17th annual diversity and inclusion summit is forum for discussion

This week, many at CU are listening to presentations and engaging in discussion that centers around matters of diversity, inclusion, equity and social justice on campus due to the events offered by the 17th Annual Diversity and Inclusion Summit.

From left, facing the camera, Karen Shimamoto, John Henderson, George Hoey and Mary Friedrichs listen to a question from a participant, far left, of the 17th Annual Diversity and Inclusion Summit. This session, called "Identity Dimensions, Intersections and Privilege," discussed the societal problems associated with privilege and identity in a roundtable setting. (CU Independent/Robert R. Denton)

The theme of this year’s Diversity and Inclusion Summit is “Taking the Next Step,” and the summit is held from Nov. 8 until Nov. 10 in the UMC. A number of different groups worked to put the summit together, including the CU Office of Diversity, Equity and Community Engagement, the System Diversity Office, the Chancellor’s Advisory Committees and the city of Boulder.

Alphonse Keasley, CU’s assistant vice chancellor and coordinator of the summit, said that planning each year’s summit is an ongoing process. Coordinators look at large issues in diversity that need to be emphasized and choose speakers who can address those issues effectively, Keasley said.

“Part of what we would like to see is a greater influence on the culture of the campus,” Keasley said. “Currently, the reality is that we have 84 percent white students. The campus has a very non-diverse kind of feel.”

Tuesday’s summit included 16 sessions related to diversity and inclusion. The sessions took a number of different forms, including interactive workshops, discussions, plenary speeches and presentations. Students, faculty, staff, members of the Boulder community and distinguished speakers from around the nation facilitated each session.

Lynnette Schweimler, a 20-year-old senior international affairs and German major, and a member of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer (GLBTQ) Resource Center, helped coordinate a session called “Deconstructing Gender.” This session was in the form of an interactive workshop, and focused on identity and gender, and the cultural messages that impact both.

“I think [the summit] is really nice because it allows a cross-generational dialogue,” Schweimler said. “We had students in this room, we had people from the community, people who have been professionals for a long time, and just people who have had really different experiences. It’s cool to see those come together and be able to find common themes.”

Schweimler was also involved in the summit last year, and said there seemed to be more people in attendance this year.

Corey Wiggins, a 22-year-old senior political science and secondary education major, was also involved in the summit, and ran the “Deconstructing Gender” session alongside Schweimler.

“I think that diversity in certain areas is thriving here, but in other areas it’s pretty weak,” Wiggins said. “Overall though, inclusion is something that is pretty stagnant.”

Wiggins said that he sees room for improvement, even though the CU and greater Boulder environment is accepting for the most part.

“We don’t always do such a great job of making sure that everyone feels included based on who they are, no matter what that may be,” Wiggins said. “I think that everyone on this campus at some point feels like they are not included because of an aspect of their identity.”

Another session on Tuesday looked at a research project concerning first-generation students, while another dealt with the intersection of race and gender identities as they relate to privilege.

Phil Barker, a 22-year-old senior history major, attended the “Identity Dimensions, Intersections, and Privilege” panel and said that he enjoys the opportunity to talk about diversity.

“I like talking about issues that affect me on this campus every day, and the ways that we can get everybody to work together to build a better campus environment,” Barker said. “Also, I think that from these discussions I gain another perspective because I’m used to talking about these issues just from what I go through. It’s good to hear other sides of the story.”

Many of the students attending the panels said that they felt that the state of inclusion at CU could be improved, and that events like the Diversity and Inclusion Summit had a positive impact at CU.

“We want to provide the best information about diversity every year,” said Keasley, in reference to those who coordinated the summit. “The theme of this year’s summit, ‘Taking the Next Step’, is critically important, because people are beginning to recognize that there is more we need to do.”

In his opening remarks on Tuesday, Chancellor Phil DiStefano highlighted increases in diversity at CU in the last years, but encouraged his audience to continue to work toward a more inclusive environment.

“We have seen over the last year that our campus and broader community are not immune from bigotry and violence,” DiStefano said. “We cannot change the climate by administrative decree. We need to all work together to cultivate the consciousness of inclusion in students, community members and visitors to our community that invite them into a better world.”

The Diversity and Inclusion Summit will run until Thursday, Nov. 10, and a full schedule of events can be found on the CU event page.

Contact CU Independent Staff Writer Hadley Vandiver at Hadley.vandiver@colorado.edu.

 


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