Beckham Hall Ruptures and Collapses From Weight of Released Emotion

Video from the event is here.

Last night, hundreds (by my count, 400+) students, faculty, and staff piled into Beckham Hall for what became an over-three-hour long panel/discussion on issues of diversity and community at Wesleyan. By the end, as the clock approached 11:00 PM, there were still at least 200 attendees remaining. By all accounts, the forum was an immensely powerful and public out-letting of emotion and outrage at our community’s collective failings to address intense ruptures in Wesleyan’s identity as “Diversity University.”

Vice President for Diversity and Inclusion Sonia Manjon moderated the discussion, leading a panel that included President Michael Roth ’78, Director of Public Safety Dave Meyer, students Jalen Alexander ’14, Dorisol Inoa ’13, Chantaneice Kitt ’13, and Evan Okun ’13, Professor Alex Dupuy and Professor Elizabeth McAlister. The original intent of the forum was to address diversity in light of recent events, most notably hateful and racist comments on the ACB after Homecoming Weekend, the use of race in Public Safety reports, and allegations of unnecessary use of force by Public Safety, but the conversation touched on many, many more areas of community dysfunction.

There were a few things that were made amply clear to everybody last night, if they weren’t clear already:

  • We’ve got problems. Big, scary institutional and individual problems and shortcomings. We all do. Every one of us.
  • There are a lot of people who really give a shit. Not only was this evident in attendance, but in the words, actions, and thoughts of many. This carries from those brave students who shared their own horrifying stories all the way to President Roth at the helm of the University, who remarked: “I take this very seriously. It’s so corrosive. It undermines the very fabric of this university. This can’t go on. … If we have screwed up, we will fix it. What you’re describing to me wrecks the University’s mission.”
  • Dialogue is important, and this kind of forum needs to happen regularly, but actions speak louder than words. Right now, there is a real limit to the trust that our community affords itself and the administration to actually address these issues. Ostensible, and more importantly tangible progress in institutionally healing our community is necessary to shore up that lack of trust.

I cannot possibly cover everything that was said last night, or even cover everything that was particularly important or significant. There’s just far too much. The above is simply three broad brush strokes of a metaphorical mural of emotion and dialogue. Instead, here are some links to various videos of the event, which you should consider watching.

If anyone has something else they remember from the forum which they think is particularly poignant or pertinent, sound off in the comments.

Our community is wounded, and we need everyone’s help to truly heal.

Photos courtesy of Our Dear Leader Zach.

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21 thoughts on “Beckham Hall Ruptures and Collapses From Weight of Released Emotion

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  6. tibbs

    You absolutely do have a duty to report on the specifics of this forum. Restating the fact that there are “problems” and that we need to talk about them is absolutely useless.

    While I have watched some of the footage, I don’t have the time to sift through three hours of poorly captured video.

    From what I’ve gathered so far, I’m going to consider the acb and psafe reports as unfortunate, but not indicative of of the larger problem being discussed here. Acb racism is a result of a few disgruntled trolls who may or may not be current students. In any case, It seems that the conversation in the diversity forum turned away from the acb. At least one student expressed the opinion that “the acb is the acb.” As for problems concerning psafe, I don’t believe that discussion necessarily needs to implicate the student body at large (of course, it’s an issue that concerns us, but not one we’re responsible for). P safe members either need to be fired or recieve some sort of sensitivity training.

    What I need to know is what exactly the white majority here is responsible for here. Give specifics about racist incidents. Give specifics about what needs to change. One of the suggestions was a 5 person salaried diversity team… You should include a discussion about that. Personally, I feel like that is unecessary–and possibly wasteful–spending.

    1. pyrotechnics

      I appreciate your comments and suggestions. I do want to point out, though, that I don’t really have time at the moment to transcribe three hours of video either and I felt that some reporting sooner was better than no reporting until Thanksgiving. Another Wesleying staffer may be writing a personal account of the forum in the near future, and you may find what you’re looking for there.

    2. Student '13

      “What I need to know if what
      exactly the white majority here is responsible for here.”

      And this is why I have so much trouble
      as a white student with the way some (read definitely not anywhere close to
      all) people (and people of all races, ethnicities, etc) approach these things.
      I have been singled out as a random member of the “responsible white
      majority” and that bugs me. Racism can come from anywhere. Not
      just white students. I have said before that I feel like I have never
      been discriminated against because of my race, and that is true to the extent
      that I have never been discriminated against systematically the way that many
      members of minority communities (read: not just racial) have. That being
      said, being singled out as a white guy for being incapable of understanding,
      for being responsible, being suddenly a member of this white majority that you
      see as responsible hurts. I give a shit and am working to make things
      better. I understand that as someone who hasn’t experienced this
      systematic discrimination, I can’t fully understand what it is like. Does
      that mean all white people should be lumped into this responsible majority
      though? No. The way to move forward here and have productive
      conversations where everyone can be in the room and feel comfortable (the most
      important part of the whole process, b/c without everyone, you can’t make truly
      fundamental changes to campus culture). To do that everyone needs to take
      a second and not just look at someone to see where they are coming from but
      listen to them. Having a statement like “what I need to know is what
      exactly the white majority here is responsible for here” does not move
      that conversation forward and does not make me more willing to seek out a
      conversation. I’m open to listening if there is something that I do or
      say that offends someone as myself individually. I’m open to working with
      the campus community as a whole to improve discourse. To pigeon-hole me
      in the way that statement does insults me though.

        1. Student '13

          Careful with sounding paternalistic there…it’s a bit presumptuous that I know nothing and saying “since no one has time to educate you on the complexity of the issue” makes it sound a) like I’m a hopeless lost cause and b) does not help endear me to any point you are trying to make. I recognize that you aren’t trying to attack me, but you leave me at a loss for the issue you take with my comment and the book description seems well off the point that I am attempting to make.

          The point I was making is about being lumped into a larger group solely based on my skin color and the fact that such a comment as “What I need to know if what exactly the white majority here is responsible for” doesn’t sit well with me, nor should it with anyone. The point as Shakti Butler put it so well is to recognize each other’s humanity and, from there, working as individuals in one-to-one conversation, bring up the level of conversation and working out the problems and misunderstandings that we have. Having a place where people could feel comfortable sharing stories in the forum is a step in that direction–it helps people understand, personalizes and humanizes stories that some people had never heard or thought were possible before–see Roth’s reaction and shock that he didn’t know some of what was happening on campus. My point is that lumping me into a larger, “responsible” (and not responsible in the good sense) white community is not productive in the same way (it doesn’t recognize me as an individual capable of my own thoughts, feelings, actions, mistakes and progress–all the things, good and bad that go into a dialogue) and simply serves to drive people away from the table when the goal should be to bring everyone there and make everyone as comfortable as they can be while they are there.

          1. Chantaneice Kitt

            Student ’13, it would be useful to not remain anonymous as anonymity has
            sparked much of what drives the issues being talked about. My name is
            Chantaneice Kitt, Class of 2013 and I was on this panel. What you are
            feeling is natural. When issues of oppression are brought to the table
            we naturally try to see where it is on the spectrum of responsibility we
            fall. If you feel that you were lumped into a “responsible” white
            group, that is not the intention. Everyone, no matter your identity, has
            a responsibility to their fellow peer to at least take the time to try
            and understand, to the best of our abilities, the pain and hurt that
            someone (or groups) are feeling. We have ALL been lumped into a
            “responsible” group as students of this university. What you have to
            realize however is that you, simply as a someone who identifies as a
            racially white individual, have a unique role. By that I mean your
            willingness to understand the pain of someone outside of your ingroup
            can create a ripple of understanding from WITHIN your group. I disagree with your statement about comfort.
            Being uncomfortable is not always a bad thing. In this context it
            actually means that you are hearing and feeling something. Its cliche
            but we must all lean into discomfort. This is an important conversation
            and can be had in person. Feel free to contact me (is this
            paternalistic?). I’m not offering you answers but rather a space and an ear for you to express your feelings.

          2. Student '13

            I have a couple reasons for anonymity but that is beside the point at the moment (I want my words to speak for themselves not representative of any groups or places that I come from, because my points hold true for a number of people that I have talked to who share the same sentiments). I agree that being lumped into this group is not the intention of all, but it was what came out of the initial commenter’s post.
            My point is again that being lumped into these groups is wrong for anyone and that is the type of dialogue to avoid on both sides. Again, this is acknowledging that it happens on all sides of a discussion, as it is far too easy to do–it is easier to think of and talk about a monolithic whole than to consider the complexities that run down to an individual level. I understand that I do have a unique role as someone someone who racially identifies as white in this conversation and have had a number of conversations with friends across all racial/ethnic groups and heard many different (and I can easily say nowhere close to all as such a claim would be patently impossible to substantiate) opinions. I have been working to create understanding and I think I’ve learned a lot over the past 3 months just from the conversations that I’ve had on an individual level and listening to stories on a group level.
            In response to being uncomfortable/comfortable: discomfort is a 100% necessary part of any process that involves learning and stepping into a dialogue/discussion that many people have not had (or have had only very little of) over the course of their lives/Wes careers. My point is only that they should be able to feel comfortable with their ability to be uncomfortable. People should be able to feel safe being vulnerable and at times wrong (or misinformed or even differently informed, with different information, life experiences, etc. that lead people to different conclusions). Being uncomfortable is good, and I completely agree. It means you’re learning something. Feeling marginalized is different. My point in my initial comment was to point out a way in which a comment led to that and show how it made me uncomfortable to elucidate what I have seen and heard.
            Saying I want to talk is not paternalistic at all. Saying I want to listen and be a part of the learning process (and one that is eminently a two way process) is the exact way that this conversation should go forward and I want to thank you for your work on the panel and willingness to continue this conversation beyond this level.

          3. Dorisol Inoa

            Please stop complaining about being lumped into groups. Everyone is lumped into many groups that’s how our minds work and remember things. Imagine what an uproar it would be if all of the students of color started complaining about being lumped into the Latino group or the black group. I really don’t see your point….

          4. Student '13

            Also, I know that straight white male is the easiest setting out there. I accept and respect that it gives me different experiences and I haven’t had some of the bad experiences that oppressed minorities have (be it racial or otherwise). This is why the dialogue is the most important part and maintaining dialogue that makes both parties feel comfortable being uncomfortable in the course of the dialogue is key.

      1. Dorisol Inoa

        I’ll say again- you are responsible not because you are white but because you are a Wesleyan student….

        If you have any questions please feel free to consult me further or read a little bit about race relations so we can have a more productive conversation….

        1. Student '13

          I agree. I am responsible as a Wesleyan student to work as a part of the Wesleyan community to make it truly that: a community. The difference here comes in the way I perceived the use of the word responsible and it was not in that sense. My reading was a more accusatory tone and I could have read it wrong. I accept that possibility. The point, though stands. Yes, I agree 100% that there should be more conversation, I agree that we all have a responsibility to improve relations/conversations not just with race but with any number of other areas on campus in which some of these same discursive problems arise (maybe at different levels and in different ways but problems exist nonetheless).

          Thanks for following up and hopefully what I’m trying to say here clarifies the point I have been trying to make during the conversation. It’s not that I don’t think we all have a responsibility to help, rather that there are some points where, as a white student I get lumped into a group that is “the problem” and “responsible” at the level of perpetrating the problem which was my perceived reading of the post. Again, it is one reading. Again, there are others and again, I agree that community work is 100% necessary. As I said to Chantaneice, thank you again for your work on the panel discussion and I hope that provides a window into the hurt that many members of our campus community have felt over the past years and help move more of us than are already involved to improving the state of our campus community.

          1. Dorisol Inoa

            Listen fellow anonymous peer of mine- did you watch the full video? Because if you did then you wouldn’t be so defensive. No one is accusing the white population about anything. In fact Chantaneice and I had a segment in the conversation where we acknowledged that it’s not any individual white students fault for the way things are. This is an institutional problem. Please watch the video…

    3. Dorisol Inoa

      What is the white majority responsible for??

      I’ll tell you- (you are thinking about it in the wrong way) the persons who are responsible are ALL WESLEYAN STUDENTS. WE are ALL responsible (regardless of background) of making sure that our peers are in safe environment and are treated equally. It’s that simple….

      I hope this answers your question in a nutshell.

      -Dorisol Inoa ’13

    4. Dorisol Inoa

      And of course you would think its wasteful…. you didn’t make the time to attend the forum or watch the video….

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