Updated: Jan 17, 2019
Throughout the years, Salisbury University has seen a measurable growth in the diverse communities on its campus.
In a four-year effort to improve equity and inclusion on campus, seniors and representatives of the LGBTQIA+ community Thomas Mannion III and Ben Lenox have continued the efforts of SU alumni to establish a place where the diverse community could feel safe and at home on campus.
The goal came to fruition with the establishment of the new Center for Equity, Justice and Inclusion, and in the spirit of inclusivity, various diverse marginalized groups share the space.
Located in Blackwell Hall, the center officially opened on Dec. 5 and is occupied by the diverse communities of LGBTQIA+, the Women’s Forum and disAbility.
Each group has its own office with various resources applying to that specific community. The center’s main purpose is to promote inclusivity and diversity by providing a space where both students and faculty can seek out resources while also meeting other diverse people and having open conversations.
As the president of the Sexuality and Gender Awareness student organization, Mannion believes that the center is a physical place where marginalized populations can connect with one another and feel accepted for who they are.
“Having a physical space is not only a promise to the university, but it creates a visibility for the community, and it also grants people permission to be themselves,” Mannion said. “These marginalized groups that are so often sectionalized — with every group fighting for a space — but this way, we’re all together, and so it really encourages a fostering of connections.
The center is open from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m., and all students are welcome to read literature, conduct meetings or even just hang out. There are also two conference rooms available through booking at the Multicultural Student Services Office.
Director of Multicultural Student Services Vaughn White believes the center sends a message to current and prospective SU students that we are taking steps in the right direction of “giving every student a sense of belonging.”
Faculty Chair of the SU Women’s Forum Dr. Elsie Walker shed light on the fact that in her 16 years at the university, she has seen a large change in the number of diverse peoples that have entered her classroom in recent years.
Walker helped to integrate the Women’s Forum Center into a place where faculty and students can understand and appreciate diverse peoples here at SU.
“I think it’s also about creating an environment where the university culture can change a little bit and people feel more able to bring their whole selves to work,” Walker said.
The Women’s Center plans to involve the community in events like mother support groups while also providing students and faculty a place to embrace human rights, family life and culture, and handle the stress of balancing academic and personal lives.
“It’s about creating safe spaces that honor and empower diversity populations on campus,” Walker said. “It’s about having spaces where people can come and meet, share ideas, be inspired, find resources, plan events, meet with various groups that champion the rights of our diverse student body.”
The new disAbility Center centers around the capital letter ‘A” to stress the idea that we are all differently abled. This center was an effort instilled by members of the Delta Alpha Pi International Honor Society — a society that gives recognition to academically successful students with disabilities.
Vice President of DAP Will Fried considers himself a strong advocate for the new center because he believes the current Center for Disabilities is very confidential, and requires appointments, whereas the CEJI is a more open environment.
“I think it’s really important because there’s an un-confidential space where students with disabilities, and students that have gender-neutral identities, and just anyone who is marginalized can have a specific place to host different programs, and have a central location for more education,” Fried said.
DAP also has a mentor system for students with disabilities, and with this new space, Fried believes it will be easier for students to meet with their mentors and get to know them.
Nyasha Wills, graduate assistant for LGBTQIA Programs, emphasized that this center is the next step in making the SU community understand diversity and embrace inclusivity.
“I’m passionate about diversity and inclusion because I want to bring meaning to those words,” Wills said. “I feel like a lot of times, people use those words without necessarily understanding what it means, and I want to change that.”
By CAROLINE STREETT
Gull Life editor
Featured photo: Members of the SU community placed their handprints on a tree mural to symbolize SU’s diverse peoples (Caroline Streett image).