Two weeks ago, the events in Charlottesville stunned our country. Racism, anti-semitism and white nationalism, ideologies we naively believed to have declined, proved to endure. Although these hateful acts occurred on a campus far from our own, the shock, sadness and fear that developed in Virginia resonated throughout the entire nation.
Today is the first time in three months that our community has come together. Classes have resumed and teachers have the opportunity to bring their students into the national discussion. We encourage the adults on campus to initiate such conversations.
We have called for a greater awareness about current events before. Last year, in light of ongoing issues pertaining to race, we began a conversation about diversity, acceptance and progress—topics that aren’t usually addressed at school. The increased recognition of these problems and the activism it provoked were a step in the right direction. We believe that an informed and conscientious student body is essential, and while these discussions have been effective in bringing attention to this issue, further action would be welcomed and could continue to bring about lasting change.
If last year was about identifying issues of diversity and areas in which the student body can improve, then this year should be about implementing the necessary changes. While most of the responsibility falls on the administration to ensure that changes occur, it is our responsibility—and the responsibility of the student body—to hold the administration accountable for the promises it has made.
We were encouraged to see the introduction of a new Director of Diversity position, filled by Janine Jones, as well as the increased hiring of diverse faculty. These measures show that the administration has made an initial effort in responding to the issues at hand. We know that change does not happen overnight and the type of fundamental restructuring necessary to achieve a community that values and represents the diversity of the world around us will take time to implement.
But our community must start somewhere, and although change is overdue, we applaud that departments have started shifting their mentality to emphasize diversity. For example, the history department created new courses and altered existing courses to offer a less Eurocentric curriculum. With the help of Jones, other departments can follow suit.
Hiring a more diverse staff and altering curricula were among reforms that administrators promised to implement following a meeting with affinity group leaders last year. We are glad to see that the ball is rolling on some of their requests, and we hopefully await the administration’s implementations of further policies. And as we said earlier, we will continue to hold the administration to account.
We are aware that Jones delivered a presentation last week outlining how faculty members can discuss current events with their students. We hope that they will use the tools they learned to introduce honest conversations to their classrooms, especially as we all grapple with the events of this month.
Although the start of a new year means Friday night lights and familiar faces, our community must take this opportunity to come together and reflect on the fact that we still have a ways to go until every student is valued regardless of their own identity. Let’s set the tone for the rest of the year by having these hard, albeit, necessary discussions now.