PSU held a grand opening celebration two weeks ago for the new Pan-African Commons (PAC) and Pacific Islander, Asian and Asian American Student Centers (PIAAA). The centers were created in response to the December 2015 PSU Students of Color Speak-Out. While these centers were long overdue, the hard work and dedication of many students, staff, faculty and administrators made it possible to plan and open them in less than ten months.
The recent presidential election has brought to the forefront how important and valuable these cultural centers are in creating safe spaces for dialog, reflection and support.
The SMSU Ballroom grand opening event began with a blessing and smudging ceremony to acknowledge the ancestors of this land. Women’s Resource Center Women of Color Leadership Coordinator, Jasmin Hunter, and Advisor with Student Activities and Leadership Programs, Virginia Luka, presided over the evening’s ceremonies. Vice President of Enrollment Management and Student Affairs, John Fraire, Vice President of Global Diversity and Inclusion, Carmen Suarez, President Wiewel, and Executive Director of the Cultural Resource Centers, Cynthia Gomez, expressed the administration’s commitment to these new centers and gratitude to the many who helped make them possible.
We enjoyed a wonderful musical performance by the Pacific Islander Scholar Collective. I found it hard to believe that they had only practiced together for an hour and were performing for the first time. Delta Sigma Theta Sorority also brought energy to the room with their great performance.
Awards were given to Constance Andrew, Sanghi Ta Hait, and Ram Bhattarai for their hard work and dedication in sustaining the day-to-day operations in the Cultural Resource Centers. Student leaders spoke of their vision for how the new cultural centers could affect their student experience. Everyone adjourned to the new cultural spaces after the formal ceremony for food comradery and more entertainment.
As the Charles R. Lawrence III quote on the back of the evening’s program said, “In hard times, it is especially important to create home places; safe places among trusted friends to seek refuge and dress wounds of battle and places for hard conversations; where differences can be aired and strategy mapped; where we can struggle with and affirm one another.” This is true now more than ever.
Still work to do
The voices heard at the December 2015 Speak-Out called for more than the creation of two centers. Issues were raised about diversity training, culturally relevant course materials and pedagogy, and diversity of faculty, staff and administrators.
The elevation of these issues by our students has not gone by the wayside.
The university now requires diversity training for all search committees hiring tenure-stream faculty. The workshops share high-impact practices that will lead to an increase in faculty who reflect the diversity of the student body.
Continued opportunities are available for students to speak directly to administrative leaders, including the once-a-quarter Listening to Your Voices sessions.
Our administrators and some faculty have been made aware of how to counteract implicit bias.
Action is being taken on the call to our entire faculty to examine their courses, content, course materials, and classroom climate to ensure incorporation of histories and contemporary social issues relevant to our student population and society. A new reference site for Culturally Responsive & Inclusive Curriculum Resources has been developed.
Efforts have begun on how we stimulate learning with and for the wide range of diverse students along many dimensions in our classes. In short, we are examining how we teach, rigorously and tangibly, by researching, developing and deploying culturally responsive best practices.
New Course Proposal and New Academic Program Proposal forms (on the OAA website at Curricular Change Instructions) ensure attention is given to the incorporation of diversity, inclusion and equity into new course and program proposal forms.
We would all benefit from hearing and learning about the positive work being done by you and your units as well. I welcome your accomplishments and comments to be posted below.