Diversity and inclusion have become one of the hottest topics on our campus these past two weeks. If you have an opinion, want your voice heard, or want to know more about racial issues, cultural appropriation, diversity and what it has to do with you and this community, come listen and talk with the rest of the University of Redlands community. President Ralph Kuncl will be leading this open discussion this Wednesday, November 18th at 9pm in the Orton Center.
But the question is, what caused this to become such a hot topic in the first place?
This all started the week of Halloween, when senior Jonathan Garcia expressed anger and sadness at the Theatre Arts Department selling sombreros and other costumes to students on campus. Garcia was upset because he believed the department was appropriating his and others’ cultures.
Garcia decided to purchase all 17 sombreros left unsold and stapled two pieces of paper to each saying “SOLD ON CAMPUS” and “THIS IS NOT A FUCKING COSTUME.” These sombreros were worn around campus and brought about awareness and talk. In an article titled “The Problem with Halloween” which was published in the Redlands Bulldog, Garcia wrote that
“The selling of this product is a blatant sign of disrespect and disregard for [students’] well-being, and the University of Redlands owes [the students] an apology.”
Nephelie Andonyadis, the chair of the Theatre Department, responded to Garcia in “Letter to the Editor: Theatre Arts Response Regarding Halloween Sale” published in the Redlands Bulldog. She recognized that the sale “seemed to be putting [Garcia’s] culture on sale, and giving a message to potential buyers that condoned dressing up in a way that appropriated another’s culture.” She went on to explain that:
“The act of setting the sombreros out for sale had no intention behind it beyond offering garments at low prices as a convenience for students… Whether the fact of sombreros being part of the sale was a mistake or not, we regret that they caused a painful response in our students.”
Andonyadis also promised to “create an environment…in which none of our students feel that their culture has been cheapened, or inappropriately offered up for sale.”
A forum was created last Wednesday to discuss cultural appropriation, as well as other diversity and racial issues. These topics were discussed and questions and proposals were raised, one of which was the inclusion of President Kuncl in this crucial dialogue.
On Friday, November 13th, President Kuncl sent out a mass email titled “Diversity and Race Relations at University of Redlands” that spoke of the increasingly visible discrimination and “abuses of language, power, and privilege, and outright violations of human rights” on US college campuses. This email was also a response to students’ concern about his absence from last week’s forum and from this dialogue. In the email, President Kuncl explains that “This memo serves as [his] pledge to renew [his] commitment and provide continuing communication on this crucial topic.”
As part of his commitment, President Kuncl will listen and respond to concerns and questions of the students, staff, and wider community this Wednesday.
All of these events have caused strong emotion and the opportunity of critical dialogue about race and diversity on our campus. Garcia said about the upcoming forum,
“I hope that honest dialogue takes place. I’m not sure what that means in terms of emotion, responses, tone, attitude, or solutions. But I want people to go and be heard. I want action.”
As President Kuncl said in his email, “the key[s] to a healthy, productive debate about the most difficult issues on our campus and in our society: to create and maintain at all times a safe space, and frequent opportunities, to talk to each other, and even challenge one another, about such issues.”
Come join the rest of the university campus to discuss and unravel race and diversity issues this Wednesday, November 18th in the Orton Center at 9pm.
[Image courtesy of Redlands Assets]