A team of Kenyon faculty and administrators had the chance to explore different prospects for diversity and civility when they attended the Diversity, Civility and the Liberal Arts Institute, a four-day conference in June. Ted Mason, the associate provost for diversity, equity and inclusion, said the event was very productive.
Hosted by the Council of Independent Colleges (CIC) — a consortium which includes Kenyon — the event consisted of several presentations, group discussions and speakers in Atlanta. Each team member was also required to complete readings prior to the event.
Associate Professor of Political Science Abbie Erler also attended the conference. “It was intense, but it was a lot of fun because we got to meet people from other colleges that are like Kenyon and talk to them about what is going on in their campuses,” she said.
Last year, Kenyon was one of the 25 participating colleges and universities selected through a competitive application process.
As part of the application, each institution had to draft a plan that would help strengthen diversity and civility on campus.
After the completion of the Institute, participants are also required to further develop the plan and report back in a year.
Erler noted that the small groups — a set of campus-wide conversations held by the Community Planning Group last April to discuss diversity, inclusion, freedom of expression and community — is something they want to include in this plan.
“That seemed like something we should do more of, that a lot of good issues came out of those groups that seemed like the beginnings of bigger conversations,” Erler said. “I think one thing we want to do is have more of those types of conversations, where we engage different parts of the Kenyon community and different parts of the campus.”
Associate Professor of German Leo Riegert also said that continuing small groups would be helpful.
“In order for people to really begin to understand their own position in terms of diversity … it requires a conversation that is ongoing over the course of a semester or a year between the same people,” Riegert said.
Although the plan is not finalized, the team is considering holding seven on-campus events which may include organizing small groups between students, faculty members and administrators and inviting speakers, according to Riegert.
More details about these events will be disclosed throughout the semester.
Mason noted that although there are issues surrounding civility and inclusion on campus, he is still optimistic about reaching solutions.
“One of the things we learned is that we are well ahead of lots of schools that were there,” Mason said. “That is not a reason not to keep working: It is a reason to definitely keep working, but it is also a way of seeing that progress is possible on these things.”