Diversity and Inclusion commission hosts annual series

Published by adviser, Author: Erica Kurvach - Rocket Staff Reporter, Date: March 7, 2013
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SRU hosted its fourth annual Diversity and Inclusion Series in the Smith Student Center Ballroom this week to help educate the campus about individual and collective thoughts and voices, one of the Tenets of Higher Education.

The three-day event featured SRU’s faculty, students, alumni and external speakers to share about topics such as disability, women and sexuality.

Keynote Speakers Ms. Ann Cody, Dr. Donna Lopiano and Dr. Wendy Murphy focused on Title IX: Today and Tomorrow. The title has pages of statutes of regulations.

“Title IX is a comprehensive federal law that prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in any federally funded education program or activity,” according to the United States Department of Justice. “The principal objective of Title IX is to avoid the use of federal money to support sex discrimination in education programs and to provide individual citizens effective protection against those practices. Title IX applies, with a few specific exceptions, to all aspects of federally funded education programs or activities.”

Almost 200 students attended Murphy’s Rape, Sex and the Law: What All Students Should Know workshop on Monday at 9:30 a.m. Murphy, a national expert on the legal and cultural responses to sexual violence, spoke about what rape is and at her 12:30 p.m. presentation she informed about Title IX and gender rights and civil rights.

“One of the main things Wendy highlighted was that for some reason Title IX, in its 40 year history, has been primarily associated with sports” Dr. Jessamine Montero Michaels, Senior Officer for Diversity and Inclusion and Special Assistant to the President, said. “In the general population and even here with our own campus, it is often all that we know it to be.  Although we’ve made great advances in Title IX with sports, it’s so much more than that.  As Wendy stated, Title IX is about civil rights, within the whole scope of education.  That was why it was our theme this year.  We needed to educate our university of the bigger scope of Title IX, in addition to the advances with sports.”

Dr. Cindy LaCom, an English professor and director of the Women’s Studies program, said Murphy’s presentation addressed a critical issue.

“For me it’s important because it affects students in the room whether you are a woman or a man,” LaCom said. “We are all affected by a culture where sexual assault and rape are normalized.”

This is the first year SRU had alumni speakers for the workshops. Alumni Sheryl E. Smith ‘74 and Jody Brylinsky ‘77, Wilma Cavill ’52, Dr. Joanne Leight ‘87 and Carol Matteson ‘68 presented a panel discussion on Title IX on Monday.

SRU defines diversity as “Our individual differences and group/social identities,” and inclusion as “Our active, intentional, and daily engagement with diversity, where we increase awareness, content knowledge, intra- and interpersonal skills, and an understanding of how individuals interact within groups and systems.”

“That’s what the Diversity and Inclusion Series is about,” Montero Michaels said. “It’s teaching us about us. It’s teaching us about the diversity and differences that make each of us unique, and equally as important. It’s teaching us about how to interact and socialize with each other given our unique differences.”

The four Presidents Commissions are Disability, LGBTQ!, Race and Ethnicity and Women’s.

“We still have a good bit of work to do, but [women] would not be here without the Title IX,” Montero Michaels said.  “Many of our faculty, staff, administrators and our alumni have said that ‘without Title IX they were not allowed’ during their earlier years to have been in particular schools or graduate programs.”

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