Students, faculty discuss experiences, possible solutions to discrimination at forum

At the forum in Brooks College House, students, faculty, and others in attendance shared their experiences and views on discrimination at F&M.

At the forum in Brooks College House, students, faculty, and others in attendance shared their experiences and views on discrimination at F&M.

By Steven Viera || Senior Editor

As the latest installment in the ongoing F&M Forums series, the Diplomatic Congress (DipCon) hosted an open discussion in Brooks College House last Tuesday, February 2 during the Uncommon Hour entitled, “Discrimination on Campus: How, Who, What, and Why?”

“With all the issues going on on-campus, it felt right to have a discussion about discrimination to try to bring more awareness to the topic and educate those who may not be aware of what is going on on-campus,” said Kaitlin Oliver ’16, chair of DipCon’s Diversity Council. Oliver, along with Charley Hagist ’18, treasurer of DipCon, co-hosted the forum.

As attendees entered and clamored to find a place to sit or stand, Emily Hawk ’16, president of Brooks College House, offered a welcome and introduced both Oliver and Hagist.

In a departure from the normal format of F&M Forums, Oliver and Hagist structured the event into two halves in order to give equal time to issues in the first half and solutions in the latter. Students spoke up and shared experiences of discrimination and described the intricacies of the forms of discrimination on campus—from self-segregation in eating spaces, assuming adherence to the gender binary, nightlife, and more. Faculty and staff, who were also in attendance, offered their perspectives as well.

“We decided to have faculty included into our discussion so students do not feel like they are being talked at in a lecture,” Oliver said. “By integrating faculty, everyone is being included and people may feel more comfortable sharing.”

When proposing solutions, many students emphasized the need for individuals to bring change to their friends and to translate thoughts and speech into substantive actions. Attendees also stressed the role of Greek Life in combatting discrimination, with a number of suggestions focusing on potential partnerships between fraternities and sororities and other on-campus organizations; however, many attendees commented positively on the number of Greeks in
attendance.

Throughout the course of the past year, inclusivity has become a prevalent topic of conversation at F&M, and several campus-wide lectures and discussions—including some hosted by Dan Porterfield, president of the College—have addressed this issue.

“I feel that the forum fits into the larger discourse of inclusivity because many other forms of discrimination were brought up, like gender, sexuality, and mental illness, which now some students are becoming more aware of,” Oliver said. “I believe that being aware is the first step in trying to implement change, and I hope students make changes in trying to make our community more inclusive on campus.”

In addition, Oliver explained that the Diversity Council will be hosting discussions once a month on topics that closely relate to those brought up at the forum, which she hopes will serve as a safe space for people to learn about issues of race, gender, sexuality, mental illness,
and more.

“I was happy with the outcome [of the forum] because a different group of students attended and more people spoke, which was great!” Oliver said. “I hope the students and attendees became more aware of the larger problem of things going on within our campus. Also, for those who did not know there was an issue going on, I hope they are now more aware of the problems going on and make a difference to make people feel more included on campus.”

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

print

Leave a Reply