LTE: Association of African American Students #DoneWithDialogue

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Dear DePauw Community,

The Association of African American Students pens this letter in grave disappointment of this year’s Day of Dialogue and the preceding days. From the poor execution of the virtual space to the watered-down topics for the breakout rooms, we cannot fool ourselves into believing that this day had any real implications for “progress” at DePauw.

Simply put, Day of Dialogue was a disaster and has always been.

While we recognize that COVID-19 has imposed many difficulties upon our learning environment and community, and that technological difficulties are inevitable, it was apparent that the university did not prepare for the “high” volume of participants on Zoom. A majority of the day was spent trying to troubleshoot how to place people in breakout rooms, leaving participants confused and the facilitators for the breakout rooms displaced. Additionally, there was a lack of security measures taken to ensure that this virtual setting would be open to members of the DePauw community and safe from hackers. These are just to name a few of the many incidents that occurred throughout the day.

Historically, The Association of African American Students has openly protested Day of Dialogue since the moment DePauw’s administration involved themselves in its planning. After 2015​1 ​, Day of Dialogue has failed to be constructive to our campus climate—creating harmful spaces for any Black, Indigenous, and People of Color that are a part of this university. Given this year’s political climate across the nation and the needs of our general body, we felt that it was crucial to take part in this year’s planning.

Our executive members found the Day of Dialogue planning committee “disorganized” and “last minute” amongst other transgressions. The planning committee, headed by Vice President of Diversity and Inclusion, Amanda Kim; and Vice President of Student Academic Life, Alan Hill ​, did not incorporate the students’ recommendations or input. Students expressed that many of their ideas and suggestions were overlooked by both Amanda Kim and certain faculty members on the committee. Inherently, students were excluded from the “planning” aspect of Day of Dialogue. The executive member that served on the committee also shared that the goals of the committee were unclear. Furthermore, members on the planning committee shared with us that the content and programming for Day of Dialogue was completely changed —without notice—the night before the day’s virtual production. This incident further illustrates the institution’s lack of commitment to addressing and dismantling the institutional racism that exists at DePauw.

 The planning for this year’s Day of Dialogue started approximately ​four weeks from the event’s date.

The original structure of Day of Dialogue was created to center DePauw’s focus on race, particularly in regard to the racial climate on campus at the time. Black students were (and still are) fed up with DePauw’s Interfraternity Council and Panhellenic Council perpetuating racist, violent, hostile environments toward BIPOC students. Black students were fed up with the DePauw administration turning a blind eye to their concerns of their safety. Black students and Black faculty were fed up with being disrespected by racist professors. Day of Dialogue was meant to bring the issues of racism to the forefront of DePauw’s agenda. Yet, Day of Dialogue continues to divert its attention from race and our list of grievances continues to grow every day. Rather than challenging white supremacy and the structures that ensue, Day of Dialogue enables white supremacy. At this point, we begin to wonder who this day is truly meant for.

In spite of this disastrous event, we would like to commend Dr. Lori White’s efforts to reimagine the structure and meaning of Day of Dialogue. In fact, we enjoyed Dr. White’s opening remarks and her facilitation during the beginning of the event. AAAS praises her for placing Dr. Emmitt Y. Riley III., our advisor and Director of Africana Studies, as one of the leading voices for this year’s Day of Dialogue. Dr. White’s honest reflections about racism demonstrates her commitment to fostering a healthy and positive institution. We believe that Dr. White had the best intentions to restructure the Day of Dialogue.

However, it is evident that DePauw University does not prioritize nor value the voices and experiences of BIPOC faculty and students. This year’s Day of Dialogue confirmed to all of us that the university does not regard diversity, equity and inclusion values with any significance.

Until DePauw is ready to implement change, which requires meaningful ACTION at the institutional level, we find that it is in the best interest to eliminate the Day of Dialogue and its production.

We are ​exhausted​ from doing the work for you, DePauw.

Sincerely,

The Association of African American Students 2020-2021 Executive Board

  1. The concept of Day of Dialogue came into fruition in 2015 when Black students and other student organizations came together to address the institutional and systemic racism at DePauw.
  2.  Dr. Amanda Kim has been in office effective October 7, 2019.
  3.  Alan Hill has been in office effective August 1, 2016.