Updates from Student Diversity and Inclusion Services

September 26, 2016 / By: Patricia Condé-Brooks, Associate Dean of Students

Three University of St. Thomas students gather around a table at a recent event to share the causes they are willing to speak up about.During the summer’s Orientation and Registration sessions Student Diversity and Inclusion Services (SDIS) provided an opportunity for all incoming first year students to share the causes they are willing to SPEAK UP about. Incoming first-year students watched The Danger of Silence, a TED Talk video by Clint Smith. After viewing the video, students had an opportunity to send an anonymous text message to a digital bulletin board, where they named a cause that they are passionate about. After meeting with 36 different groups of students over nine Orientation days, we saw that the following topics were the most oft-submitted as ones that the students want to speak up about. 

  1. Immigration
  2. Black Lives Matter/Police Brutality
  3. LGBTQ rights
  4. Women’s rights
  5. Islamophobia/Religious freedom

To respond to and generate discussion around events that matter to our students, SDIS will using these themes to help us frame our conversations during our weekly Purple Bench discussions on Friday afternoons. Purple Bench discussions are designed to encourage participants to step outside of their comfort zones, offer their opinions on challenging topics, and to not shy away from asking questions. No reading or research is required in advance at Purple Bench; it is a forum where people can talk about issues they care about, and a space where one need not be an expert in order to participate. We believe it is important to cultivate conversations on important issues that challenge us, so that we can learn from one another and become more familiar with having constructive dialogue with people who may hold and express different points of view.

Our office has moved to a new programming model for the year. While we will still celebrate the national heritage months, we are moving away from having all of our programs align with the heritage month calendar. Our hope is that others will join us in the celebration and contribute their own programs or events to include on our heritage month posters.

In addition, SDIS, the Office for International Students and Scholars, and Campus Life have formed the new Diversity Activities Board (DAB). DAB is a group of student leaders responsible for bringing educational programs focused on diversity and inclusion. They are allocated 20 percent of the student activity fee to plan programs such as lectures, music, workshops, community building, cultural celebrations and various other social justice events.

Both SDIS and DAB have a number of events scheduled during fall semester. See each of organization’s event calendars online: SDIS event calendarDAB event calendar.

We really want an opportunity for faculty, staff and students to interact on the important social issues of our time, and we will continue to listen to our students and shape our programming  and discussions to address the issues that matter to them. We welcome your support and feedback.