December 5, 2020

Students speak up about diversity issues at summit

by Sierra Hancock

A panel of 10 Webster University students explained the benefits of a more diverse faculty and staff at the Global Inclusion and Diversity Summit on Thursday, Feb. 28 in the University Center’s Sunnen Lounge. Webster President Elizabeth Stroble was on-hand to listen to what she called a “serious conversation.”

At the event, Amillia Woods, Webster junior, mentioned a story about a faculty member that made an insulting comment to a student. Woods said the student asked the professor a question about a test they were about to take in class. The faculty member told the African-American student to pick an answer in the same way they would pick a piece of fried chicken out of a Kentucky Fried Chicken box.

“It’s always surprising to hear the personal stories of hurt and insensitivity,” Stroble said. “It makes me sad to hear that has happened to somebody.”

Panel member Candace Brown, sophomore pre-law major, said it is inspirational to have a teacher in a “high-status role” with her same ethnic background.

“To have someone of the same background as you and in that particular major or career that you’re studying is kind of helpful. … It’s very inspiring,” Brown said.

Stroble helped hire the first chief diversity officer, Dr. Lee Gill,  while at Akron University. Gills presented on diversity and inclusion efforts to start off the Global Inclusion and Diversity Summit. Adam You can learn something from anybody if you’re willing to listen. It doesn’t matter what background they have, Adam Rahaman said. Rahaman, international management major, was present at the speech. He would like to see a chief diversity officer at Webster.

“You can learn something from anybody if you’re willing to listen,” Rahaman said. “It doesn’t matter what background they have.”

Attendee Katie Rochester, senior sociology and women studies major, said she wished there would have been more student involvement at the event. She thinks discussions like the ones that occurred at the Global Inclusion and Diversity Summit bring awareness to other issues.

Rochester would like people to be more aware of discrimination laws. Rochester said she quit her job because she overheard her employers planned to fire her for being a lesbian. Missouri is one of 29 states where it is legal to fire employees due to their sexual orientation.

The students on the Global Inclusion and Diversity Summit panel said they want to spread the word regarding diversity issues across campus. Stroble has a similar goal of building on the Global Inclusion and Diversity Summit, and not losing momentum. Rahaman believes solving the issue starts with students.

“As a student body, we have a lot of power,” Rahaman said. “So what we want, we can accomplish as long as our voices are heard.”

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