In the second dialogue and vigil this summer, the Office of Multicultural Student Engagement partnered with student organizations to cope with national violence as a campus community on July 11.
The Black Student Union, Student African American Brotherhood and Sister 2 Sister organizations sponsored the event “Together We Stand” in response to the deaths of Alton Sterling, Philando Castile and five Dallas police officers last week.
Janelle Green, president of Sister 2 Sister, said she felt the dialogue was required.
“Had students not been able to address [the violence], I feel like there would have been a barrier between students, because you don’t know what another student is thinking,” she said. “I think it was just important for us to be able to come together as a student body, as a university, and really just acknowledge things that happened. Just because it didn’t happen in Detroit doesn’t mean it’s not relevant, and doesn’t mean it didn’t hurt.”
Students, faculty and community members were able to share their hurt and begin healing in a dialogue focused on two questions: how are you feeling in the aftermath of the deaths of Sterling, Castile and Dallas police officers and what can we do as a campus community moving forward?
Associate Provost of Diversity and Inclusion Marquita Chamblee said these questions can help turn pain into productivity.
“One of the reasons we always ask the second question about what can we do is because you don’t leave people in their feelings, because their feelings are like ‘oh my God, its hopeless’. But in a circle at a table, some of the ideas, some of the energy of what we can do begins to draw us out of that hopelessness,” she said. “How can we proactively begin to create conversations that build bridges and build pathways between groups that traditionally don’t spend a whole lot of time together?”
Chamblee said these conversations are even reaching incoming WSU students. Faculty sat down with 120 Academic Pathways for Excellence scholars Friday morning in a similar dialogue.
APEX is an alternative admissions program that provides advising and academic assistance to help bridge the gap between high school and university curriculum for new students.
“This is the kind of space we’re trying to create now at Wayne State where when stuff comes up, we don’t run away from it; we embrace it and we talk about it,” Chamblee said.
After approximately two hours of discussion, the dialogue transitioned to a candlelight vigil in the middle of Gullen Mall including a moment of silence and rendition of “We Shall Overcome.”
Associate Provost for Student Success Monica Brockmeyer said the evening taught her more about how students are feeling and helped her to provide more universal resources.
“I'm always learning. I got a big sense of the diversity of human experience that our students come from [on] campus and how important it is for us to have curriculum and advisors and people that are here to assist and support our students in a way that really connects with each student, according to whatever their individual experience is,” she said.
“I feel like it's really important for me to understand as much as possible what our students on campus are experiencing and to really learn from that so that we can make an educational environment that works for all of our students...so every one of our students can thrive and grow and graduate from Wayne State.”
Contact Rosemary O’Meara: firstname.lastname@example.org or 313-510-6456. Follow her on Twitter: @rosie_omeara.