On Sept. 14, Chief Belonging Officer, Taran McZee, hosted a diversity dialogue partnered with the Human Rights Lab, Office of Belonging (OOB), Ford Institute, Curtis Institute, Center for Sustainability and the Environment (CSE) and Student Senate.
Vice President of Student Senate and Lansing junior, Kara Anderson, opened the dialogue by explaining the idea behind why the dialogue was created.
“A lot of students expressed their desire to have a space for conversation on these issues,” Anderson said. “So, I created that space.”
After her speech, Anderson introduced McZee, and invited him to come up to the podium. After he took the microphone, McZee stepped down from the podium to “be with the folks” and create a respectful environment for everyone in attendance.
To honor the respectful environment, McZee said he wanted the dialogue to be a place of confidentiality, open ears and judgment-free. He didn’t want people to feel forced to answer his questions.
The questions McZee asked were made to be answered with “I” statements and to challenge oneself. He added that an uncomfortable conversation might arise.
“I typically like to have conversations with folks that are uncomfortable at times,” McZee said. “It’s okay to have uncomfortable conversations because there’s growth.”
McZee said he wanted to know about each class’ experience with diversity on campus since each year has a different experience. He wanted to know what the campus does well in exemplifying all kinds of diversity.
“A lot of folks think of diversity and go automatically to race,” McZee said. “There are so many other marginalized communities that are a part of diversity, equality and inclusion.”
Anaka Mccoy, Jackson junior, spoke on the different historical and cultural classes she and other students have been able to take.
“It’s nice to see the range of academic classes that the school has,” Mccoy said. “I’ve taken French classes that revolved around African countries and I’m taking a class on diversity and education.”
After students gave examples of what the college does well, McZee invited them to talk about what could be improved. Since there was 90% of the school cabinet–faculty and Student Senate–in the room, he wanted people to be as thorough as possible.
“If you had a magic wand,” McZee said. “What would you change about diversity, equity and inclusion at Albion?”
Lazarreah Clegg, Battle Creek sophomore, recently transferred to Albion from Dayton University. They said that there is a lot of division on this campus and they would like to see people come together.
“I would like to bring everyone together because with different interactions, you get different perspectives,” Clegg said. “It’ll help with mindsets and how you deal with things.”
During McZee’s closing remarks, he asked the audience how they would describe Albion to a visitor. Abraham Baffoe, Ghana freshman, described Albion as a place where excellence is reached.
“Albion is a place to strive for excellence,” Baffoe said. “There is the saying where we try and try, but Albion is where it happens.”
The Associate Director of Belonging, Rivkah Gamble, was recently hired to work on the OOB team in July. OOB deals with creating events for specific identities, increasing accessibility, bias incident reports and facilitating workshops on campus.
While there wasn’t a huge turnout to the dialogue, Gamble believes that it’s a good starting point.
“You have the early adopters, and it’s really great that they came,” Gamble said. “Because without them, you’ll never get the skeptics.”