FSU launches new diversity initiatives

[Allie Gath]

By Sarah Sousa

Staff Writer

As a campus focused on diversity, FSU has been expanding current diversity initiatives as well as implementing new ones, according to Sean Huddleston, chief officer of diversity, inclusion and community engagement.

He said FSU’s diversity initiatives have expanded exponentially over the past few years. 

Huddleston said the University is starting a vendor diversity inclusion initiative led by the business office. Vendors within the area from underserved and underrepresented communities, such as, “Woman-owned, veteran-owned, disabled-owned businesses,” will be sought out for contracts to sell goods and services to the University.

He said it is a way to help those who have been “historically disadvantaged.”

A new recognition award called the Beacon Award will be presented to faculty or staff members who “help to advance inclusive excellence,” he said. This is a monthly award where a faculty or staff member is nominated and the recipient is surprised with the award.

The goal of the award is not only to recognize those who are known for promoting diversity and inclusion, but to recognize the “unsung heroes,” said Huddleston.

He said it is important to recognize those who are the face of the University as well as those who are more behind-the-scenes.

A new program called The Pathways Internship Program is in the works, said Huddleston.

According to Framingham.edu, the program provides internship opportunities through local businesses for students who do not meet the GPA requirements of the CHOICE program.

Huddleston said the program is open to any student with a minimum 2.25 GPA, but is especially welcoming to underrepresented students such as students of color, first-generation students, and low-income students.

He said, a Hillel group for Jewish students will be started this year.

As a part of the Faculty Inclusive Excellence Institute, Widening the Circle is in its third year.

According to Framingham.edu, Widening the Circle is a series of workshops that “assists with advancing Inclusive Excellence,” by incorporating themes of diversity and inclusion in all aspects of the classroom such as curriculum design and in-class discussion.

It is geared toward helping faculty members “make sure diversity is infused into the curriculum,” said Huddleston.

Additionally, FSU recently instituted a preferred-name policy which allows students a safe environment where their preferred names will appear on classroom rosters and student IDs. 

Also, Huddleston said the number of gender-neutral bathrooms increased last year.

Huddleston said something not often associated with FSU’s diversity initiatives is the MetroWest College Planning Center, which is a partnership between MassBay Community College and FSU.

Huddleston said, the MetroWest College Planning Center’s 100 Males to College Initiative involves 100 low-income or minority males from Keefe Technical High School and Framingham High School in their sophomore or junior years. These students are guided through the process of transitioning to higher education after high school ends. The goal is for these young men to attend either MassBay Community College or Framingham State and get involved with Brother to Brother (B2B).

Huddleston emphasized the importance of student-led activities, such as B2B and M.I.S.S. (Motivation. Intersectionality. Solidarity. Sisterhood). 

Students need to be involved in advancing diversity initiatives because “students have great ideas,” said Huddleston.

He said the FSU community will continue to celebrate the seven heritage months throughout the course of the school year.

Huddleston noted the importance of collaborating with all divisions of the University to promote diversity and inclusion. 

The marketing program promotes diversity by using photographs of FSU students in advertising to demonstrate the diversity of the campus as opposed to the stock photos other universities may use, he said.

“We’re not talking the talk. This is who we actually are,” said Huddleston.

He said, “I’m just really excited and feel very honored to work at a university where the diversity and inclusion doesn’t just exist in my office and it doesn’t just exist in our division. … Our job is to not own it, but is to franchise it so everybody has the opportunity to own it.”

Diversity and inclusion has not just been “embraced,” but has been “prioritized,” said Huddleston.

Chon’tel Washington, director of the Center for Inclusive Excellence (CIE), said her main goal is “to connect more students to the center and the work that we’re doing.”

Washington said the College Planning Center and the CIE “work closely together” to advance diversity.  She hopes to promote the center and “the different events that are coming out of it.”

Senior Hannah Blanco said, “I feel like diversity is well-recognized. … I feel like there is an immense number of events that can attract different groups of people.”

Washington added it is important that students are actively involved to learn about each other and from each other, which will create a more welcoming and understanding community.

There are student-led clubs that are continuing to grow, such as B2B and M.I.S.S. 

Also, a latino student club called Latinos Unidos “N” Acion has been formed.

Sophomore Katie Brewer said, “There are a bunch of different clubs and classes that promote diversity. The clubs, classes and guest speakers are diversified.”

Washington added, the CIE runs Community Conversations. Discussions about sex-trafficking and cultural appropriation in Halloween costumes are designed to promote diversity and inclusion.

She said the purpose is “bringing people to have conversations on different topics that are of importance within our community.” 

Senior Olivia DiFranco said, “The CIE, I think, is doing its best to include individuals from every aspect of life and every walk of life.”

Washington said she hopes to bring everyone together across the campus, including students and faculty, and wants to “get the word out there about the CIE.”

The CIE’s move to O’Connor Hall will hopefully be beneficial because of its central location on State Street, said Washington. 

Washington hopes to promote the move by bringing students and faculty together to decorate the new center and to “get more students in the door,” she said.

“I am definitely open to meeting everyone on campus. I want to meet you. I want you to come in.  I want you to have your opinions and share and tell people about yourself and learn from other people as well,” said Washington.

She said, “This is definitely not a place for one type of student. We want the community to come together here.”

Junior Jackson Stevens, an intern at the CIE, said FSU is “promoting an environment for learning and accepting one another’s differences.”

Stevens said, however, that most of the same students are showing up at events, but “when we see a new face, I get excited because this campus is promoting inclusion so much.  When a new face comes in, it shows our work is effective.”

He said it is important students recognize “it’s not just a space for minority students.”

Junior Laura Brathwaite said, “I think the University does a pretty god job with inclusiveness, but it’s pretty disheartening to hear about ‘white power’ and swastikas being written on the bathroom walls and in incidents like that, we’re told they’re investigating, but we never really hear anything after that.”

Junior Christine Connolly said, “Honestly, I think Framingham can do a better job with inclusion. A majority of people on this campus are white. When I sit in my classes, it’s always a sea of white faces with the occasional person of color. It makes me feel out of place. Better yet, uncomfortable. Getting emails about graffiti on the walls that supports racism is really upsetting. 

She added, “With the little bit of diversity that this campus has, the only place that I feel a sense of inclusion is the Center for Inclusive Excellence. That’s a safe place. I know when I go there that I won’t be judged for who I am and what I look like.”