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Recap of Conversation with the President

November 19, 2016 at 5:09 pm
By Susan Kasten

At the end of a tense week on campus, President Scott Bierman addressed a group of about 200 students, faculty, and staff on Friday, Nov. 18, in Moore Lounge as part of a regularly scheduled Conversation with the President.

The event, originally planned to update the audience on more routine topics, was changed to focus instead on issues related to the white supremacist posters that appeared on campus early last Monday.

Standing beside a screen that projected the college’s mission statement, Bierman said he starts each day by reading the college mission and the Statement of Student Culture as a way of grounding his work. He returned to the wording of both documents several times during his remarks.

Bierman spoke about the language used by President-Elect Trump during the election, which has given rise to hateful acts across the country and on the campus. “These acts are part of why so many of you are here in this room,” Bierman said before turning to the content of the posters, which were posted anonymously. They wrongly equated anti-racism with being anti-white, Bierman said, and the authors aligned themselves with white supremacists and white nationalists, promulgated pseudoscience, and violated the Statement of Student Culture. “This act hurt community members. I denounced it earlier this week, and I denounce it again here in front of you,” he said.

Bierman acknowledged that people’s fears about their safety are real and justified. “We must be diligent in keeping the campus safe,” he added. “The health and well-being of faculty, staff, and students is paramount.”

Bierman announced the launch of a new program that will focus on modeling civil dialogue through a biannual panel that takes on difficult topics from multiple perspectives, and he pledged that the college would commit itself to protecting the rights of students. He also described a vision of what it means to be an anti-racist institution, including that racism is named, owned, and resisted and that racist systems must be recognized and dismantled.

Bierman spent time discussing the origins and progress toward the college’s Inclusive Living and Learning initiative, which grew out of demands presented by Students for an Inclusive Campus (SIC), the demands of senior staff, and the hard work of Making Equity Real last spring, led by Professor Debra Majeed.

Through handouts, Bierman shared a 10-point plan with details on senior staff’s Inclusive Living and Learning Goals. Each goal in the 10-point plan has a specific charge and an individual who is responsible for leading it. Progress is already moving forward on the goals. The goals and forthcoming monthly updates can be found here.

The Conversation with the President ended with two prompts that asked attendees to respond by writing on cards. For those unable to attend the conversation, the prompts follow: (Send your responses to presidentsoffice@beloit.edu).

Prompt 1:

Striving to be an anti-racist college means each of us not only calls out and resists overtly racist acts but also commits ourselves to taking responsibility for helping to eliminate structures, practices, and attitudes that are inequitable or systematically exclude marginalized groups, even when they do not appear to be intentionally discriminatory.

          What questions do you have about this commitment the college is making?          

      How do you see it connecting most directly with the work you do and/or the life you live at the college?

Prompt 2:

An inclusive community is one in which all members share a strong sense of belonging and we do not shut out or exclude or silence people or ideas based on assumption or stereotype.          

What do you see as the most significant barriers to this kind of community?          

What are some examples of places or practices on campus that promote this kind of inclusivity?