Building a Welcoming Community
Keene State College for several years has invested in creating a community where everyone feels welcomed, safe and respected. Along the way we have communicated our vision, strategy and actions, but recognize that our words may not have been heard by those who need them most.
For clarity, below is timeline of specific work across the college to improve our culture and to assure we provide a safe, welcoming, student-centered community.
A community-wide Town Hall discussion was held to recommit to our values, missions and goals to create a community rooted in civility, respect and equity.
Keene State College earned FIRE’s coveted “green light” rating – the highest award for colleges committed to protecting student free speech.
President Treadwell and AVP Morris issued a detailed action plan in response to students who submitted a petition requesting that the college enact school-wide anti-racism policies.
Athletic Director Phil Racicot with the support of AVP Morris launched an initiative “Maximizing Potential Through Diversity” for all student-athletes.
AVP Morris provided an update on progress toward action items in response to the student petition in the weekly campus update in June 2020.
Campus Book Discussions facilitated around the following books: Ibram X. Kend, How to be an Antiracist; Layla Saad, Me and White Supremacy; Angie Thomas, The Hate U give; and Paulo Freire, Pedagogy of the Oppressed: 50th Anniversary Edition
Several important steps were taken at the start of the 2020-2021 academic year, many in direct response to the student petition including:
- Bias reporting form launched
- Faculty equity and inclusion development series offered
- AVP Morris attended faculty meetings to update on actions from student petition
- Residential Life Staff training offered in de-escalating difficult in-person situations
- Training offered in de-escalating difficult in-person situations
- Campus Safety workshop held to review Title IX and Discriminatory Harassment
- AVP Morris shared updates to equity and diversity programming and highlighted ways for students and faculty to be involved
- Discussions about race and other forms of diversity included with semester long New Student Orientation and in First Year Seminars
The College announced the appointment of Jeffrey Maher to the newly established position of Program Manager for Title IX, Bias and Discriminatory Harassment. Reporting directly to the President, the Mr. Maher is responsible for compliance, complaint resolution, policy development, and training across all aspects of Title IX, sexual misconduct, discrimination, discriminatory harassment, and bias relating to all KSC students, faculty, employees, and other members of the KSC community. The College also announced substantial new investment of resources in Equity and Diversity programming and support, including the newly created position of Equity Education and Community Support Director.
- Ongoing student group conversations, including Courageous Conversations, to discuss difference, and perspective-taking.
- Implementing a new grant for community-building, and racial justice initiatives.
- Hosting Out & About group gatherings for LGBTQ+ students, staff and faculty.
- Launching a series of interactive mini-workshops on LGBTQ+ identity and experience, called Safe Space sessions.
- Hosting a discussion with Loretta Ross, award-winning expert on racism and racial justice, women’s rights, and human rights about creating a “Calling in” culture.
- Starting a series of book discussions about Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents.
- Based on the request of our community, series of workshops for faculty and staff, including:
- What Does It Mean to Be an Anti-Racist Organization? Presented by Associate Vice President for Institutional Equity and Diversity
- Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA): Better Serving Our Students. Presented by Dean of Students and Disability Services
- What Do We Mean When We Say….Presented by Associate Vice President for Institutional Equity and Diversity
- Language Matters: LGBTQ+ Vocabulary. Presented by Coordinator of LGBTQ Student Support.
- Difficult Conversations in the Classroom. Presented by psychology faculty and adjunct faculty member and clergy person.
- Human Resources made commitment to continue to provide resources on topics related to equity and student support.
- Three community book discussions held to explore The Sum of Us: How Racism Costs Everyone and How We can Prosper Together, by Heather McGhee.
- Faculty and staff meeting held to discuss actions we can take as a College to show solidarity with people of Asian descent on campus, throughout the United States and globally.
- Faculty and staff workshop: De-escalation: A Motivational Interviewing Approach. Presented by the Wellness Center Senior Counselor
- Safe Space sessions for faculty, staff and students: Two interactive mini-workshops on LGBTQ+ identity and experience
- May is Asian American and Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander Heritage Month – a time to recognize the history, heritage and achievements of Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders. Faculty and staff discussed ways for Keene State to show solidarity with people of Asian descent living in the United States. Events listed below are being held throughout the month of May as suggested by that group.
- Jhumpa Lahiri, Interpreter of Maladies Book Group
- The Complicated History of Asian Experiences in the United States - Workshop series
- “Violence Against Asian Americans: How Did We Get Here?” - Lecture and discussion
Second offerings of faculty and staff workshops:
- What Do We Mean When We Say…This workshop is a continuation of spring semester’s conversation where we defined terms related to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. Review of the definitions and discussion about using these definitions within work at KSC. Presented by Associate VP for Institutional Equity and Diversity.
- Language Matters: LGBTQ+ Vocabulary. Presented by Coordinator of LGBTQ Student Support.
- American with Disabilities Act. Presented by Dean of Students and Disability Services.
- What Does It Mean to Be an Anti-Racist Organization? Presented by Associate VP for Institutional Equity and Diversity.
- Hosting Difficult Conversations in the Classroom and in Your Office. Presented by psychology faculty and adjunct faculty/clergy person.
- Deescalation: A Motivational Interviewing Approach. Presented by the KSC Wellness Center.
- On June 19, Keene State joined the Human Rights Committee and Keene Public Library, with speakers Mayor Hansel and other human rights leaders, to mark Juneteenth, a holiday celebrating the emancipation of people who were enslaved in the United States.
Responding to Incidents Across the Country
Reflection on Derek Chauvin Verdict
The verdict of guilty on all charges in the case against Derek Chauvin for the murder of George Floyd shows accountability. The verdict means different things to each of us – and we all should take the time needed to reflect on it.
The verdict is part of an ongoing, painful struggle in our country. The tragedy of George Floyd’s breath being taken is another call to each of us to recognize much more work needs to be done. People of African descent continue to hold their breath every day during interactions with people in their communities and as they make decisions about places they choose to go.
At Keene State College, we are finding ways to address the ongoing struggles of people representing underrepresented identities. We are taking action through workshops for employees and students to identify biases and learn from each other, and by working to transform the words in The Sum of Us: What Racism Costs Everyone and How we can Prosper Together by Heather McGhee or How to be an Anti-racist by Ibram X. Kendi into actions that address the implicit and explicit racism within systems, including the educational system.
This work is being done in many ways. Keene State’s Holocaust and Genocide Studies Department has leading scholars and activists in the area of genocide prevention, and understanding how societies are capable of such atrocities – these scholars are providing bias and ethics training to police departments across the country. The Southwest Center is working diligently with K-12 principals, teachers and administrators to prepare the young people in New Hampshire. The Office of Diversity and Multiculturalism is involved in ongoing projects with state and local organizations to address the growing needs related to diversity, equity, antiracism and inclusion.
We are working to reach the day when we no longer need to make statements in reaction to the event of the moment. We are working to form a community of citizens who are proactive and prevention focused, who are engaged in ongoing ways to make change and confront the systems that contribute to the tragedies we continue to experience.
We encourage our college community of students, faculty and staff to get involved and take action to work toward equity, inclusion and anti-racism. Join some of the many opportunities at Keene State to learn and grow, or contact the Office of Diversity and Multiculturalism, Office of Multicultural Student Support or the Holocaust and Genocide Studies Department for suggestions on projects.
Call for Reflection and Action: Responding to Violence Against Asian American Pacific Islander Community
In March, our country again faced acts of violence that targeted individuals due to their social identity. The violence that occurred in Atlanta took the lives of eight people - six were women of Asian descent: Soon Chung Park, Hyun Jung Grant, Suncha Kim, Yong Ae Yue, Delaina Ashley Yaun, Paul Andre Michels, Xiaojie Tan and Daoyou Feng. These are part of a disturbing pattern of attacks on individuals of Asian descent in the United States in the past year, which coincides with the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. It took the loss of these lives to stir public outcry, concern, and acknowledgement of the lived experiences of people of Asian descent living in the United States. With these latest murders, the intersection of identity-based gender as well as race can’t be ignored.
Given Keene State College’s commitment to diversity, equity, social justice and inclusion we are not remaining silent, unresponsive or passive about the increase in violent acts against individuals of Asian descent. This must stop. We can offer statements each time we are faced with these actions, but statements alone do not bring about the change we need to transform our violent culture to become a “beloved community” per Dr. King.
We can individually take action right now. Together, we need to pause and ask ourselves with sincerity and compassion:
- “What took us so long to notice this pattern?”
- “What took us so long to notice the suffering of people in our midst?”
- “Have we asked our peers, colleagues, students, friends, neighbors, and acquaintances who are of Asian descent about the impact of assertions that COVID-19 is rooted in Asia?”
- “How did the notion of ‘model minority’ allow us to think that there was no negative impact on the lived experience of people of Asian descent?”
We teach critical thinking to our students. Let’s use our critical thinking to reflect on where we can do better, and check on people in our lives who may feel impacted. And let’s use critical thinking to notice patterns of behavior around us, starting with language that serves as a clue to potential for violence. We can do all of this proactively rather than reactively. At Keene State, we have the potential to be leaders in this area and to improve the quality of life for all people, and it all starts with each of us.