people on our campus because these identities are included in diversity too. Engagement with OSSD, SAGA (Sexuality And Gender Alliance) and the Center for Trans and Queer Advocacy and Deaf Studies, awareness so many would have allowed for more groups of people on campus to feel like a space for our voice has finally been created. Please, don’t get me wrong, the events that took place were great, and conversations that usually may not happen did during that week. However, that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t expect more from the institution that we pay thousands of dollars to every year, the same institution that loves bragging about the diverse population they have on campus.

Diversity says there’s some differences, inclusion says that all differences are adequately and fully accommodated without hesitation.

It would be ignorant of me to offer up my problems without solutions or to raise the bar without explaining what the intended goal is. Therefore, I offer a few suggestions and ideas that I’ve gathered from some of my friends for a more conducive Diversity Week in 2020. First, engage with as many offices as possible that directly engage with the student body. Second, create workshops with offices like OSSD to bring more awareness to students that aren’t able-bodied and increase their access to our campus that is constantly under construction. There could also be workshops that teach people with disabilities how to navigate society post-grad in terms of resources and careers, . so that they’re prepared like as much as any new college graduates can be. Collaborations with SAGA to talk about safe spaces for trans and queer people, conversations about the coming out process, how to exist in career fields that are largely dominated by me, and other workshops and spaces for trans and queer people to safely and comfortably exist. This campus has had town halls for various reasons, so a town hall that is grounded in a call to action for people with varying identities to work hard to ensure our campus is a safe space for all marginalized people, not just POC, would be beneficial to create an energy for change that is severely needed on our campus.

I’d like to see Diversity Week affirming varying identities and giving us ample space and time for our voices…..

Step one was to make the space and time, which Diversity Week has already done. Step two is to change what diversity means for us and allow space for all kinds of people to comfortably co-exist. Step three is to transition from diversity to inclusion. Diversity says there’s some differences, inclusion says that all differences are adequately and fully accommodated without hesitation. I’d like to see Diversity Week affirming varying identities and giving us ample space and time for our voices without charging us to do all the labor of educating oppressors on our oppression. A space where we can exist without hesitation and negotiation. Not mere campus tolerance of the different identities present, but instead, a space of acceptance, affirmation and love.

So here’s to a more inclusive, active and affirming Diversity Week 2020!

Nahje Royster is a fourth-year student majoring in women’s and gender studies and minoring in African American studies. NR852569@wcupa.edu

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