In an effort to address issues of inclusion and diversity, the College will send a team of faculty and administration members to attend a four-day conference in Atlanta, Ga. over the summer. The decision to participate in the Diversity, Civility and the Liberal Arts Institute has not been prompted by a specific event, but is meant to resolve a more general problem, according to Associate Provost for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Ted Mason.
The event is hosted by the Council of Independent Colleges (CIC), a consortium which includes Kenyon. According to the CIC website, the Institute is meant for colleges “that have students who are concerned about issues of equity and social change, or that are facing the challenges of diversity and civility.”
Mason noted that the reason for applying was not tied to anything specific. “We wanted to be ahead of the curve because we knew that colleges such as Kenyon, invariably, are going to run into this kind of thing in a greater or lesser degree,” Mason said. “We have been thinking about free expression, we have been thinking about inclusion and diversity, so … how do we think about inclusion and free expression working together, not in tension or contradiction?”
Kenyon is one of the 25 CIC member colleges and universities that were selected through a competitive application process.
Mason, Associate Professor of German Leo Riegert, Associate Professor of Political Science Abbie Erler and Associate Dean of Students and Director of the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Chris Kennerly will be attending the Institute.
“I was really excited to participate in this Institute because we are increasingly seeing tensions between diversity, civility and free speech both at Kenyon and at campuses across the nation,” Erler wrote in an email. “As an institution that is committed to all three values, we need to find a way to negotiate these tensions and create an environment where people can express their opinions without fear of being silenced but also in a way that is respectful of the fact that there are many different points of view on campus.”
Riegert said he is looking forward to reading broadly about diversity and civility, and talking to others about their views. “[I really look forward to] listening to what others have to say. … They will hopefully give me new perspectives and maybe ways of thinking beyond this divide or ways of bringing it together. ”
The Institute requires the participants to implement what they learn and report back in a year. “The team represents Kenyon,” Mason said. “We are a team that is trying to bring back information so that the entire community benefits.”