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Students for an Inclusive Campus continues charge second semester

This article was originally published on Sept. 21, 2015.

After a series of racist acts on campus and increased discussion and action last year, Students for an Inclusive Campus (SIC) continued the charge, holding its first meeting of the semester on Sept. 14 in the Intercultural Center, which is located in the basement of 609 Emerson. The group plans on meeting at least every other week, and is currently being led by returning members Namoonga Mantina’15, Reine Lucas’15, Jesse Rosechild’17 and Julie Weinberg’17.

The group’s first meeting on March 4, publicized through word of mouth with short notice, had the highest attendance. “Our first (ever) meeting was supposed to be a small group of maybe 20 people, but ended up being over 80,” Lucas said.

Most participants at the first meeting of the semester were first years. With the turnover of students, SIC recognizes that it needs to educate students about past events. “It was great to see freshmen in the room. It’s important that we pass down information,” Weinberg said.

“I’ve seen less commitment than compared to the end of last semester,” Lucas said. At the Reclaim the Wall event on Aug. 24, members of the campus were invited to write messages encouraging inclusivity on foam squares to cover the Whitney wall that was defaced on Feb. 27. Lucas attended, noticing that “the majority of people there were first years. I think people were infuriated about the events that occurred last semester, but we came back and are tired. We’ve heard so much, worked so much about ‘this race stuff’ and people are tired.”

Lucas, who helped found the group, is currently working on an Honors Term project about Sustained Dialogue and identity. “So my charge for campus, especially juniors who are in a unique social location where they have a lot of that knowledge about what’s going on and still enough time to do things about it, is to try to think about the bigger picture. Figure out what matters to you. For me, this work matters. Beloit matters.”

Mantina, another founding member who is also currently working on an Honors Term project, joined because of how much she and other students were hurting. “I didn’t know where to go to. I didn’t know who would understand—more so because I didn’t understand it myself. I couldn’t explain why I felt the way I did,” she said. “But still I was expected to sit through classes on forces and proteins and presumably still learn. Getting involved was the only way to begin to deal with the hurt.”

She is critical of the way the college frames the Liberal Arts in Practice as only applying to “the part of the town across the river…not for your racist/sexist/homophobic/classist professors.”

“Beloit College, as an institution and environment, is no exception to the problems, suffering and struggles we hear and discuss of other people everywhere else in the world,” Mantina said.

Amid a number of diversity and inclusion initiatives, SIC is unique for being completely student run. “Our main goal this semester is to continue to lift up student voices. The biggest strength of SIC is that we are purely student run. We are not affiliated with BSC, or anyone in the administration, we are solely students. Because of that strength we have an opportunity to make real change on this campus,” said Lucas.

Last semester, SIC had different focus groups, including the Demonstration, Learning, Zine, Archives, Arts and Media and Demands Committees. In June 1968, black students released twelve demands in The Round Table, which appear to have gone unaddressed.

While the Archives Committee gathered historical information about social identity on campus, the Learning Committee held three workshops about institutional racism, interpersonal racism and anti-racist white allyhood training. The Demonstration Committee organized a silent protest during Academic Senate on May 7, where students carried signs urging the administration to hire more faculty and staff of color and improve inclusivity across the campus. Following a discussion with members of senior staff, members of SIC were invited to a Board of Trustees meeting the next day.

Since SIC’s actions, the administration has made a number of changes and plans to make more. Cecil Youngblood, Associate Dean of Students for Inclusive Living and Learning, and Anthropology Professor Nicole Truesdell, founding members of #BlackLivesMatterBeloit, have been promoted, and are now the first black people ever to be on senior staff. In addition, an Inclusive Living and Learning Task Force has been created and the security force has hired a black officer. Job descriptions and class syllabi will include an anti-racism section, a statement of intercultural competency will be part of the assessment for promotion or tenure and the Chemistry and Biology Departments are aiming to diversify their departments in the near-future.

Even with a receptive administration, Lucas urges the group to remain vigilant. “By no means does that mean the work is over,” she said. “As an organization I think we need to stay on the administration’s a**, in the most collaborative sense.”

This semester, the group will have two co-chairs and five committees, including Administration Liaison, Student Voice, Arts and Creativity, Learning and Documentation and Public Relations. Applications are still being accepted for these executive positions.

Though racial dynamics served as the main impetus for the group’s formation, SIC is about inclusivity for all identities. “Right now everyone is focused on inclusivity around race, but are we thinking about disability? Socioeconomic status? Religion? It’s difficult, but we need to continuously be reminded that we can improve,” Lucas said.

Mantina hopes to see the student energy carried on after she leaves. “It’s not a matter of waiting on some other person, some other time or some other place,” she said. “There are issues and challenges here and now. And it’s HERE and NOW that they need to be addressed by US.”

SIC released four demands last semester including:

-More programs for students of color aside from TRIO. Programs that include students who may not fit TRIO qualifications.

-Craft a protocol for handling hate crimes, separate from the harassment procedure.

-Explicit attention to the recruitment and retention of POC (student, faculty and staff including security).

-Recurring diversity sensitivity training for faculty and staff to promote better inclusivity for students of color in classroom, office, and administrative spaces.

Chronological Order of Events, Spring 2015

February 2015

  • Angela Davis poster defaced in MI
  • #BLMB panel 1 (Feb 20)
  • “N*gger Bitch Lover” chalkboard in library (late Feb)
  • “N*gger Die” on Whitney wall (Feb 27); Christina Klawitter sends campus-wide email
  • Replaced Angela Davis (larger version) torn down, not found, in MI (Feb 27)
  • “They don’t matter” written next to poster of #BLMB series (Feb 27)

March 2015

  • First town hall meeting occurs, President sends email (March 4)
  • Driver of car on College St. yells “what’s up, n*gger” at two female students (March 4)
  • First SIC Meeting (SIC not an official group) (March 4)
  • Noose drawn on #BLMB poster in Bushnell (March 5)
  • Slurs yelled at a group of students walking downtown from a car (March 17)
  • #BLMB panel 2 (March 20)
  • Noose drawn on poster in Bushnell (March 25)

April 2015

  • Workshop 1 Interpersonal Racism and White Privilege (April 11)
  • #BLMB panel 3 (April 17)
  • Workshop 2 Institutional Racism (April 18)

May 2015

  • #BLMB Die In (May 2)
  • Workshop 3 Building an Anti-Racist Practice (May 3)
  • SIC Demonstration at Academic Senate (May 7)
  • Board of Trustees Meeting (May 8)

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