Coffee sparks conversations of change on campus
Students don’t typically have the time or resources to meet with higher faculty about campus issues. Yesterday, Vice President of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Henry Morris sat down with a group of students in the Women’s Center to listen and address their concerns over coffee.
Morris started the conversation by talking about equity gaps on campus and how success rates vary by student. He emphasized Equity 2030, how “higher education has failed diverse people” and how Minnesota State students and employees need to reflect upon their demographic.
“As of right now, domestic people of color are about 20% of Minnesota’s population. We say we believe our student population should be reflective of that,” said Morris. “We historically have these gaps where students are not succeeding equitable rates.”
Grad Student BriShaun Kearns brought up how offering certain classes during certain times or semesters can impact undergrad student success.
“There really needs to be some accountability for not telling us when classes are being moved or putting in required classes that overlap considering how much you’re spending to be here,” said Kearns. “It’s huge for the success of your future.”
Grad student and Grad Assistant of the Violence Awareness and Response Program MK Thao addressed the issue of security on campus and how multiple students have come to her expressing how security has disregarded their concerns.
“I felt like it was just one student, and that maybe it was an isolated thing, but it’s been multiple students now saying ‘I pressed the emergency button and nothing happened’ or ‘they’re speaking to me over a speaker,’” said Thao.
Morris said it’s important for higher faculty members to have conversations with students to let them know faculty is listening to them directly, not just over what they’ve heard.
“We have made changes based on what students something students have told us because it’s sometimes really easy when you’re part of something to see where maybe hurting people unintentionally,” said Morris.
Both Thao and Kearns mentioned how appreciative they are having their issues be addressed directly and how Morris handles them directly.
“Oftentimes students are left in the dark about what’s happening to their concerns when they make a bias report or when they’ve sent out an email. It gives you kind of like a gist of whether or not your concerns can be addressed,” said Thao. “It’s good to know that he assures you right there right then that he will work on it and he’s already working on it, or it’s something that has been brought to the table multiple times.”
“It’s very reassuring, especially knowing that directly after this, he starts drafting emails and making appointments and we know it’s being taken seriously. It has, like, the investment that I’m making [in voicing concerns] in this institution and that’s kind of being returned back to me,” said Kearns.
Thao said that students should attend because most concerns aren’t isolated and several other students might share them. She said hearing about other issues on campus allows students to see the struggles of others and can help further shine light on them.
“It could be something that you think is minor, but raise up the awareness and they’re gonna try to do something about it. It can be important to the university,” said Thao. “It’s a nice time to really see what’s going on in the community here and the concerns of the people living in that community with you.”
Morris is planning to have conversations with other departments over the next few days to discuss what students brought to the table.
“All these people don’t report directly to me, but I have the ability to be a catalyst of conversation,” said Morris.
Header photo: Vice President of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Henry Morris listened to students’ concerns in the Women’s Center on Wednesday. (Lilly Anderson/The Reporter)
Write to Emma Johnson at firstname.lastname@example.org