In the fall of 2019, Former Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, Kendrick Brown, came to a Black Student Union (BSU) meeting with a supportive and compassionate stance towards the Black community on the University of Redlands campus.
He asked critical questions about what it meant to be an ally, as this was his graduate thesis. He made us consider what true allyship was to us personally, and confront how dealing with our differences had the potential to deepen our connection and conversation with each other, or emphasize our separation.
Dean Brown no longer works on our campus, but his appearance that evening is something I feel the culture on the Redlands campus cannot afford to lose. Many areas of the student body didn’t have the same opportunity to ask themselves what allyship and community compassion mean for embracing change. I believe we need to have intentional conversations about how we want to see academic environments as community spaces of living and envisioning a future.
I want this to be concise, and I know I do not have all the answers. As a tarot artist, an aspect of my studies focuses on the importance of a question. How we formulate our curiosity allows us to be open or rigid, dig deeper to grow or affirm our previous beliefs, and set the stage for more to expand from that existing foundation. Our curiosity and ability to ask questions allow us to find what’s important, deconstruct who we see ourselves as, and place our lives within the context of grander narratives.
Here are some questions I’d like to leave with this community as I graduate and move forward:
How can the Redlands campus create space for campus-wide conversations without these discussions feeling forced or being ignored?
What platform might create awareness and ease of engagement for students?
What would make these conversations noticeable?
Do these happen more effectively in intimate environments which are shared publicly later, or must they remain private?
Do physical displays of conversation (i.e. an art installation or poster on campus) garner more attention from students than something like this article or a small group might?
How can we ensure everyone’s voices are heard and that we have productive debates and compassionate sharing?
How might we address the topic of campus climate and allyship?
What does it mean to the students of the University of Redlands to be allies?
How can we address and ease the burdens people feel as those who must be supported by allies?
How can we make a compassionate disposition and interest in social equity the campus norm for everyone, including those indirectly affected by social justice issues?
Upon taking up the various roles of ‘ally’, how might current social gaps be bridged by starting a series of both university-wide and private conversations around how our broader American/global social system is weighing on us together and separately?
How can we honor and uplift the unique variety of experiences we have despite occupying a shared space?
How can we have grace for people making mistakes?
How can we atone for the emotional labor that goes into educating each other on allyship and repairing our mistakes?
How much would all of our fields of future service benefit from us, as a diverse campus, participating in critical thinking, debating, reflecting, and empathizing with each other?
What might the benefit be for our individual journeys when we make conscious efforts to understand how we play into larger narratives on and off-campus?
Photo contributed by Bulldog photographer Kyle Eaton.