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 a summary of specific work across the campus to improve our culture and to assure we provide a safe, welcoming, student-centered community.
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.
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 Dr. Dottie Morris, Associate Vice President for Institutional Equity and Diversity
- Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA): Better Serving Our Students. Presented by Dr. Gail Zimmerman, Dean of Students and Lisa David, Associate Director
- What Do We Mean When We Say….Presented by Dr. Dottie Morris, Associate Vice President for Institutional Equity and Diversity
- Language Matters: LGBTQ+ Vocabulary. Presented by Hunter Kirschner, Coordinator of LGBTQ Student Support.
- Difficult Conversations in the Classroom. Presented by Karen Jennings, Psychology Professor and Leaf Seligman, ITW Professor 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 Melissa Langill, Wellness Center Senior Counselor
Supporting Students Involved in the March 2020 Incident
While the college and President Treadwell have made personal commitments to these students to preserve their privacy, it is important for our school community to know that much has been done to correct mistakes, to support the students involved and to put in place processes that prevent a similar situation from occurring in the future.
June – August 2020
President Treadwell, VP Atkins, and AVP Morris met with the students to understand the circumstances, conduct review, and support them with the resources they needed to continue progression toward their degrees. Representatives from the Office of Multicultural Student Support and Success offered support to the students. Since these meetings, over 70 points of contact with, or on behalf of the students involved, directly by the President’s Office seeking to deliver supports.
The College met with City of Keene partners to communicate her findings regarding the March incident. In addition, College and City deepen discussions and align expectations around working relationships, supports for students and values-based approaches to engagement.
The College requested a broader assessment of our bias, Title IX, and discriminatory harassment policies, protocols, procedures, responsibilities, communications and structures of support.