Diversity celebration falls in wake of Attic incident
In the midst of memorials and controversy, faculty, staff, students and the local community are being encouraged to renew their commitment to diversity at the university’s 2nd Annual Diversity Celebration, 4 – 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 24, at Beasley Performing Arts Coliseum.
The event falls in the wake of a weeklong commemoration of the Sept. 11 terrorist attack on America and an ongoing controversy surrounding the Pullman Police’s handling of a fight at the Attic nightclub that occurred on Sept. 8. (See related article.)
The schedule for the event, titled “Commit to Diversity,” includes:
• 4 – 5 p.m. Open reception with complimentary food and entertainment
• 5 – 5:30 p.m. Remarks from WSU students; Robert Bates, provost; Felicia Gaskins, associate vice provost for human relations and diversity; community members; and a brief update from President V. Lane Rawlins regarding the diversity climate
• 5:30 – 6:30 p.m. “American Voices,” a one-person performance
“American Voices” is an acclaimed presentation that stretches the issue of diversity to examine socioeconomics, eating disorders, religion and sexual orientation. It was written from the suggestions of, and interviews with, Americans across the country and portrays the voices of a Native American, Latino, Arab American, Asian American, African American, a professional newscaster, and a gay American.
Similar to last year, people throughout the community are being asked to sign the university’s Commit to Diversity Pledge, a declaration “against hate and violence in support of diversity.” Rawlins and Gaskins were among the first to sign the document on Sept. 12, at the kickoff of the pledge-signing drive.
“The pledge is a way we can all join together to express our personal commitment to do our part to make this a safe and thriving community, ridding it of violence, racism and intolerance of any kind,” said Milt Lang, special assistant to the president, who is organizing the upcoming event.
Last year, about 3,000 people signed the pledge, said Lang.
“Some people may think, ‘Oh, I did this last year, so I don’t need to do it again,’” remarked Lang. “But we must renew our commitment each year to demonstrate to all faculty, staff and students, including new freshman, how important this goal is.”
“This (pledge) is a statement that causes us to think about what it means to be a part of this community. It contains good values that we ought to endorse,” Rawlins said. “I’m proud to sign it.”
Lang said that the program is “substantially shorter” this year, having cut out about one hour of presentations. Rawlins will give an update of last year’s diversity vision, a brief review of progress made, and the university’s vision for the next 12 months.
Lang said major advances made during the past year include:
• Development of a coordinated, campuswide incident-reporting system for violent crimes and acts.
• Creation and distribution of brochures and bookmarkers on safety.
• Endorsements by the Council of Deans and the new provost, Robert Bates, reinforcing recruitment and retention of faculty and staff of color as a top priority.
• Presentation of the Martin Luther King Celebration on Jan. 22, featuring nationally known speaker and civil rights advocate Morris Dees.
• Presentation of the Racial Justice Conference on Jan. 26, featuring author, scholar and human rights activist Dr. Manning Marable.
• Holding the first and second annual Diversity Celebration. Last year’s event drew about 1,200 people.
• Creation and signing of the Commit to Diversity Pledge.
• Recognition by the state’s Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction that WSU’s program for the recruiting of students of color is a model for the state and nation.
Three initiatives for 2002 – 03 include the launching of a campuswide “diversity education” program, the possible moving of multicultural counseling centers to central campus locations, and the implementing of a new process for reporting and responding to hate and bias incidents.
Multicultural student centers that might be moved to central campus locations during the next year include the African American Student Center, Asian American/Pacific Islander Student Center; Chicana (o) Latina (o) Student Center, and the Native American Student Center. Administrative and recruiting offices will remain at French Ad.
Lang said that in addition to signing the diversity pledge and renewing their commitment, it is important that people also attend the Commit to Diversity event, because it will help them to “understand campus issues, help us rid the university of hate and bias, and better understand the resources they can use if they see an incident of hate or violence. We also hope people will bring their families, and that it will inspire them to commit to their part in achieving these goals.”
“The incident at the Attic has left a profound aura of sadness on our campus community,” said Charlene Jaeger, vice president of Student Activities. “The diversity celebration can help us to begin the healing process by coming together as a community dedicated to moving forward as an inclusive, safe environment for all of our members.
“A rich array of people come to WSU seeking an education. We must all work to assure that students from all backgrounds experience a welcoming environment on campus and in Pullman. The diversity celebration will reaffirm our commitment to be a community of caring individuals working together to make students dream of an education a reality,” Jaeger said.
Pledge forms are available in Pullman at city hall, the Chamber of Commerce, Neill Public Library and the WSU Visitor Center. Campus locations include the Compton Union Building’s information desk, the Office of Student Affairs, the Office of Human Relations and Diversity, and the Student Recreation Center. The Commit to Diversity Pledge may also be signed online at www.diversity.wsu.edu.