The Torch

University Introduces New Inclusivity Center

Atemkeng+Tazi%2C+far+right%2C+stands+with+several+University+members+involved+in+the+creation+of+the+new+Inclusivity+Resource+Center.
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University Introduces New Inclusivity Center

Atemkeng Tazi, far right, stands with several University members involved in the creation of the new Inclusivity Resource Center.

Atemkeng Tazi, far right, stands with several University members involved in the creation of the new Inclusivity Resource Center.

TORCH PHOTO/NINA PROCOPIO

Atemkeng Tazi, far right, stands with several University members involved in the creation of the new Inclusivity Resource Center.

TORCH PHOTO/NINA PROCOPIO

TORCH PHOTO/NINA PROCOPIO

Atemkeng Tazi, far right, stands with several University members involved in the creation of the new Inclusivity Resource Center.

Dayra Santana, Contributing Writer

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The Inclusivity Resource Center’s grand opening was held at Sun Yat Sen Hall this past Friday. The newly renovated building, previously home to the Office of Global Studies, is now home to what the Office of Equity and Inclusion hopes will be a place where marginalized students will feel welcome.

The Inclusivity Resource Center, or the IRC, is just one of the steps the Equity and Inclusion Council, formerly known as the Task Force for Diversity and Inclusion, has taken in the past year in an effort to institutionalize practices of inclusivity.

Faculty members, alumni and several students were in attendance for the dedication ceremony. Speakers included Chief Diversity Officer Nada Llewellyn, who described the commitment St. John’s has dedicated to this.

Llewellyn recognized the many student groups, protesters, petitioners and everyone else in the St. John’s community involved in pushing for this space to be created “through their courage and sacrifice” in the past year.

Student Government Inc. president Atemkeng Tazi also spoke about the “emotionally charged” year, particularly for “minoritized” students, that led to the creation of this space. Tazi is confident that this is now a top priority for the University.

“This space is a representation of the fact that St. John’s University is taking steps to move in the right direction,” Tazi said. “While there are still prevalent issues regarding diversity and inclusion, I am more than confident that this is a top priority now, and even more so confident in the individuals who have been directly and indirectly charged with finding the solution to this problem.”

Interim Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Simon G. Møller and University President Conrado “Bobby” Gempesaw also spoke at the event.

“A great university is never content with the way things are… it seeks to be better,” Gempesaw said. “One of the ways we want to be better is by making St. John’s a welcoming place for all. Today we’re taking a huge step towards reaching our university’s inclusivity mission of institutionalizing practices of inclusive excellence to ensure that we welcome, and to celebrate the intrinsic work of all members of our community.”

Gempesaw also said that he hopes the IRC goes down in history as a step in making St. John’s more inclusive and welcoming.

Despite problems, Gempesaw said he knows there is more the University can do to improve the experience of its students. He said that the school’s emphasis on diversity will improve.

 

“We recognize that real equity, diversity, and inclusion is a very huge challenge,” he said. “But it also presents itself as a tremendous opportunity to build a better, respectful, and welcoming St. John’s community.”

Alumnus Kevin Saunders, who graduated in 2002 with a degree in hospitality management, attended the ceremony.

“I’m very excited. This wasn’t even a vision when I was a student here, so to see it actually coming to fruition is amazing,” said Saunders, a longtime member of the Pan-African Students’ Coalition, Haraya. “We’ve come a long way and we definitely have a long way to go, but this is a step in the right direction. I’m real proud to see this.”

Among some of the students who attended the open house was Kendra Patrick, a junior and member of student organization Eden, a Christian organization that focuses on merging faith and creativity.

Although excited about the new center, Patrick did express some reservations.

“I just hope that this space is used in the best way,” Patrick said. “I see a lot of people taking pictures, and there’s food, and there’s alums… but what happens six months from now? I think that that’s what we’re most worried about right now. Are these people still going to have this same energy and involvement?”

The office of Equity and Inclusion acknowledges that there is still work to be done.

“Today’s celebration is not that of a job well done or a mission accomplished,” Llewellyn said in her address at the ceremony. “Today we celebrate that we’re beginning.”

Students are invited to spend time in the new center, whether it be doing work, hanging out or engaging in dialogues with their peers on important issues.

The building will offer counseling for students and include two gender-neutral restrooms.

Discussion groups for men and women of color and opportunities for members of LGBTQ+ communities to meet in the center several times throughout the upcoming months are some of the initiatives that the center will offer.

Some of the Diversity Peer Educator training will also take place in this center.

“It’s a positive change for the University,” said Selina Mangaroo, a sophomore Diversity Peer Educator. “It’s motivating when you have a place like this, because… it’s a foundation you can grow on.”

“I really hope that it’s helpful,” Llewellyn said. . “And [that] it’s a space that students can use and feel comfortable and engage in some of the conversations that we need to be having as a community.”

 

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University Introduces New Inclusivity Center