The Diversity Task Force held its first community meetings at both the Rose Hill and Lincoln Center campuses. The Rose Hill meetings were held on March 8 in Tognino Hall and March 9 in the Campbell Hall Multipurpose room.
The Rose Hill meetings followed a town hall style format. Attendees submitted questions and concerns before the meeting, or asked questions and addressed concerns at the meeting itself.
The chair of the Task Force, Peter Vaughan, PhD, dean emeritus of the Graduate School of Social Service, moderated the event. Other members of the task force who received questions included Mark Chapman, PhD, associate professor of African and African-American Studies, Keith Eldredge, dean of students at Lincoln Center, Eva Badowska, Ph.D, dean of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, Juan Carlos Matos, assistant dean and director of the Office of Multicultural Affairs, and John Feerick, Esq., dean emeritus of the Law School, amongst others.
While not on the Task Force, Mike Taritola, from the office of the president, aided in moderating the event.
After reviewing the climate of diversity on campus, the Task Force will propose a set of recommendations for the university to encourage diversity in a preliminary report by the end of June.
Students and faculty members asked the task force questions and stated concerns with either the state of race on the Fordham University Rose Hill campus, or with the Task Force itself.
Some also raised questions about what would be done after the report is filed. For instance, some students and faculty questioned the necessity of a committee to determine if there is a race or diversity problem on campus.
“Someone asked if we are moving to say that there is a problem and to name the problem,” said Badowska, one of the members of the task force. “Are we willing to not talk about diversity and instead talk about racism? Yes, we are.”
Chapman argued that those criticisms warranted a more direct response from members of the task force. He stated that Rev. Joseph M. McShane, S.J., president of the university tasked the force with combing through other reports. Chapman also said that there would be a dollar amount allocated by the board of trustees to address diversity and race on campus.
“This is a kairos moment,” said Chapman. “It takes a long time for institutions to change, but I do think this is that moment.”
Ideas were also raised for a possible junior college to be added to Fordham in order to allow students with limited financial resources access to the school. Some argued that this did not address Fordham’s high tuition that possibly keeps many eligible students out.
Tim Bouffard, FCRH ‘16, stated that there are potential problems with discussing race in the classroom, particularly after the bias incidents in the Fall 2015 semester. Bouffard stated that, though the president tasked professors with discussing the racially charged incidents that occurred in the residence halls, very few in his personal experience actually did.
“I’m wondering if there is anyway the task force considers measuring whether that call was actually answered,” asked Bouffard. “And, if the task force is going to encourage professors to discuss these problems with their students.”
Badowska stated a concern that not all faculty members are qualified to discuss race and diversity.
“We need to make sure that when these matters are addressed in the classroom they get addressed from a position of relevant training,” said Chapman.
Other students expressed concerns that the Fordham community does not regard racism as a problem on our campus. Anya Patterson, FCRH ‘19, asked if the task force has any plans to identify and combat that narrative.
Chapman recalled the wisdom of his grandmother, who encouraged small steps of progress.
“We are not going to eradicate those attitudes,” said Chapman. “But we must work until our good is better and our better is our best.