The Center for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, in collaboration with the Title IX Office, kicked off the spring semester with Change Week Monday, Wednesday and this afternoon at the Community H.U.B. in the Angell College Center, a precursor to a final listening session in March.
Change Week serves to reflect the experiences of students at Plattsburgh State as related to their different identities and to have students offer their input on how the campus can improve their services.
The listening session, scheduled for March 5, will be attended by not just the students but the administration and chairs of various departments. This is the first event to provide students with a direct opportunity to speak to the campus administration.
Monday’s session began with Program Coordinator Jenny Vernet, Coordinator of Multicultural Initiatives Sean Rice and Title XI Violence Prevention Education and Outreach Coordinator Zyaijah Nadler introducing themselves and having attendees fill out a short form.
The form asked the students about their reasons for attending the event and requested them to list three of their top calls to action.
Several pieces of cardboard on varying topics were posted across the room. The topics covered included race, gender, international students, sexual orientation and religion. Students were then asked to write about their respective experiences on the boards, followed by them walking around and reading other student’s experiences.
“We are aiming to provide the students with a voice, so that we can find out about their hurdles and take the appropriate measures to bring about a real change,” Vice President For Student Diversity And Affairs Mariam Kebe said at the event. “Since we have a new administration, we are all hoping to bring about a positive change for the students.”
As the students sat in a circle, with Rice leading the discussion, Melissa Forte, a freshman from New York City, shared her experience with microaggression against people of color.
During an introductory level drawing course at PSU, where the students had to practice drawing self portraits, her professor failed to provide any reference photos of black people and had gotten angry when she and other black students suggested bringing in pictures of themselves to help them practice for the final.
Forte also brought to light a resentment against Asian students on campus.
“Being part Chinese, I am often the center of extremely racist jokes, especially ones centering around the coronavirus, in light of recent events,” Forte said.
Rice said Change Week was received much more positively than he expected and encouraged the students in attending to also attend the listening session in March.
“This is the first time students have been given a real platform to raise their voices and actually have them be heard,” Rice said. “We hope that this event has a successful outcome, so that more events similar to this can be held in the future and that more students are encouraged to speak out.”