If you look at page seven of this week’s issue of The Gatepost, you’ll see a full-page letter to the editor with over 240 signatures taking up the bulk of the page.
Some of those names may be familiar to you – your advisor, a former math professor whose class you took freshman year, your expository writing instructor – while others, you may never have met.
Collectively, the 242 individuals who penned their names to the letter represent the members of the faculty, staff and administration who have pledged to promote an inclusive FSU community that is free of racially charged hate and division.
While members of different campus constituencies signed it, the letter was spearheaded and written by faculty members. Of the 242 individuals who posted their names, 174 were professors, according to English professor Elaine Beilin.
We at The Gatepost appreciate the intent of the letter and find the campus-wide support heartening. We hope students find comfort in the fact that many FSU professors have pledged to live up to the ideals expressed in the letter.
But a pledge alone isn’t enough to quell the fears of students who feel unsafe on this campus. The letter is a tremendous first public step that hopefully will act as a springboard for more faculty-led initiatives.
But what must come next is action.
Given this was primarily a faculty-led initiative, we at The Gatepost would like to offer some steps faculty members can implement to, as the letter puts it, “promote a campus climate where diversity flourishes strongly and safely.”
As educators, professors have made it their life’s work to inform and educate the students who attend their classes every semester.
Students go to college to learn and expand their worldview of different cultures and perspectives. But the heinous and targeted attacks that occurred last semester have caused many students to feel unsafe and isolated, especially students of color.
Now is the time for educators to celebrate diversity, and create lesson plans that highlight the important work being done by individuals of various backgrounds.
While many professors have already started to incorporate more cultural representation into their curriculum, it’s paramount more faculty follow suit.
Promoting discussions concerning diversity can be done “strongly and safely” in a climate familiar to both students and professors – the classroom.
Outside the classroom, there have been a number of events during the academic year that have focused on diversity and inclusion. They have almost always been poorly attended. For example, there were only five students – two of whom were Gatepost staff members – at last semester’s Unity Workshop.
One of the biggest problems with the workshop was that there seemed to be little student involvement in the planning process. In the coming months, faculty members are hosting an anti-racism town hall meeting for students. We urge they work with students early on in the planning process so the event is a success. We hope the faculty members who guide the discussion give thought as to how to facilitate an honest dialogue.
Also, professors must keep in mind that when discussions concerning race take place, often, people of color are spotlighted. It is not one person’s job to represent a whole group and, while intentions may be innocent, spotlighting people of color during a discussion about race is hurtful and reductive.
The 242 signatures serve as a reminder to students that the faculty, administrators and staff members are committing themselves to positive change.
This letter is a promise to students – we hope they keep it.