Established in spring of 2019, the new Center for Equity, Justice & Inclusion held an open house Oct. 1 to showcase all of the services and initiatives the center has to offer.
In an initiative to make the campus more inclusive, the center currently consists of three main groups on campus — Salisbury University Women’s Forum, LGBTQIA+ and disAbility.
Each diverse community has its own room in the center and has personalized it to represent the goals, beliefs and values of their specified groups.
SU professor and SUWF Chair Elsie Walker beamed with excitement as she welcomed attendees of the open house and informed them about SUWF’s mission.
"I'm hoping that every semester. we can open the doors in this way, encourage people to come in, welcome them, make them feel included, make them feel important, because they share this common goal of honoring diversity and furthering humanitarian rights," Walker said.
Walker explained that the chapter aims to empower and support women, and that anyone of any gender is encouraged to take advantage of the space so long as they celebrate equity.
Complete with a changing table, information on SU's Parent Support Google group and a women's "Wall of Inspiration," the space aims to make mothers on campus feel empowered and understood.
Walker encourages anyone and everyone to visit the space and contribute to the "Wall of Inspiration.” She highlights that this is a space dedicated to any woman whom you feel has made an impact either on you individually or on the world.
As a whole, Walker felt the open house was important because she feels that not enough people know enough about the different spaces, and therefore, people are reluctant to utilize the space to their benefit.
"I feel that it's very important that we now have this tangible, significant space that's about recognizing diversity," Walker said. "I also feel that the space has been too quiet since it opened last year, because a lot of people have not become aware that it's open to them."
SU nursing professor and board member of SU’s Women's Forum Dr. Kayna Freda attended the open house and spoke with her fellow nursing students about the ability to share these resources with their own patients who are mothers.
Freda serves as the family liaison in SUWF and just recently started an initiative to help mothers who are a part of SU’s faculty and staff. In holding discussions that cover various topics of motherhood and balancing those duties with work, Freda hopes moms on campus can feel more understood and supported.
Along with the women's center, there is a center down the hall that the eye simply cannot miss.
As rainbow flags, posters and streamers cover not only the walls but extend to the ceilings, the space for the LQBTQA+ Alliance is one that radiates color and pride.
SU junior and Vice President of SU's LGBTQA+ Alliance Skyler Snesrud was all smiles as she welcomed newcomers into the space.
Snesrud explained that they welcome anyone and everyone into their colorful space and that their main goal is to make SU students feel comfortable on campus no matter who they are and how they identify themselves.
"It's a safe space where members of the community can come to hang out, to talk to people if they feel they need to talk to someone, they can do their homework," Snesrud said. "It's just an all-inclusive space, and we're here today so people know that we exist."
PACE staff member and SU alum Michael Webber attended the open house and spoke with SU junior Jay Meashey while checking out the all queer-inspired library that the LGBTQ Alliance at SU established in its safe space.
Webber highlighted that when he attended SU as a graduate student, the space did not exist, and he was proud of the strides SU’s LGBTQ community has made in the years following his studies here.
"I think its really cool what they've been able to accomplish with the space that used to be the old library," Webber said. "They've turned it into this really multicultural space, and I think it's really cool to see that transformation."
Down the hall from the LQBTQA+ Alliance is a room dedicated to students on campus with disabilities.
President of Delta Alpha Pi International Honor Society Will Fried talked of the various events he hopes to hold in an effort to celebrate students with disabilities on campus.
DAP is a society that gives recognition to academically successful students with disabilities, and as an extension of that, the DisAbility center gives these students a more comfortable place to meet and bond with one another.
Fried hopes that with the new space, along with the help of other organizations on campus like SU's Student Government Association and collaborations with the Institutional Office of Equity, more people feel comfortable with and are more aware of disabled people on campus.
"We're just trying to spread disability awareness, and we're trying to get students and faculty to feel like they can be more open about their disability," Fried said. "There's ability in your disability. You can achieve your mind to success with anything you put in regardless of your disability, and it cannot hold you back."
Salisbury University President Dr. Charles Wight and wife Victoria Rassmussen attended the open house and were extremely pleased with the turnout.
Wight took the time to speak with the leaders of these diverse organizations and to discuss future plans to incorporate the Center for Justice, Equity and Inclusion into campus life.
Associate Vice President of the Office of Institutional Equity Humberto Aristizabal described how the center emulates Wight’s initiative to promote diversity and inclusion on campus.
"The center is instrumental to reaffirm our commitment to promote diversity and inclusion on campus because it provides a space where people can mingle and they are able to come — especially from underrepresented groups — to integrate into the larger SU community," Aristizabal said.
By CAROLINE STREETT
Gull Life editor
Featured photos by Caroline Streett Images.