By Lara Becker
As students at the College continue to get involved in social activism, many can agree that there is one common denominator necessary for next steps: education.
Many students are taking to various social media platforms to express areas of concern as they speak up to encourage improvements in the world around them.
The College’s administration intends to match this motivation for change, with departments such as the Office of Institutional Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (OIDEI) working to come up with solutions for these social concerns.
Marvin Carter (‘13) is working alongside the office as the director of intercultural engagement and the interim director of diversity and inclusion, where he focuses on engaging everyone in the conversation of issues found both on and off campus.
“Every student, regardless of their intersectional identities, should feel like TCNJ is a place where all of them can be present, represented, understood and valued,” he said. “(The OIDEI) is working in conjunction with several offices to increase those feelings of safety, mattering and belonging here at TCNJ.”
Carter hopes to make change by creating opportunities for individuals to recognize their own privilege, an exploration of the deeper history behind many systemic oppressions and the creation of space for voices to be amplified.
In order to implement these solutions, Carter is working with student groups to create a programming guide for the fall semester in order for faculty and students to be able to be a part of inclusive education.
He feels as though the campus is dialed-in to these issues more than ever due to recent surges in activism, and is looking for somewhere to put their progressive energy.
In an interview with The Signal, Carter discussed the issue of racial bias on the College campus which had 20 reported incidents in fall 2019 semester alone.
“Campus Pulse data would suggest that some individuals on campus have experienced bias and some of those incidents go unreported,” Carter said. “Racial bias in any form on any campus is a problem and one incident is one too many. Specifically at TCNJ, bias incidents are constantly being monitored and used to create better systemic and programmatic responses.”
Vice President for Equity and Inclusion James Felton is also working toward these goals in the OIDEI and has workshopped specific initiatives shared with The Signal.
- An equity audit to review historical documents and policy from the College, ensuring that all documents are equitable and in line with the College’s goals for DEI.
- A cultural competency program, whether it be in the form of an FSP, or a required course students must take within the first two years of their College career.
- An inclusive faculty recruitment to help faculty diversity mirror student diversity, and create a pipeline for diverse faculty retention.
- A plan to help faculty infuse inclusion in the classroom and be responsive to all student needs. This will encourage culturally responsive teaching for all students.
- A plan to repair relations with Trenton and Ewing communities, dealing with historical traumas.
- A diversity police committee: The office intends to work with the Chief of Police to facilitate a possible Police and underrepresented student direct communication.
- A plan to facilitate intergroup dialogues between students, faculty and staff who share a history of conflict.
Some of these goals were addressed in President Kathryn Foster’s community missive email, and were also referenced in a July 17 campus-wide email from Felton.
The July 17 email came with mixed reviews from students, some of whom feel the OIDEI needs to take responsibility for the claims of racist incidents in classrooms, student organizations and administration as a representative of the College at large.
“We see right through the empty promises of ‘diversity and inclusion,’” said Najalis Gual, a rising senior history secondary education dual major. “We need tangible action to be taken and sustained. We have had enough of the forums, conversations, emails, surveys and workshops. TCNJ needs to fire racist professors/administrators, expel racist students, and un-recognize racist organizations. This email was just more of the same performative activism.”
Another student, Terence Odonkor, a rising junior music major, sees the good in OIDEI’s efforts, yet believes that more can be done.
“For the most part I feel as though the steps being taken have seemingly good intentions, but I worry they will fall to the side when these issues of social justice are no longer “trending.” Often the establishment of new departments and groups are just bureaucratic methods of appeasement.” said Odonkor.
As these initiatives contribute to part of a larger developing plan moving forward, according to Carter, the OIDEI is working toward ensuring the comfortability of everyone at the College.
“As an institution we have made strides in the direction of addressing bias, but admittedly, we have a much longer way to go and wounds to heal,” Carter said.