Students’ actions against systemic racism now need to be matched by university policy

By Faith Pitsikoulis
May 7, 2021

A year filled with marches, initiatives and discussions, Cabrini has responded to national incidents of racism and broad inequalities.  However, the institution has yet to change its privilege.

Lack of Engagement

In the fall, Cabrini created the anonymous reporting system EthicsPoint, in order to receive feedback and communicate with students about issues and violations to Cabrini’s policy. This has allowed students, faculty and staff to report “criminal, unethical or inappropriate behaviors.”

This reporting system was a response to the Black@Cabrini Instagram page, which was used to tell stories of racist incidents experienced by countless BIPOC students, faculty and alumni.  Months later, a vast majority of students are not even aware that Cabrini created EthicsPoint.

The Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Advisory Council (DEI) was also started in 2020 and is made up of various community members including, students, faculty, staff, alumni and trustees. The council was created to better improve the Cabrini community and make all students feel welcome.  However, the majority of students are unaware of this new council.

The institution’s long chain of emails regarding diversity initiatives are never followed up with promotional events, workshops or discussions. Cabrini has hosted many events in regards to race and other social issues, which have been advertised as deep intellectual conversations that students can choose to attend.  Examples of these events include the Race in America Panel, Xenophobia in America, Shirley Dixon Celebration of Urban Education Symposium and immigration books talks. 

Cabrini lacks a true relationship between white students and BIPOC students. Student-athletes repeatedly take part in picnic events provided by the athletics department.  However, diversity initiatives have never included picnics for BIPOC students and white students to relax, talk and listen to one another. These promotional events are not utilized by the institution to welcome diversity, but instead they are reserved for sports teams to receive free pizza and t-shirts.  

The institution’s long-standing mission has taken a backseat to various short-term priorities by students and faculty who do not understand the lack of BIPOC culture on campus.

More Diversity

Almost half the student population cannot relate to the experience that Cabrini advertises. The photos of white and BIPOC students together throughout campus are artificial representations of students’ actual experiences.

Even though Cabrini announced that they would mandate unconscious bias and microaggression training for all faculty and staff, white faculty and staff significantly outnumber BIPOC faculty and staff.  The best way to welcome diversity is to employ educators who understand the students’ perspectives and cutting diverse faculty/departments is definitely not improving the experience that students of color receive.

Over the course of the semester, the university has announced that many departments will be cut, which will cause certain majors to be reduced to minors. Some of the majors that are being cut include Black Studies, Spanish and Gender and Bodies Studies. However, prior to the start of the 2020-2021 school beginning, the administration sent out an email stating that the university was actually planning to expand these majors in order to increase diversity on campus. 

“We will work with the faculty to update the core curriculum and ensure appropriate investment of resources in academic programming like Black Studies, Latin American Studies, and Gender Studies programs,” President Donald Taylor wrote in an email to the Cabrini community back in August of 2020. “Although some initiatives have already started, this work will begin in earnest in August, and we will be providing progress updates to the campus community throughout the year.”

Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost Chioma Ugochukwu addressed in an email back in March that many of the stand-alone majors that are being cut will now be incorporated into the core curriculum at the university. The majors that are now part of the core curriculum are American Studies, Black Studies, Liberal Studies and Spanish.  

Though the university has made steps towards being more diverse on campus, it has felt that the students have taken more initiative than the administration has. The Solidarity March that recently took place on campus was organized by the Black Student Union. The university as an institution still needs to strive to be more inclusive and diverse in order to improve the environment on campus.

Recognizing Pain

Looking forward, this is not the time to be satisfied or complacent with actions taken by Cabrini. Although previous steps have been taken towards equal opportunities, we need to keep moving forward by bringing awareness to the community. 

At the end of the day, the question is why does this lack of awareness remain throughout the Cabrini community? The university is taking positive steps in the right direction, but why don’t more students know what is going on within their campus? 

All students receive emails relating to national incidents, but students should also be aware of the local incidents occurring within their community. Emails relating to on-campus incidents that provide an understanding of the event, while at the same time protecting those involved, would be one way to make students feel like Cabrini is making progress.  The institution cannot keep viewing national news as isolated incidents of racism that cannot touch the community at Cabrini.

With recent cuts made to departments including Spanish and Black Studies, students and staff have brought attention to the possibility of this affecting future enrollment. These departments made students feel they had a home on Cabrini’s campus. By making these old majors, now new minors, will campus continue to have a diverse enrollment?

Even though cuts were made to these departments, Cabrini can incorporate Asian studies and Latino studies along with Black studies, in the core curriculum to continue to educate students.

There must be more talking.  It is not up to BIPOC students to initiate these conversations.  White students, faculty and staff need to have these conversations and continue to educate themselves on how to move forward together.

Cabrini will not be able to please everyone if it is truly willing to stand for those calling for equality – equal representation, equal opportunities and equal rights.

Faith Pitsikoulis

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