By Matt Riordan
Imagine a day, where Ross gym welcomes full benches of students and faculty to spark conversation about race and diversity. That’s the idea behind St. Michael’s first Diversity day, scheduled to take place Feb. 18. . President Lorraine Sterritt has called the plan a day of reflection, in which classes will come to a halt in order for students to participate in the campus wide conversation of diversity and inclusion. The event has been mandated after recent racist stickers and slurs have been found across campus.
Most of the population on campus understand the purpose of Diversity Day, but questions still linger around the event. One of the questions is how the day is structured. Diversity Day will start at 9 a.m. with a welcome from the president and Dean of Student Affairs, Dawn Ellinwood, who will talk about why the college needs this day and what it entails. Afterward, nationally recognized speaker, Mohammad Soriano-Bilal, will talk about diversity which will segue into an open discussion on racism. Following Bilal’s discussion, students will be assigned to workshops for the remainder of the after
noon in which half of the attendees will go to lunch in Green Mountain Dining Hall, while the other half will go to their assigned rooms.
“There will be some small group work, no one will be forced to talk but we ask everyone to go and listen,” Ellinwood said of the workshops. Upon arrival, everyone will be given an agenda with their assigned workshop and their time of lunch. Card swipers will be at the entrance of Tarrant to ensure student participation, along with the professors who have been asked to incorporate the day into one of their assignments. Ellinwood has made many on campus aware of the upcoming event to ensure that all can come. “I have asked Chris Kenney to contact coaches to make sure that teams are there. I’ve worked with Jeff Vincent to get the RAs to get their floors to go to the event. We deserve this of one another.” Many students welcome the experience, but some question the arrangement that brought it forth. “I think the intention behind the day is good, but the preparation for it was really subpar. I felt like the steering committee was put together to divert attention to the bigger issue that there are racist acts happening on campus,” said President of the Diversity and Inclusion Connor Venzina ‘22.
Venzina said he feels it should have become a day, not as a reaction to the problems around campus but because it is important for it to be discussed. He said many members of the steering committee have told him that this day is confusing to follow and hard to speak up because of how many voices are present.
“I’m honestly worried about the day because I know not everyone will understand what’s trying to be accomplished here, and there might be more conflict in the future” Vezina added. He also mentioned that as a student of color he feels he has to “constantly educate others and I’m not sure if this day of education will be similar to what I have already experienced”. Moise St. Louis, former Associate Dean of Students/Director of Multicultural Affairs and Services said that this upcoming day in February didn’t solely come from the school feeling that this was necessary, it was students that pushed for it.
This event is not something that came out of the blue, it has been building for years and now thanks to students the event has finally come to be, St. Louis said. “This is now do or die for the institution,” he added. This is the time for the school to teach students how to deal with diversity, St. Louis said. . It is up to the faculty to be role models in this situation and set an example all other students can follow. “Students need to lead and start pushing us where we want to be,” St. Louis said about the future of the school’s approach on diversity. St. Louis, whose last day at St. Michael’s was Friday, Jan. 31, said he is full of hope and feels we have been heading in the right direction for some time.
He hopes the school doesn’t just look at this day as a one time event. He wants it to be a tradition that carries on for years, and not just this one day, or one week we devote to celebrating Martin Luther King Jr and diversity, but twice a year we dedicate a day to talking about this issue and teaching one another on how to deal with it. “With the momentum and speed we’ve built up the only thing that will stop us is us,” St. Louis said.