Seton Hall’s Black Caucus, which is comprised of the 14 African Cultural Organizations on campus, has started a petition to express their discontent with the Talent of Inclusion Initiative launched earlier this semester. The petition also calls for more “hands-on” initiatives regarding inclusion at SHU.
As previously reported by The Setonian, the Talent of Inclusion Initiative calls on Seton Hall’s students to reward each other with “talents,” or coins for doing good deeds. Several students commented in an earlier article for The Setonian saying that they did not support this initiative and felt that it didn’t take the issue of racial bias and inclusion at Seton Hall seriously. On Sept. 11, members of the Black Caucus met with Dr. Karen Boroff, Seton Hall’s interim provost, to explain why they did not support the Talent of Inclusion Initiative and “requested on behalf of (primarily) students of color that this initiative be terminated,” according to Taylor Newkirk, a junior psychology major and president of the Black Student Union.
“After an hour and 15 minutes of speaking with the Provost, the student leaders did not feel as if we were truly listened to and the Provost decided to continue the Talent of Inclusion Initiative,” Newkirk said. Because of this, the petition was created to show the administration that there are more than just a few students who are discontent with this initiative, Newkirk explained.
“During the discussion, we told Dr. Boroff that the eight students she spoke to represented at least 300 students but because 10 members of the SHU community approached her with positive feedback, she did not listen to the eight students who spoke on behalf of at least 300,” she said. “If she will not listen to eight voices, maybe she will listen to the 300+ signatures of students who do not agree with her initiative.”
Newkirk then said that by the time the petition reaches the provost, the Black Caucus is hoping that Dr. Boroff will decide to eliminate the Talent of Inclusion Initiative and focus on other initiatives that may be more beneficial to promoting inclusion at Seton Hall.
“If the project is not eliminated, this will prove to students that we are not being listened to, contrary to what we are told, and hopefully students will see that now more than ever, we have the opportunity to become a united front and speak up for what is right for us as a whole,” Newkirk said.
Boroff said that she was not aware of the petition but stressed that the Talent of Inclusion Initiative has always been voluntary.
“Whether students wish to show their appreciation for the way another member of our community (a staff member, an administrator, a faculty member, a student, contract personnel on our campuses, and the like) has shown them an act of kindness, using either a thank-you or extending a talent, that is up to the giving student,” Boroff said.
When asked whether she would consider eliminating the initiative, she said, “If a person has a talent, the decision to recognize the act of kindness with a thank you or by extending a talent to someone else has always been in the hands of the giver and not me.”
Ryan Johnson, a junior marketing and management major who signed the petition shared why he signed.
“Personally, I think the idea of rewarding people for inclusive behavior sounds decent on paper; however, when put into action at a college campus, it misses the mark,” Johnson said. “I just want something about it to change soon. This initiative is so off-putting from the original list of initiatives that Student Services sent out. I understand that a lot of money went into the creation and distribution of the coins, however, I believe that going forward, there needs to be a more strict goal or purpose behind giving them away.”
Johnson then shared what he thinks Seton Hall could do to transform the initiative.
“Maybe, Student Services could reward clubs or organizations that put on programming to educate others on diversity, inclusion, or racial discussions,” he said. “It would be interesting to see the University support those organizations soon in a way that would encourage students and faculty of all races to come out and support diverse programming.”
The petition, which states that those who sign believe that the initiative is “neither a proper, professional, nor ethical response to the students’ discontent with the campus climate,” has 380 signatures as of Sept. 19. Their goal is 500.
Isabel Soisson can be reached at email@example.com.