Ramapo’s Diversity Day brings campus communities together

The Office of Equity, Diversity, Inclusion and Compliance (EDIC) hosts Diversity Day each year to celebrate the many identities that make up Ramapo’s student body. On Oct. 5, the Grove was decorated with flags from over 100 different countries, and various clubs and organizations set up tables to bring attention to the different parts of campus they represented.

“It’s about learning about people in terms of diversity, whether that’s race, religion, gender or sexuality. The list is exhaustive,” said Associate Director Rachel Sawyer-Walker. She helped put together EDIC’s table, which offered pride flags, coloring pages featuring mandalas, stickers and information about programming and resources.

Several departments used the day as a chance to share how they also play roles in supporting diversity at Ramapo.

The Center for Health and Counseling Services offered pamphlets and lists of resources for different demographics who may face unique mental health struggles, such as first-generation college students. Acting Associate Director of Health Services Beatriz Rojas was grateful for the opportunity to connect with students at the event.

“We think our services are very inclusive, and we want all students to engage,” she said. “I’m on the health side of things, so we really want students to have access to our services… We love when students come to see us when they’re not feeling well or, even more importantly, come to get educated on how to stay well.”

Rojas and other Health Services staff members work hard to consider how students’ identities may overlap with the health issues they are experiencing. Rojas said, “We’re currently staffed with two Latinas, and so we certainly can understand a lot of what our Latino students might be encountering. We are all well-trained in multicultural and diverse populations.”

Other tables focused on educating students about the tragedies that are enabled by undervaluing diversity. The Gross Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies gave out free books that covered topics such as Jewish history, the Holocaust and other genocides.

Director Jacob Labendz explained how people often offer to donate books. “We get amazing archival materials from regional centers that have taught about the Holocaust and genocide… We get phenomenal artifacts from the war, but… we get a glut of extras. I figured why not take them and give them out here to students for free?”

“This day could not be more important. I’ve only been here a year, and one of the things I’ve loved most about Ramapo is how committed it is actively to inclusion, actively to caring for its students, and how I see that reflected in the students,” Labendz said. “I see this day as a manifestation of that and I wouldn’t miss it.”

To reinforce their commitment to this cause, the Mission Element Team set up a table of their own. Chief of Staff Brittany A. Williams-Goldstein said, “This was a joint effort for the leadership team at the college. It provides some profiles about ourselves… and then in addition we donate a whole bunch of books and resources that are representative of our different perspectives.” Like those offered by the Gross Center, these books were also free for attendees to take.

President Cindy Jebb was in attendance, taking time to talk to the representatives at each table. “In the higher-ed experience, it’s important that everybody has an opportunity to share their lived experiences, to learn and grow together, and to be able to come out and see all the different and beautiful ways we can add to this community with [our] unique perspectives and backgrounds and ideas,” she said.

Overall, Diversity Day was a learning experience and a chance to deepen connections between the different groups that make up Ramapo.

Junior Chris Alepa was glad he came. “Understanding how to respect it and how people live and how people are, whether it’s their sexual identity or their ethnic identity, I think it’s an important thing to understand all of that,” he said. “Being around people of different gender identities and different ethnicities is very good, and I think in my own life it’s helped me open my eyes.”




Featured photo by Danielle Bongiovanni