Spears talks social justice at SGA meeting

by Chris Van Buskirk / Beacon Correspondent • September 28, 2017

Vice President for Diversity and Inclusion Sylvia Spears challenged the way the Emerson community looks at inclusivity during Student Government Association Tuesday meeting. Junior Ally MacLean, chief justice for SGA, also shared her proposal for a directory of answers to general campus life questions. 

Spears said higher educational institutions often do not speak in plain terms when it comes to diversity, inclusion, and equity. She said that in October an official announcement will likely be sent out explaining an official name change of her office. 

“If you’re talking about social justice, talk about social justice, don’t add a lot of words to it … Institutions of higher ed don't speak plainly,” Spears said. 

Spears said she discovered from the Emerson360 climate survey that the highest rated scores for faculty, students, and staff were a self-reported commitment or belief that diversity and inclusion are important. 

“Are we practicing inclusion beyond the ‘let's just get along’ or are we practicing policies that create conditions that let all people thrive?” Spears said. 

Spears challenged SGA to ask what is causing students of marginalized identities to have a different experience on campus than everyone else. Emerson promotes itself as an institution that is accepting of people of all walks of life but the reality, Spears said, is that this is not the case. 

“It has been a fight, tooth and nail, to get different members of our community to acknowledge that there are students who are having different experiences at Emerson,” Spears said.

Spears said she wants to conduct a study examining the status of historically underprivileged students. The data will be shown to the executives at the college upon completion as a metaphorical mirror to demonstrate what is going wrong.

“It also creates a record, and people use records for leverage,” Spears said. “I would expect that the status report will be public information … one of the things that motivates colleges is preserving their reputation.”

Prior to Spears’ speech, MacLean spoke of her idea to create a support website in which students are able to write in general questions about campus into a search bar.

“I like to think [we will] model it after Apple’s support website … where you can type in any kind of question you want and either the answer to that question or a further resource [will appear],” MacLean said. 

The project is in its early stages with a projected goal of launching sometime next semester. 

“The goal would be to answer simple questions and to guide students to [places] where they can solve these issues,” MacLean said.