An engaging, thought-provoking and provocative assortment of topics and speakers were discussed and presented during Southern Illinois University Edwardsville’s third annual Diversity Day, Wednesday-Thursday, Oct. 14-15. Under the theme, “The Fierce Urgency of Now – SIUE Shaping a Changing World,” the virtual event boasted more than 22 presentations with approximately 975 people registering.
“Diversity Day’s theme highlights the work of SIUE’s new Anti-Racism Task Force,” said Associate Chancellor and Chief Diversity Officer Venessa A. Brown, PhD. “Designed with community engagement and participation across all three of SIUE’s campuses in mind, Diversity Day showcased the multitude of ways in which membership in the global community is core to SIUE’s mission and values.”
The event kicked off with a welcome from SIUE Chancellor Randy Pembrook, a welcome from SIU President Dan Mahony during the SIU Conversation of Understanding’s “Strategies and Actions to Dismantle Systemic Racism,” and remarks from U.S. Sen. Tammy Duckworth of Illinois.
“SIUE Diversity Day 2020 is a celebration of our institution’s past, present and future as it relates to advances in cultural responsiveness and inclusion,” said Pembrook. “SIUE is committed to serve as a model for inclusion, due to our location, core values and mission to shape a changing world.”
Duckworth congratulated and encouraged SIUE on its diversity work. “Welcoming a diversity of backgrounds, perspectives, physical abilities, and more among students and professionals at SIUE is critical,” she said. “Americans have been laying down, standing up, kneeling, marching, and prodding our country, trying to drag it forward until it lives up to the words of the Pledge of Allegiance that in this republic, there is liberty and justice for all.
“But the responsibility, the work of bending the moral arc of the Universe towards justice and equality, cannot just be put on the backs of those who have been feeling its weight this entire time. Rather, it must be on all of us. We need to reckon with the real, deep, uncomfortable realities and systemic biases that have marred our communities for centuries. That starts with days like today, where folks come together to discuss the dire need for diversity.”
Offerings during Diversity Day included:
- A Parade of Nations – a video showcasing the global diversity and rich cultural heritage of SIUIE international students, staff and alumni
- A Tribute to Black Lives
- An Update to the Diversity and Inclusion Strategic Plan
- A virtual Community Fair
- Posters, cuisine representing various ethnic roots, Cultural Literacy on-the-Move and a pop-up Little Free Library
- School of Business Alumni Panel
- Inclusion, Equity, and Social Justice at SIUE
- Christian Privilege: Understanding Faith-Based Advantage
- Naming the Space and Access Intimacy
- Where Do I Fit? The Journey to Becoming Anti-Racist
- Improving the Climate for SIUE’s Women Faculty: Steps for Interrupting Bias and Fostering Inclusion
- Building a More Inclusive Classroom through Empowering your Non-Native English Speakers
- Dynamic Luncheon Panel – CRiT Talks
- The Social Impact of COVID-19 on International and Marginalized Communities in the St. Louis Area
- An Anti-Racist Medical Institution: A Marginalized Student’s Perspective
“If I had to think of a TV show title that best describes what is going on right now it would be ‘Little Fires Everywhere,’” said Lori Patton Davis, chair of the Department of Educational Studies at The Ohio State University’s College of Education and Human Ecology. “We are dealing with the pandemic, continued racial violence, a tumultuous political climate, the death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg and the rush to confirm Judge Amy Coney Barrett.”
Davis was one of the speakers at the “Dynamic Luncheon Panel – CRiT Talks,” moderated by School of Education, Health and Human Behavior (SEHHB) Dean Robin Hughes, PhD. Other speakers included Denise Taliaferro Baszile, PhD, associate dean of Diversity and Student Experience and professor of Curriculum and Cultural Studies in the College of Education, Health and Society at Miami University of Ohio; David Stovall, PhD, professor of African-American Studies and Criminology, Law and Justice at the University of Illinois at Chicago; Timothy E. Lewis, PhD, assistant professor in the SIUE College of Arts and Sciences’ (CAS) Department of Political Science; and Dominic Dorsey, director of the SIUE Office for Accessible Campus Community and Equitable Student Support (ACCESS).
“If we want to put out the fires, my call to SIUE and other institutions and persons who have some level of influence is to make a change,” Patton Davis continued. “Some fires that you can put out are to get rid of standardized tests, make college more affordable, tell more comprehensive histories of our institutions, and we can have a better and more comprehensive understanding of institution sanctioned violence.”
One webinar dealt with biases as it relates to Asian Americans because of the pandemic.
“Are Asian restaurants facing more challenges because of a COVID-19 backlash?” asked Min Liu, PhD, associate professor in the CAS Department of Applied Communication Studies.
“We did absolutely hear that very early on about the backlash, terminology and the narrative that was used was very negative and continues to be,” responded Suzanne Sierra, senior program manager of the St. Louis Mosaic Project of the World Trade Center. “There were several people asking that hate speech not be tolerated. We are concerned that communities feel safe and know there are resources they can come to.”
Liu and Sierra were guest speakers on the panel, “The Social Impact of COVID-19 on International and Marginalized Communities in the St. Louis Area,” moderated by Gaby Renteria-Poepsel, international student programming advisor in the SIUE Office of International Affairs. The other panelist was Sarah Caldera Wimmer, manager of Mental Health Integration, LifeWise StL.
“Anti-Asian rhetoric is troubling,” said Wimmer. “We didn’t hear reports that rose to the level of calling the police, but there were reports about kids saying things to each other at play dates, neighbors putting trash in one of our community member mailboxes, and writing things that cannot be traced. We also know from national surveys that more than half of American Chinese households feel that the American public blames Chinese Americans for this virus, and that’s just heartbreaking to hear.”
“All of the presentations challenged us to a new way of thinking, a new way of doing, a new way of being,” said Brown during the closing ceremony. “I challenge all of you to continue to dialogue, build new relationships and work for change. Be uncomfortable. It’s OK. Get involved.
“We are grateful to have all of you on this journey with us, as we work to be an anti-racist institution, where everyone is welcome. We will be the light for the southern Illinois. We will be a place where every culture and ethnicity are celebrated.”
Diversity Day was planned and executed by the Office of Institutional Diversity and Inclusion, the Diversity Day Planning Committee, University Marketing and Communications and Information Technology Services.