Commissioners gather input from members of campus community
THE SANTA CLARA
May 19, 2016
On May 11, the newly formed Blue Ribbon Commission on Diversity and Inclusion sponsored a town hall meeting on campus.
It welcomed all members of the campus community to join a conversation about changes they would like to see surrounding diversity and inclusion. Following testimonials by a student, an alumnus, a faculty member and a staff member, the floor was opened up to all other attendees.
In his State of the University Address in February, President Michael Engh, S.J., announced that Santa Clara will be convening with the recently established commission. The group includes twelve campus representatives, alumni and community leaders that will work together to develop strategies to make Santa Clara a more diverse, compassionate and just university.
Lorenzo Gamboa ‘03, senior associate director of undergraduate admissions, began by giving his testimonial as an alumnus who faced microaggressions on campus because of his race.
“The challenges I faced in and outside the classroom were many, but what hurt me the most was the many microaggressions I experienced,” he said. “Many of these also followed me through as an alum and graduate of this institution.”
Gamboa explained that when he tells people that he graduated from a local university, their first assumption is that he graduated from San Jose State University.
“I’m not trying to imply that one school is better than the other, but for some reason there still is an overarching assumption that individuals that look like me don’t graduate from Santa Clara,” he said.
He further explained the lack of representation of minorities in all aspects of Santa Clara.
“I look around and I don’t see me represented here,” he said. “This community of Santa Clara Valley is a rich and diverse one. But where is that richness within the highest levels of my faculty, my staff, my student body, my development office, my admissions office, my board of regents, my board of fellows, etc.? Even within major events like the Golden Circle, the SCU Magazine, Illuminate, social media, where am I? They don’t reflect me.”
Aparajita Nanda, a senior lecturer in the English Department, focused her speech on the need for more diversity courses and diversity requirements at Santa Clara.
“If we want students to follow along and understand, not just swallow the pill of diversity, we need to create a place of inclusion by including others,” she said. “We need different voices from faculty and students that bring different perspectives into play.”
Erin Kimura-Walsh, associate director of the LEAD Scholars Program, said that many students come to Santa Clara not knowing much about issues surrounding race, ethnicity and inequality, yet the university does not do enough to foster learning and understanding in those areas.
“What is troubling to me is that Santa Clara does not have a consistent, cohesive message about what these issues are and what they mean and what we expect from our faculty, staff and students,” she said. “We don’t have a cohesive model that requires or empowers them to gain knowledge challenge themselves to acknowledge what they don’t know and seek out information.”
Senior Alana Hinkston acknowledged that students getting involved with these issues have created a great movement on campus, but stressed that they need further support.
“We as students cannot continue to take this on–we are only here for four years,” she said. “We need to figure out how to help students be a part of the conversation, but not be the conversation.”
She also touched on the university’s location in the Silicon Valley and the disconnect she perceives between the two.
“We live in the middle of Silicon Valley which is all about leading and innovation,” she said. “Why can’t we be that university that’s leading the conversation about diversity and inclusion? Why can’t we be the template?”
The floor was then opened up to all members of the community to share their experiences pertaining to diversity and inclusion at Santa Clara.
Frederick J. Ferrer ’80, chief operating officer of The Health Trust and the chair of the Commission spoke to the audience, explaining that he has a personal connection to the goals the group hopes to accomplish.
“As an alum, I’ve seen challenges of diversity and inclusion up close and personally at Santa Clara,” he said. “I feel that because I have experiences in being able to work with boards and protocols in the community, I have a responsibility with this commission.”
He went on to explain that the commission will be focusing on long-term solutions.
“This commission will be looking at the more broad, longer term view,” he said. “If we want to have systemic change, we can’t do that by only addressing the immediate issues.”
Ferrer said that the commission is not necessarily starting off with concrete goals, but will focus on utilizing all resources before giving any recommendations.
“If you start with the end in mind, then this is not really a Blue Ribbon Commission,” he said. “We need to stay very open and first listen deeply and examine the literature and the best practices already in place in order to take in all the resources available to us.”
The commission will meet on a monthly basis throughout the summer and it has also hired consultants to gather information about Santa Clara’s climate regarding diversity and inclusion.
The consultants will give this report to the commission, who will provide a report and recommendations to Engh by the end of next fall. Engh will then pass those recommendations along to the Board of Trustees, who will decide how to begin implementating them.
Those who wish to submit commentary about what they would like the commissioners to consider as they meet throughout the summer should submit comments to Lisa Millora at firstname.lastname@example.org by Friday, May 20.
Contact Krista Clawson at email@example.com or call (408) 554-4852.