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The Blue & Gray Press | December 11, 2017

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Letter to the Editor: UMW community works to provide more ideas for a safer campus

Letter to the Editor: UMW community works to provide more ideas for a safer campus

To the UMW Community:

Over the past three weeks, a number of administrators, faculty, staff and students participated in a series of Listening Circles that centered on the voices and experiences of students who have recently been harassed on campus. Students shared their disappointment over instances of bias in our community, their frustrations over lack of transparency and communication from the administration and their concerns about safety on campus. After hearing directly from these students and considering what they had to say, the group collaboratively generated several goals and concrete steps that we, the UMW community, can take to create a safer, more inclusive campus environment.

Our ideas can be grouped into three categories:

Programmatic Activities

— Promote activities and workshops that amplify healthy voices and reiterate our campus values throughout the year.

— Organize a meeting between interested faculty and staff and the Blue & Gray Press’ editorial staff each year to determine how the campus newspaper can foster productive conversation without infringing on freedom of speech.

— Promote social media etiquette during orientation and at workshops throughout the year.

— Expand the “Safe Zone” program, which focuses on challenges faced by the LGBTQ community, to include information about racism, sexism, and other kinds of oppression.

Transparency & Communication

— Encourage high-level administrators, the President, Provost, Dean of Student Affairs, etc., to undertake a “Listening Tour” to meet with community members in dorms and academic buildings to better understand issues of concern to the campus community.

— Identify and broadcast campus resources that are available for those experiencing harassment. Remind faculty, staff, and students of these resources on a regular basis.

— Encourage the administration and SGA to organize public forums for campus-wide discussions following incidents of bias and harassment.

Curricular Integration

— Encourage FSEM instructors to incorporate discussions on civil discourse, respect, and fairness in their lesson plans.

— Re-integrate race and gender coursework into general education requirements.

— Develop a peer mentoring network for faculty to educate and support each other on issues of bias and harassment.

If you are interested in helping to develop or implement any of these initiatives, please contact Ryan Brazell (rbrazell@umw.edu); he can connect you with others who are working on similar topics.

Ryan Brazell, Instructional Technology Specialist Meghan Conley, James Farmer Postdoctoral Fellow in Civil Rights and Social Justice