By Murphy Obershaw, A&E Editor
The Division of Student Affairs hosted a town hall on Friday afternoon for students to talk about how the university could improve in terms of justice, equity, diversity and inclusion.
The virtual town hall, which was put on over Zoom by hosts Director Multicultural Engagement Joseph Shepard and Dean of Students Christine Schneikart-Luebbe, attracted an audience of two students and a Vantage reporter. The main issue discussed was the lack of representation of Black, Indigenous and people of color (BIPOC) among faculty, staff and students.
Junior Shanice Gitungo said that her professors are great but that they don’t understand her unique struggles as a Black woman.
Senior Johnathan Liu pointed out that there are great organizations on campus, like the Multicultural Leadership Organization, Asian Student Association and Diversity Round Table Ambassadors, but there is still more that can be done. He said he especially wants to see Newman try to recruit students from schools with greater BIPOC student bodies.
Shepard said that the Division of Student Affairs is already doing work to try to make sure this happens.
“We are working with Admissions and trying to identify ways that we can recruit more diverse populations,” Shepard said. “One example of that is our ASC and Cardinal Newman Scholarship. It is no secret that all of our recipients of the Cardinal Newman Scholarship that received it last year were white, and we want to make sure that we are doing our due diligence to see that multiple people from multiple backgrounds know that this opportunity is available.”
As for faculty and staff, Shepard said, he has also been helping Admissions in its search for a new Admissions counselor. He said he rewrote the job description to help attract more diverse applicants and will be a part of the interview process.
“I’m hopeful that through this process we will choose the most qualified candidate, but we will have a diverse pool of candidates to pool from and to choose from,” he said.
Shepard also said that the Division of Student Affairs wants to do more for different groups of students on campus.
“Christine and I are committed, after this semester is over, to taking a hard look at our events and figuring out, ‘How do we create and foster an environment here where we are helping people understand that multicultural engagement goes far beyond the scope of race?’” Shepard said.
Some things they are already doing involve the First Generation College Student Program and Military Student Support Center in Admissions.
Those present at the town hall also discussed the possibility of having a mentorship program at Newman.
Schneikart-Luebbe said that the Navigator Program connects students with mentors, but it might be beneficial to offer that same opportunity to students outside the program as well. She said that giving students an opportunity to meet with alumni or people from the community who would understand their unique struggles could be something worth exploring as well.
PHOTO: Courtesy Photo, unsplash.com