Just 70 days after DePauw University faculty voted to suspend classes for an institution-wide conversation about diversity and inclusion, roughly 2,000 people gathered in Neal Fieldhouse for DePauw Dialogue.
The faculty charged Diversity and Equity Committee, which is made up of faculty, students and administrators, as well as Christopher Wells, vice president for student life, and Carrie Klaus, dean of faculty, with planning the day. The group began by inviting others to help and forming a larger planning committee.
“We wanted to get as many people involved as possible,” Klaus said.
Student Body President Cody Watson was one of the students on the planning committee.
“It taught myself and other students how the faculty and staff work,” Watson said.
First, the committee needed to choose a date. They wanted to have the day as soon as possible.
“There was the question of ‘Is this a state of emergency like you cancel classes for a snow day’ asked at the faculty meeting,” said Klaus.
Ultimately, the committee settled on Wednesday, January 28, during the first week of the spring semester and in the middle of Interfraternity Council and Panhellenic Council greek recruitment.
“We didn’t choose the first day of the semester because we felt like some students just wouldn’t come back, and we thought to have it on a Monday, Wednesday or Friday so we weren’t taking too much time away from Tuesday and Thursday classes,” Klaus said. “We really took everything into account – recruitment, athletics, the School of Music.”
Although some members of the faculty were concerned that penalizing students for not attending made the day a new graduation requirement, the faculty supported the day overall.
“The concern from the faculty was about requiring attendance, not about the day itself,” Klaus said.
Staff members were also excited to attend.
“My staff is really excited,” said Amy Haug, director of human resources and a member of the Diversity and Equity Committee. “It’s nice to have a casual day.”
Haug said staff members receive diversity training in orientation.
“Certainly it’s something we share with employees when they come on board, but it’s not on the scale of [DePauw Dialogue],” Haug said. “[DePauw Dialogue] is more interactive.”
Haug has worked in human resources for roughly 25 years and said it rare for an employer to be willing to stop operations for an entire day.=
Students who attended felt the day was planned well overall.
“I’ve heard great feedback about all of it,” said first-year student of color Diamond McDonald.
She was one of the first students this year to stand up and say something needed to be done.
“The planning committee did a great job with the time they had,” McDonald said. “Imagine how much they could do with more time or with resources they save up from making the day an annual event.”
Although the day was meant to focus on all types of inclusion, the speakers focused mainly on racial and multicultural issues. Derald Sue, a psychology and education professor from Columbia University and a pioneer in the field of multicultural psychology, spoke about microaggressions in a mostly racial sense. Sue did say, however, that microaggressions, or unintentional acts that tell a member of a minority they are an “other,” happen against many groups such as women and LGBTQ people. The second speakers, Tom DeWolf and Sharon Morgan, talked solely about racial issues. The two embarked on a journey together as the descendent of a slave owner and the descendent of slaves to “heal” from slavery. The two coauthored the book “Gather at the Table.”
“I was a little skeptical that it seemed a little race heavy,” said junior student of color Iesha Brooks. “It wasn’t as well-rounded as I’d hoped.”
-Nicole DeCriscio contributed to this report.