By Krista DeJulio & Haleigh West – Co-Editor-in-Chief & 1851 Staff
Common hours were extended on Tuesday, December 1 in de Witt Hall for the panel discussion, Issues of Diversity & Inclusion: The Student Experience. The panel was led by six students, Vice President of Academic Affairs Jim Ostrow, and Director of the Donahue Institute and professor of psychology Jesse Tauriac.
Seniors Bea Boisvert and Erica Miller, juniors Chloe Howard and Alejandra Carrero, and sophomores Korinne Früster and Patrick Rocchio led the panel discussion while Ostrow and Tauriac gave insight to the reasons why the community meeting was necessary.
“We accept that on any college campus we should be accepting and celebrating differences with students,” said Ostrow. “We want to spotlight [these issues] more than before. I experience many privileges and I shouldn’t.”
Let’s Talk Lasell is a new movement on campus inspired by co-founder of Black Lives Matter, Patrisse Cullors, after Früster met her last month. “Our goal is to see faculty, staff,…and other departments to become more educated in how to interact with students,” said Früster.
On Thursday, November 19, 31 students participated in a demonstration during a faculty meeting in which Boisvert, Früster, and Howard read a six-minute speech “as a call to action from faculty.”
Tauriac believes Lasell is already taking strides to have a more open-minded look at the racial differences many students experience and shared personal stories of growing up in a prominently white area. “It was a sighting to see a person of color in my town,” said Tauriac.
A common theme of this discussion, and past discussions about race on campus, is the term microaggressions. These are often subconscious acts or statements that undermine another person based on their diversity.
Though they are not always on purpose, most microagressions are learned behavior as a product of society, which falls under one of Tauriac’s many points of intent versus impact. While someone may not mean to offend it doesn’t mean it’s not offensive.
Although the room was crowded, there were not a lot of students in attendance, mostly professors and staff. While junior Hillary Brown enjoyed the discussion, she hopes more students will make a difference, including Student Government Association. “I wish more students showed up. I wish the student government showed up to these things. People that are ‘in charge’ should show up and make that change,” said Brown.
“We’ve been communicating with Let’s Talk Lasell for the past few weeks. We’re all working together to get more clubs involved and begin raising awareness about everything going on,” said SGA President Anthony Szol. “I’m glad I’ll be around for one more semester to see these students begin their fight.”
Although Szol claims to be in contact with Let’s Talk Lasell, Früster said, “We hadn’t been communicating with him for weeks. We got one email from him and only met with him once, days before the panel.”
A main issue brought to light by this event was the targeting of students of color in the classroom. This is done when one student is asked to explain the feeling of an entire race or ethnic group.
Freshman Brandi Johnson stood and shared a story of when a professor very poignantly asked her “what is it like to be black?” By focusing and spotlighting these students, they are called out and made uncomfortable, according to the panelists.
Boisvert, from the Boston-area, talked about the differences she met when she came to Lasell. “I was seen as the color of my skin and not my background or culture. [Where I’m from] we saw ethnicities, not color,” she said.
“Let’s Talk Lasell wasn’t just a onetime thing,” said Früster. “We aren’t trying to be trendy because other schools are also up- set about racism on college campuses. If we didn’t love our campus we wouldn’t be fighting for change.”