Western Washington University students, faculty, staff and Whatcom County community members are invited to a campuswide dialogue about race Thursday, Feb. 23 from 1 to 3:30 p.m. at the Viking Union Multipurpose Room.
This is the second year in a row that Western’s Faculty Senate Social Justice and Equity Committee will sponsor a vital conversation about racial difference on campus.
Participants are asked to register in advance by completing the form on Survey Monkey at this address: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/V3X2VRQ Parking for the event will be free for community members who sign up for the event ahead of time.
The format will follow last year’s well-received program, said Tim Costello, director of the Center for Service-Learning. “Participants will meet in small groups to respectfully explore our differences and hopefully find common ground,” Costello said.
A diverse team of facilitators from the student body, staff, faculty and the community will guide the small groups.
“We’re attempting to provide safe spaces to create an opportunity for dialogue,” said Lucas Senger, a group facilitator who is an instructor with both the College of Business and Economics and the College of Fine and Performing Arts. “Our campus community is new to this experience of talking about race.”
Group leaders were trained by Seattle-based experts Caprice D. Hollins and Ilsa Govan, authors of “Diversity, Equity and Inclusion: Strategies for Facilitating Conversations on Race.” Hollins and Govan specialize in designing workshops around race for a variety of organizations.
“Our plan is to provide professional development training on how to facilitate vital conversations each year,” said Trula Nicholas, associate professor of Health and Community Studies and chair of the Social Justice Equity Committee of the Faculty Senate. “Spreading this knowledge across our campus and out to the broader Whatcom County community encourages active dialogue, which is deeply important in our democracy.”
The WWU community made a commitment to diversity and inclusion under the direction of former President Bruce Shepard, a mandate that current President Sabah Randhawa plans to continue.
“I am looking forward to gauging where we are as a campus,” said Breneya Cox, secretary of the Black Student Union and a student facilitator for the event.
Cox urged students to attend: “They are the leaders of tomorrow. What would be the point of earning a degree and not being knowledgeable about ways to create safe spaces?”
Cortni Alexander, a student facilitator and member of the Black Student Union and the Caribbean Club, asks students to attend because “people aren’t offered any education on this topic until they reach higher education.” She believes everyone must learn about race from new perspectives.
Community leaders also shared their enthusiasm for the dialogue this year. “It is our duty to constantly engage in difficult conversations about race,” said Bellingham City Council Member April Barker, “to ensure that we identify the racial divides perpetuated by built environments, our government systems and in our own daily routines, so that we can create the change needed to embody equity, inclusion and justice for all.”
For more information, contact: Trula Nicholas, chair of the WWU Faculty Senate’s Social Justice Equity Committee at Trula.Nicholas@wwu.edu