FSU holds unity workshop

(FSU community members participated in group discussions during the Unity Workshop. Photo by Madison Rosbach.)

The University hosted a Unity Workshop for FSU community members on Nov. 13 in response to the recent hate crimes on campus.

The workshop was intended to “empower” the community and start conversations about solutions, said Millie González, interim chief officer of diversity, inclusion and community engagement. 

González sent out emails to the entire campus community containing a link to register for the workshop and received 47 responses. “Disturbingly,” of those responses, 21 were anonymous replies that were racist and anti-Semitic, said González. Those responses have been sent to FSUPD for investigation.

Approximately 55 people attended the workshop. Of the attendees, five were students, including two Gatepost staff members covering the event.

At the meeting, González introduced Barbara Holland, founder and CEO of BreakThrough Partners, a consulting firm focused on inclusion, diversity and cultural competence. Holland will be providing trainings for the campus community and offering recommendations for improving campus culture around diversity and inclusion.

Dan Levinson from the Anti-Defamation League, a civil rights organization that fights anti-Semitism and other forms of hate, also introduced himself at the event.

He said, “From everything I’ve seen, it certainly seems like what your school and what your community is doing is amazing. I wish, frankly, that every college community and every university where there was an incident could respond like this.”

González explained some actions already being taken on campus, including a grant application submitted by Academic Affairs to make curricular changes to 10 courses for spring 2018. The changes will focus on adding more elements of diversity and global learning.

After the introductions, the workshop broke into 12 different groups.

Each group had a staff member or administrator who facilitated a conversation about different actions that could be taken on campus in response to the hate crimes. The topics included hosting intercultural training, instituting a neighborhood watch and adding cameras in the residence halls and incorporating diversity practices when hiring.    

Linda Vaden-Goad, vice president for academic affairs, led a discussion about what the community would like new faculty to know coming in. Some professors suggested offering incentives for faculty and staff to attend diversity workshops.

Jon Huibregtse, a history professor, recalled the success of paid advising workshops offered to new faculty and suggested that format could be used as a model for diversity workshops. The faculty members had the option to attend the workshop and would receive a $200 stipend if they did.

Glenn Cochran, director of Residence Life, helped lead a discussion about what could be done in residence halls.

One student recommended having a tip box by the elevators or in the lobbies for residents to write down anonymous tips that they think could be helpful, but may not think are serious enough to warrant contacting the anonymous FSUPD tip line.

González said she believed the workshop went very well.

“It was clear that those who attended were interested in sharing ideas and listening to their colleagues,” she added.

“At the meeting, some suggested opportunities for faculty, staff and students to connect and exchange stories. … One person had a novel suggestion in which we plant a ‘Unity Tree’ as a symbol of our commitment to unite the campus against hate and intolerance,” she said.

González said she will be emailing out a summary of what was discussed at the meeting to the campus community.

She added, “I am excited about the wonderful possibilities and am eager to support a variety of activities on campus.”

1 Comment on FSU holds unity workshop

  1. The turnout by students, given the call to action by various clubs and organizations on campus raises serious questions about the campus culture. This workshop was in direct response to a call to action raised by students, who looked to the administration for solutions that would start to address bias incidents on campus. A walkout and protest in contrast garnered support by what seemed like a few hundred students, aggressively demanding action, yet a Unity workshop generated a turnout of 5 students of the 4000+? So where’s the disconnect? Is it the fact that the message went out via email? Is it that the event required “registration”? Or, is it simply more en vogue to mimic a 1960’s student rally or black nationalist movement protest to demand action vs. a structured, solutions based approach to address the issue as a first step in moving the campus forward? Either way, the attendance numbers raises serious questions about the effectiveness of campus communications and/or student engagement.

    Disclaimer: Sadly I couldn’t attend due to childcare responsibilities for which I’ve exhausted all additional coverage in order to participate in other important panels and committees on campus that have occurred on days that are outside of my normal availability. I have doubts that 3999+ other students had the same scheduling conflict, so what can we do differently as a community to get students to take part in administration-initiated events? I think student involvement is a primary issue that is holding Framingham State University back from improving its school spirit and overall connectedness to the campus and certainly those things affect retention and graduation rates. Lack of student involvement isn’t limited to commuters but also residents who routinely abandon the campus over the weekends leaving little opportunity for social interactions and stronger peer bonds to develop. I hope that as the school puts more time and resources into addressing diversity trainings and other important workshops that more innovative methods of communication are used to appeal to students to take action and attend. The often used methods of Email , flyers and posters seem to have lost some of its effectiveness. It sounds like the event was still a success despite student turnout and 55 more people on the FSUnity Train is certainly a good thing.

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