SUNY Plattsburgh’s Diversity, Equality and Inclusion office offered solidarity following the Derek Chauvin verdict for the killing of George Floyd. Students could attend hybrid solidarity spaces or attend releasing spaces and counseling sessions from April 21-27. In addition, the H.U.B offered an in-person and virtual drop box for community members to anonymously share their feelings and perspectives. The H.U.B will print out the responses and include them with the notes from on-campus students.
“Although I find hope in the verdict, I still feel that a guilty verdict cannot change the fact that George Floyd — and Breonna Taylor, Daunte Wright, Adam Toledo and too many others — should be alive today,” Michelle Cromwell, vice president of diversity, equity and inclusion, wrote in an email sent out to the SUNY Plattsburgh community.
Listening sessions offered students the opportunity to join members of the community and openly talk about their perspective. Students could freely join listening sessions via Zoom led by counselors Allsun Ozyesil and Kristina Moquin.
According to Ozyesil, mental health counselor and student outreach coordinator, “Holding the space is symbolic. It’s meaningful to have permission to express yourself, to cry, laugh or get angry.” Ozyesil expressed that holding listening sessions is important for students because it provides a safe space. “Providing a space where students can feel secure and safe enough to express their feelings is something we strive for, especially when there has been such a tragic event.”
The H.U.B, as well as the DEI office, was able to offer students multiple solidarity spaces and ways to express their feelings.
“It was really important for any groups on campus to come together and offer spaces for students, so I was really happy to be a part of that,” Moquin, licensed mental health counselor, said.
The solidarity spaces have been encouraging white staff to offer spaces and show their support.
“I think there’s been this call to action for white staff to step up,” Ozyesil said. “The spaces I’ve attended have featured those really important conversations, it focused on the students and staff of color and their stories. It was also for white community members to show support.”
Dante Greene, a SUNY Plattsburgh student, attended the listening session April 27. Greene expressed he realized the need for these spaces and understood that the community should come together to support each other.
“I feel like it’s an improvement and it is much needed,” Greene said. “It helps in this time when we’re separate and I see the benefits of students coming together.”
Moquin emphasized the importance of being able to offer spaces and opportunities for “students to express themselves and connect with other people.” Tragic events and the way people are able to connect has been changed because of technology. It allows students to connect with counselors through Zoom.
“Social media has in a way changed what it means to be a bystander. When technology and social media weren’t as popular there wouldn’t be this expectation to take a video for documented proof,” Ozyesil said.
Technology and social media have been essential in keeping people accountable for their actions, especially in the key witness having a cellphone recording of Flyod’s death, according to Moquin.
May is mental health awareness month. The DEI and H.U.B student services also offered a virtual wellness week for students May 3-8. This included counseling sessions, meditation and movie nights. The DEI and H.U.B provide the campus community with spaces to come together and technology has improved and assisted the process.