Porterfield discusses improving diversity, inclusivity within F&M community

By Steven Viera || Senior Editor

On the first day of the new semester—January 12, 2016—approximately 500 F&M students, faculty, and staff gathered in Mayser Gymnasium during the Uncommon Hour to hear Dan Porterfield, President of the College, deliver an address on efforts toward greater diversity and inclusivity on campus.

After a brief introduction from Raheem Charles ’19, Porterfield took to the podium.

“As the new semester starts, I thought it would be helpful to provide my thoughts formally on the single garment of destiny that we are working to weave at Franklin & Marshall College,” he said. “Much good has happened since November. I think there’s a value in my offering a perspective today to frame the work ahead of us—why it matters, which is where I’ll start, and then I’ll reflect on where we are and where we can go.”

Porterfield shared some of his life experiences in which diversity made a positive impact and the need to encourage further diversity and appreciation of it on campus. He also listed a number of efforts already in place to empower students of all backgrounds, including F&M College Prep, F&M’s continued participation with POSSE, the work of Donnell Butler’95, senior associate dean of the College, and more.

However, despite these initiatives, Porterfield noted that there is still more to be done.

“We must keep going with the logical next stage of work and create more inclusivity,” he said. “Justice demands it, our student body deserves it, we can do it, our success will improve the school, and the nation will notice.”

He outlined three major points to bring the F&M community closer together and foster diversity and inclusivity: enhancing inclusiveness, integration, and community in co-curricular programs; promoting diversity and inclusiveness in academic programs; and enhancing campus policies, resources, and procedures.

So far, the College has selected nine student leaders to assist with Promoting House Diversity (PHD) in addition to the efforts of College House governments to increase diversity-oriented programs. Additionally, the College has selected and is in the process of training 14 Diversity Change Agents (DCAs) to hold educational workshops and encourage conversations about diversity and inclusivity for F&M’s student organizations.

At the faculty level, Joel Martin, provost of the College, recently formed the Provost’s Advisory Council on Faculty Diversity and Inclusion to explore how F&M can recruit a more diverse faculty. Also, professors will have the opportunity to attend workshops in an effort to foster conversations on diversity and inclusivity inside classrooms.

Furthermore, Porterfield has asked Margaret Hazlett, dean of the College, and Pierce Buller, general council, to review the College Life Manual and examine whether changes are necessary, in addition to other reevaluations of college policy.

“This is a strong, coherent, and well-aligned action agenda for the spring semester,” Porterfield said. “Of course, this is one act of a multi-year play and not the whole production. The door is wide open for additional steps and projects.”

Much of Porterfield’s speech referred to conversations on race and inclusivity stretching back to the Fall 2015 semester, including an open forum co-hosted by Porterfield and Donnell Bailey ’17, president of the Diplomatic Congress, last November.

He ended this speech with a call to action.

“It’s going to take our best minds to move forward,” Porterfield said. “It will test us. We have to be optimistic and determined. Cynicism is available but it’s not a viable option. Change may take a long time, but surely, the best tool we have is education and the best form of education is the liberal arts. We are all called to create that destiny and you who are young will someday be its leaders—in work and worlds we hope to ready you for, well beyond the borders of this campus.”

Senior Steven Viera is the Senior Editor. His email is sviera@fandm.edu.

UPDATE: A previous version of this article incorrectly referred to Donnell Butler ’95, senior associate dean of the College, as Donnell Bailey ’17, the president of the Diplomatic Congress. The College Reporter apologizes for the mistake.

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