FAU will hold a series of sessions addressing racial inequalities separating students by race/ethnicity

Dr. Larry Faerman and Dr. Andrea Guzman Oliver who organized the sessions explained that students were separated to provide an open environment to share their experiences of racial inequality at FAU.

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The Division of Student Affairs Interim VP Larry Faerman will be hosting these sessions. Photo by Alex Liscio.

Marcy Wilder, Web Editor

For five days, Dr. Larry Faerman, Interim VP for Student Affairs, will hold a series of sessions to address racial inequalities by separating students by race. 

According to an Owl Central email sent out Tuesday, the sessions are “directed toward students identifying with racial/ethnic origin to provide an open and safe environment for candid feedback that is directly related to the race/ethnicity from which they identify.” 

Faerman said that his goal is to gather information from students registered in FAU’s organizations to gather their experiences. 

“While I believe that FAU is an inclusive, safe, and welcoming environment for all students, as a cisgender White male, I cannot know the experience of students from historically marginalized populations,” Faerman said. “Without speaking with our students, I cannot know what is happening at FAU.”

Dr. Andrea Guzman Oliver, the Associate Vice President for Student Outreach and Diversity, said that the discussions being separated by race was purposeful, in order to draw specific feedback from different ethnic groups.

Oliver said that after reviewing current literature on how to best support students of color, particularly Black students, and how to learn about their experiences and challenges, the administration felt that separating forums by race/ethnicity was the best approach for the first set of forums.

 “The current civil unrest calls for us to take a serious look at how we serve historically marginalized students and how we promote allyship and advocacy,” she said.

Student reactions

Student organizations presidents who received the email agreed with the decision to separate students by race. 

Corey Rose, founding president of the Black Undergraduate Theatre Collective, said that he found the email confusing at first, but expects that the outcome of the sessions will lead to actionable change. 

“I hope that we can start to move towards a more equitable, more fair, and more inclusive environment at the school,” he said. 

However, Rose added that he was unsure of “how effective a room full of white people trying to solve a diversity and inclusion issue is going to be.”

Laura Tavano, vice president of Somos Boca, said she was initially shocked to see the email but was happy that FAU administration was hosting this discussion.

“This should not just happen because something bad happened and we feel obligated,” Tavano says. “This should be something that continues to happen throughout the years to come.”

Kennedy McKinney, President of the Black Student Union and Editor in Chief of the Paradigm Press thinks it will be a good discussion by breaking it up by what people identify as. “It’ll definitely be different from what I’ve seen before,” she added.

While there won’t be anyone stopping someone from going to a session that is not for one’s race, Oliver asks that people who identify within that particular race, or ethnic group, to attend.

Tavano believes there should have been more sessions, especially for students who identify with more than one race.

Faerman said he’s “still torn” about whether or not the administration should have offered a session for multiracial students, but said, “even though we opted not to, we will do that next.”

Going virtual

Due to COVID-19, sessions will be held online. McKinney said she is “happy that it’s online on a platform like WebEx where everyone can join, then we’ll have more voices.” 

Rose disagrees, arguing that he would rather have in-person meetings.  

“There is a certain power that students have in taking up physical space,” Rose said. “On some level, it gives some students a feeling of power, they feel that they can speak up.” 

He believes what’s really needed for these discussions is for White people in the room to not center their feelings, emotions, and confusion. He said that they need to take a backseat and listen to the voices of students and faculty of color who have raised these concerns before.

Faerman said that if the session wasn’t virtual, administrators would plan on going to individual student organizational meetings, sit at tables on the Breezeway, hold meetings in the Student Union at Boca Raton, Jupiter, and Davie, and hold forums in the housing multipurpose rooms. 

“We would be able to garner much broader feedback in a shorter period of time with a lot less structure,” he said.

What’s next?

McKinney noted that she wanted more of an emphasis on Black students. 

“On behalf of the Black Student Union, we definitely want a safe space on campus for the Black students,” McKinney said. “Other college campuses have that already, that’s something that we definitely would like to see. We want more emphasis on Black History Month and a campus-wide celebration for it, as well as an increase in Black faculty and staff.” 

During the sessions, Oliver hopes to learn about ways to improve the overall campus climate in terms of inclusion and equity.

“Recent acts of violence against Black people in America and protests against systemic racism have left many students feeling hopeless and voiceless,” Oliver said. “I hope these meetings allow students to have a voice, to share their experiences with us, and to articulate what is needed to best support them through such a difficult time.” 

SESSION TIMES

The sessions are:

  • Monday the 13th from 4 – 5:30 PM: Students Identifying as Black/African American
  • Tuesday the 14th from 4 – 5:30 PM: Students Identifying as Hispanic/Latinx
  • Wednesday the 15th from 4 – 5:30 PM: Students Identifying as White/Caucasian
  • Thursday the 16th from 4 – 5:30 PM: Students Identifying as Asian, American Indian, Pacific Islander, and International
  • Monday the 20th from 5:30 – 7:00 PM: Open Session

To join the 13th-16th sessions: https://fau.webex.com/fau/j.php?MTID=m6cde210f116a9b7954cba78f8ef5731a 

Meeting number: 120 248 5934

Password: Inclusion2020

To join the session on the 20th:

https://fau.webex.com/fau/j.php?MTID=m7658df21f459e60c3ab92688854393dc 

Meeting Number: 120 087 0687

Password: Inclusion2020

Marcy Wilder is the web editor for the University Press. For information regarding this or other stories, email [email protected] or tweet her @MarcyJWilder.