The department of student diversity and inclusion hosted Courageous Conversations, a forum that allows representatives of the university to speak on the current issues that are troubling our country.
The representatives were given topics and questions to answer such as how to balance freedom of speech and offensive actions on campus.
“We have to provide and serve the needs of our varying constituents,” said Maggie Viverette, director of the office of social equity. “There’s also a responsibility to protect the institutional community and to make sure that we have an environment that all of our constituents feel safe and welcomed.”
Viverette said the university wants students to feel at home and know their voices are heard, but the university will not tolerate offensive behavior.
“There is a line, and you cannot cross that line to decide you’re going to abuse someone and make certain segments of the campus community feel unsafe,” Viverette said.
VSU President Richard Carvajal attended the forum and used his own experiences to give examples of how to deal with offensive actions.
“You know this is an issue very personal to me,” Carvajal said. “With a name like Carvajal, you definitely know I’m something.”
Carvajal spoke of his Hispanic father meeting and dating his Caucasian mother which involved some unreceptive parents.
“When my mom and dad got together, her family disowned her for marrying him, and I never knew that side of my family,” Carvajal said.
He then spoke of his wife’s family and how they preached acceptance but acted out of prejudice in disowning her for marrying Carvajal.
“I only tell you that to give you a sense that this (the issue) means something to me,” Carvajal said.
While hoping it never happens, Carvajal said that he hopes VSU will shut white supremacist groups down with love, should they choose to try and incite hate riots in Valdosta.
“We have a foundation and a great base because we have a lot of people that just want to change lives for the better,” Carvajal said.
Interim director of the department of student diversity and inclusion, Gerald Williams, took some time out to explain his plans for the year.
“Last year was getting our program, working with organizations and talking to students,” Williams said. “This year we have a plan. We heard you, now here’s our strategy.”
Williams said that the department is going to be as aggressive as they were last year. Their goals are to bring student groups together and fight harder against prejudices.
“We’ve been tuning and trying to hear what students are saying and build programs,” Williams said.
Williams revealed the “Stop the Bias” campaign which uses an app to report vulgar acts against multicultural students.
“As students experience things on campus they may see as bias, they can report it anonymously or put their name in it,” Williams said.
Williams said this year they want to make sure students’ stories reach the right places. The department is planning for a multicultural center to house student groups and build bridges between them.
Williams also said a big thing this year would be to stop student groups from having two of the same programs at different times and have them coordinate one together.
VSU plans on holding more Courageous Conversations throughout the year. Currently, the next forum is scheduled for Sep. 7 and will speak on Hispanic views on identity.
Written by Bryce Ethridge, News Editor. Photos by Bryce Ethridge
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