Difficult but necessary conversations

Marisa Nelson

Panelists at the July 2 student town hall meeting addressed questions and discussions with Weber State students about race, inclusion diversity and issues that people of color face on a daily basis.

The race relations town hall featured a panel of faculty/staff members of diversity and people of color from WSU. The panel was comprised of University President Brad Mortensen as well as Tia Nero, Adrienne Andrews, Heather Cimino, Stephanie Speicher, Ravi Krovi, Ken Johnson, Yimin Wang, Enrique Romo, Jonathan Marshall, Gregory Noel and Michiko Nakashima-Lizarazo.

The meeting began with discussion on how students can get involved in clubs and organizations that can help them feel more included and involved.

Heather Cimino, coordinator of clubs and organizations, talked about how students can start their own club if one does not exist that fits your needs and how to join preexisting clubs. Mortensen added that this is great way to have a core group of supporters and peers on campus.

Throughout the discussion, many students asked questions about classes and curriculum. One student asked how teaching social justice issues would affect the science and mathematics curriculum specifically.

Chief Diversity Officer Adrienne Andrews stated that social justice doesn’t “minimize or marginalize the content of the course, it’s to think about it in practical ways and in terms of application.”

She and Provost Ravi Krovi added that adding diversity to courses helps students consider different questions and be more prepared outside of the classroom.

Students also asked the panel about how the university plans to be more diverse, specifically addressing racism on campus.

Andrews mentioned that the diversity general education requirement introduces some concepts, and the university is looking directly at courses to see if they are doing well. Mortensen also shared that having these types of meetings and important conversations helps students voices to be heard.

Gregory Noel, who is a new faculty member with a marriage and family therapy background, offered insights on what everyone can do to work on personal biases. He noted that everyone has to work against inherent racism; he and Assistant Professor of Teacher Education Stephanie Speicher also noted that this is a never-ending process.

Noel and Speicher said it takes practice and understanding to eliminate bias. Students can be proactive to seek out opportunities that will help them understand their privilege and concerns of students of color at WSU.

Students were encouraged to speak up, if they were comfortable, and to attend events and classes on campus that deal with racism and diversity. The panelists wanted struggling students to personally come speak to them outside of the public panel.