By Aislinn Keely
The Office of Multicultural Affairs has developed and fine-tuned a program to foster discussion on issues surrounding race and ethnicity in order to create a more open and welcoming university community for diversity. The Racial Solidarity Network will launch in the Fall 2017 semester, according to Juan Carlos Matos, assistant dean and director of the Office of Multicultural Affairs. No formal date has been set.
The goals of the network include promoting an environment in which members of the community are welcomed and valued, increasing empathy, awareness and understanding of the complexities of race and ethnicity and promoting a culture of inclusion where members of the community can reflect on racial and ethnic identity, question privilege and bias and think about race and ethnicity in more complex ways.
More information will be available on fordham.edu most likely in late August according to Matos.
Objectives of the program include promoting an environment where all members of the community feel welcomed and valued, applying Cura Personalis to understand the experience of underrepresented racial and ethnic students at Fordham and familiarizing participants with a historical overview related to race, ethnicity and racism within the United States. It is open to all members of the Fordham community. The discussions are meant to be ongoing and bolster other diversity-related programming throughout the university.
“We hope this is not the first time or the last time someone engages in these topics,” said Matos.
The Office of Multicultural Affairs developed the Racial Solidarity Network through looking at similar programs in place at other universities, working off the framework of the sustained success of the LGBT and Ally Network of Support, engaging with the Fordham community to hear the issues the community felt were most important to cover and piloting the program to receive feedback before launching next semester, according to Matos.
Though the program has not yet been put in place, the Office of Multicultural Affairs conducted a pilot program to test run the programming as well as receive feedback. The goals of the program aligned with the goals of its participants.
“I hoped to gain more knowledge about the history of racism and becoming a racial ally,” said Jennifer Acevedo, FCLC ’17, a student participant in the pilot program. “My goals were met in that I was able to further expand on the knowledge of oppression and aspects of racism that I gained from the Dorothy Day Center for Service and Justice as well as The Office of Multicultural Affairs.”
The pilot training program included a racial caucusing segment in which participants broke off into two groups based on racial and ethnic identities to speak about personal experiences in safe spaces.
“I think racial caucusing was a powerful aspect of the program because it was a space for us to separate based on racial identity and discuss challenges, concerns and questions related to our identity and the identity of others,” said Acevedo.
In the future, the caucusing segment will include a third group for those who identify as biracial or multiracial.
The program seeks to address difficult and nuanced issues in an inclusive and open-minded forum.
Though the program aims to be welcoming, it does not aim to be easy. “The questions did cause a certain level of discomfort because they were not easy to answer. I appreciated this discomfort, because to me it meant that we were making progress by acknowledging that race is not an easy or comfortable topic,” said Giustina Charbonneau, FCRH ’17.
Letitia Tajuba, resident director of Alumni Court South, said she thinks the program will challenge its participants.
“I think the program is going to challenge a lot of students,” said Tajuba.