Successes and Challenges of Building a More Inclusive Campus Discussed at Forum

Photo by Giancarlo Sepulveda

Students, professors and administrators of the College met on Thursday in the Alumni Lounges to discuss the successes and challenges of achieving diversity and inclusiveness on campus, as well as ways to strengthen Ramapo’s initiatives to achieve the objectives of the Strategic Plan.

The Strategic Plan works in tandem with the College’s mission statement to set goals for the College in order to achieve the College’s mission. Thursday’s talk focused on the goal of cultivating and supporting diversity and inclusiveness.

Kat McGee, the director of Affirmative Action and Workplace Compliance on campus, initially facilitated the talk.

“The purpose of doing this is so that faculty leaders can spend some time listening and we will be taking that information and the leads of the conversation … to look at our Strategic Plan and our pathway for going forward,” said McGee.

After introductions, those in attendance were asked to break out into four groups to discuss four different topics regarding diversity and inclusiveness on campus. 

One of the talks focused on the question of what a supportive workplace environment is and how it pertains to diversity and inclusion. The table also discussed how that contributes to achieving objective four of the plan. Members at this table included President Peter Mercer, Kirsten DaSilva, the vice president for Administration and Finance, Gurvinder Khaneja, the director of Institutional Research, and David Vernon, director of Human Resources.

At the beginning of the discussion, Vernon mentioned that, in general, Ramapo is less diverse in employee population than other schools.

“Clearly, if we decided that we were going to measure ourselves against the diversity in the immediate surrounding area, there would be quite a different result than when we measure ourselves against the state as a whole. I think our responsibilities reflect the state as whole,” said Mercer.

Vernon responded by pointing out that when one looks at the student body as a whole, the educators and administrators are not as diverse as the student body.

The table answered the question of how to enhance faculty awareness about diversity by suggesting that on faculty evaluations students complete, a diversity score and comment box should be added. The table also concluded that it would be noticeable when the College is making progress on these goals as it will become apparent in everyday life at the College.

“I think as an institution we should look at which populations’ voices we are hearing and who we feel are marginalized, and we can look at it in a different way. We need to ask if we have enough support groups that will help marginalized groups and we can look at how many people are participating in that group,” said DaSilva.

She added that diversity is a matter of providing a voice on campus for those groups who are marginalized.

Student awareness of diversity, the table decided, could occur by adding diversity seminar participation as a graduation requirement. The table also decided that in order to recognize emerging underrepresented and marginalized groups, the Ramapo staff needs to move beyond categories to let individuals self-identify and let them know they are heard.

Freshman Maxwell Neuman attended the event and found it to be rewarding. “I drifted to a few different discussions and I found the topics that were talked about really comforting. It was nice to know that these topics don’t go unnoticed by faculty and administrators, and it was comforting to know that other students feel the same as I do,” Neuman said.