Fostering a Culture of Inclusion in the RIC Community

April 21, 2021

 

Dear Campus Community,
 
There was much anxiety leading up to the verdict in the trial of Derek Chauvin. Yesterday, a Minnesota jury held him accountable for his actions in the murder of George Floyd. Today, while there is justice for the Floyd family, we are cognizant that racial tensions are not going away with one verdict.  Hate-inspired, discriminatory and prejudiced acts of violence that have targeted people of different races, religious beliefs and gender identities let us know that it is not enough to talk about eradicating racism, anti-semitism, or sexism; we must act. In fact, on a seemingly daily basis, news and social media call our attention to an evolving human condition that requires a deeper understanding, thoughtful engagement, and meaningful action.
 
For members of our community who are Black, Hispanic, Asian and/or LGBTQ, the acts of hate-inspired violence are traumatizing and frightening. It is a concern to all of us because what affects our students, our faculty, and our staff impacts our collective mission - directly and indirectly. On top of that, increased acts of violence across the country, including at least 45 mass shootings in the last month, have been alarming and are a constant and painful reminder that no community, race, religion, or gender is immune.
 
The Rhode Island College community will not look the other way on issues of racism, hate, and bias. In fact, we are proactively taking bold, meaningful steps to address these issues. There is rarely a good time to have uncomfortable conversations even in educational settings. With this said, we will not send another statement vowing to make change; we must be the change.
 
This academic year, much work has been done to foster a culture of inclusion in the RIC community.
 
 
Bias Incident Response
Earlier this spring, the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (ODEI) partnered with stakeholders across campus – including the Division of Student Success, College Council, Unity Center, staff, students, Campus Police, and Human Resources – to create Rhode Island College’s Bias Incident Response process.
 
This nationally-recognized best-practice aims to prevent incidents of intimidating, exclusionary, offensive, or hostile conduct from escalating to episodes of violence and encourages persons and groups with historically marginalized identities – including Black, Indigenous, People of Color, Asian American and Pacific Island communities, sex and gender minorities (including women), LGBTQ+ communities, and persons with disabilities and across various age groups – to report bias incidents so that we can work together to foster a safer, more inclusive campus climate for all.
 
Learn more about the Bias Incident Response here.
 
 
ACTive Listening Conversations
The ODEI has facilitated several conversations on diversity and inclusion topics where all members of our community are open to express their viewpoints in a constructive and emotionally safe way. Resources and best practices have been shared as students, faculty and staff have bravely come forward to share their perspectives. More of this programming will continue in the Fall.
 
 
Let’s Go There
The Division of College Advancement, Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, and the RIC Foundation have partnered to create a new short film, entitled Let’s Go There, which includes personal reflections about diversity, equity and inclusion from members within our RIC community. These videos are just the beginning of many conversations that we are going to have throughout our community. I want to personally thank the people who were willing to be interviewed and who candidly shared their powerful and personal stories.
 
Listen to their personal stories: Let's Go There 
 
 
Resources
We are all learning, or, in some cases, unlearning how to navigate issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion in our changing world. For some, this is a new language; for others, this work is about finding their voice and the courage to speak up. Others still want to be allies, but do not know where to begin or how to start. Regardless of where each of us are in this journey to support an inclusive campus environment, there are resources available.
 
 
Inclusion in Action
At Rhode Island College, we are actively and consciously fostering a welcoming and inclusive community. This work entails creating an anti-racist and anti-hate workforce, workplace, and campus community where each member can be heard, valued, and respected.
 
Let’s go there and be committed to exploring topics like institutional racism, gender equity, xenophobia, microaggressions, ableism, and other behaviors not conducive to a high quality collegiate experience. We may disagree along the way, but we will provide an educational space where everyone is heard, and can learn and grow. I am certain some bias and long-held beliefs will not change overnight. But, if we commit to taking the first step in understanding each other’s perspectives, and see one another for who we truly are, it will not only make us stronger, it will make us better.
 
Yours in education,
 
Frank D. Sánchez
President