The Humanity of Inclusion
Letter to the Editor | Friday, March 24, 2017
“Undocumented, unafraid, unapologetic.” Former Saint Mary’s student Deyaneira Garcia is proud of her identity as a Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) student, which is why she held a sign at Notre Dame proclaiming these three words. After a picture of Garcia made it onto social media, the threats began to come. In reaction to the image, a fellow Saint Mary’s student wrote via social media that she would call local law enforcement to deport Garcia. Garcia and her roommates reported the harassment, but because she no longer felt safe on her campus, Garcia transferred out of Saint Mary’s.
Despite efforts by the administrations of both Notre Dame and Saint Mary’s to try and address issues of diversity and inclusion, events of racial discrimination still affect members of our student body frequently. We wish, as students who are part of the Diversity and Inclusion Campaign, to address the underlying causes of such unfortunate events. We need to be proactive about discrimination and hate, educating students about these important issues.
By implementing inclusivity workshops in first year orientation, we can concretely show that our schools care about these issues and the people they affect. Through dialogue and information, we hope to ensure that everyone is represented by our schools regardless of their diverse identities. We aim to nurture love and respect between students, and this means recognizing and embracing differences. As Notre Dame’s Mission Statement claims, “The intellectual interchange essential to a university requires, and is enriched by, the presence and voices of diverse scholars and students.” Similarly, Saint Mary’s College “strives to bring together women of different nations, cultures, and races. It provides a residential environment where women grow in their appreciation of the strengths and needs of others.” We agree, and want to make sure these different voices are both present and heard.
For decades now, many scholars have pointed out that race is not a scientific concept, rather a social one which has implications on the individual’s and community’s access to health care, economy, education, and others. A recent discussion among scholars on Anthropology Now points out that the majority of people are misled about the role of race in our genetics. Thus, race is a social concept invented by people, but its implications are real. For instance, the Journal of Blacks in Higher Education lists on their website that in the last year alone 36 racial incidents occurred at U.S. college campuses. We believe that the prevalence of racial incidents can be avoided when specific educational training is provided.
Some may claim that racial identity does not matter because at the end of the day, we are all human. And to that, we would counter, “race should not matter – everyone is human.” But in reality, notions of race do have a very real and substantial impact on our perceptions and interactions with others.
So where do we start in tackling this issue? Orientation weekend. Orientation weekend represents the first time that a new class comes together as one community. The weekend is foundational in nature, upon which friendships begin to grow and students begin to understand how they fit into this larger community. Thus, implementing an Inclusivity Workshop in the midst of an orientation dedicated to building community will help set a more inclusive tone at Notre Dame and Saint Mary’s from the very beginning. It is important that we address, from the start, how social interactions have the potential to be divisive and create outcast groups. Rather than respond to divisive events, we want to prevent them altogether.
As University President Fr. John Jenkins rightly said this year, “This is Notre Dame. Either we walk together in mutual support, or we do not walk at all. Either we are all Notre Dame, or none of us are.”
If a member of our Notre Dame and Saint Mary’s community feels especially outcast due to the nature of their upbringing or heritage, it is our obligation to assess the issue and tackle it head-on. If we are to take seriously our schools’ goals of equally recognizing the value of each student, then that endeavor must begin on day one: New student orientations across both campuses represent the perfect opportunity to address issues of diversity and inclusion. A concrete training program during orientation weekend would allow us to build the kind of community that we aspire to be from the very start of bringing new members into our family.
If you would like to support us in our Diversity and Inclusion Campaign, please consider filling out our survey. Your responses will help us show administration how students truly feel on campus, so that we can create a more inclusive environment at Notre Dame and Saint Mary’s.
The lack of diversity in our schools’ classrooms prompt us to think of the implications that result – we are committed to addressing these implications in a way that makes our campuses more understanding towards each other.
As the Notre Dame Mission Statement says, “The aim is to create a sense of human solidarity and concern for the common good that will bear fruit as learning becomes service to justice.”