Interim Provost Karen Boroff sent out an email to the University community on Sept. 9 updating students and faculty on Seton Hall’s attempts to address diversity and inclusion initiatives in the months since the initial Concerned 44 protests.
A few of the changes include the hiring of Kelly Harris, Ph.D., who joined Seton Hall as the director of the Africana Studies program, as well as the hiring of a full-time faculty member in the Department of Political Science and Public Administration.
In addition, the Office of Equal Employment Opportunity and Title IX Compliance “has moved from the lower level of Presidents Hall to the first floor of Bayley Hall. The office has updated anti-harassment and Title IX training for employees and students.”
The email went on to inform the community that the “Challenging Racism and Teaching for Inclusion” seminar allowed faculty to reflect on issues regarding diversity and learn how to “develop course materials that focus on racial justice and equality.”
The newly implemented inclusion alliance meant to work with student groups and in University Life courses. Its purpose is to train students in developing support skills like active listening, mirroring responses and conflict resolution.
In addition to changes already made, the email went on to address the next steps that the University plans to take.
One of those plans includes the establishment of a diversity and inclusion committee which will act as a guide for existing initiatives as well as help outline new ones. According to the email, President Nyre “specified that membership on this committee be drawn from a wide swath of the campus community, including students, faculty, clergy, administrators and staff members.” Because of this, the university will plan outreach to student and faculty governance groups as well as “clergy, administrators and staff members.”
The email concluded on the point of the committee by stating its purpose is meant to enhance the “many aspects of diversity and inclusion at Seton Hall by working with campus partners on the broadest possible basis, including the Provost’s Office, Student Government Association, Student Services, and Mission and Ministry.”
“We are looking forward to working with our students – and the entire Seton Hall community – to create this committee and to build upon the many diversity and inclusion initiatives taking place,” Boroff told The Setonian.
“Together, we can continue to address the work before us, building an ever-welcoming environment for great minds, great spirit, and a lot of Pirate pride.”
According to Boroff’s email, the committee will ultimately allow the University to “expand its commitment to diversity and inclusion by staying abreast of emerging ideas, taking advantage of unforeseen opportunities and recommending new initiatives.”
Christian Duran, a senior double majoring in history and Africana studies with a minor in political science and one of the original Concerned 44 organizers, reacted to the diversity and inclusion update email.
Duran said that he did not have much of an opinion on the update other than the fact that it is a part of the Provost’s attempt to “report on apparent progress when it comes to taking on racism at Seton Hall.”
“It was a little discouraging that the role of students in pushing such developments was not emphasized as heavily as the school taking credit for it,” Duran said, “I would have just been more careful about the language and whose agency is represented.”
Speaking on the email’s meaning and the Concerned 44’s list of demands, which was presented to administration in December 2018, Duran noted that “although we have not seen our demands fully embraced by the University’s administration, I think that many who were involved last semester in pushing the demands see such developments as important steps that can give opportunity for the implementation of larger structural reforms that we desire to see from this school.”
According to Duran, “the only demand that has come close to being fully met was the reconstruction of the Office of EEO and Title IX compliance” while the demands for the Latino Studies Department have gone completely unaddressed.
In response to the “Challenging Racism and Teaching for Inclusion” seminar, Duran pointed out a concern that some have regarding it.
Taylor Newkirk, a senior with Psychology major with a minor in Africana Studies also commented on the email.
“Regarding the Diversity and Inclusion update, I am always excited to see the initiatives the school is implementing, but I will always take everything with a grain of salt,” Newkirk said. “I encourage other students to be engaged with these initiatives and discuss their outcomes together so that we as a whole can give genuine feedback.”
Newkirk, who is also the President of the Black Student Union and an At-Large senator of the Student Government Association, commented that she thinks the school is beginning to hear the students.
“We are definitely not moving as quickly as I think we could, but the fact that we are moving at all is exciting so I am staying optimistic,” Newkirk said.
She concluded by saying, “while the University does seem to be making strides to be more inclusive, I still think there are a disconnect and lack of trust between students and faculty and administration. Because of this, it is as if these initiatives are band-aids on a broken leg. These initiatives will be inefficient if there is no foundation of trust.”
Rhania Kamel can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.