Commission on Inclusion begins

Ben Wolford

After one year group to report back to Lefton

President Lester Lefton’s Commission on Inclusion identified the campus prejudice problems, and now it’s begun formulating solutions.

Created November of last year, the Commission on Inclusion oversaw forums during the summer and early fall to uncover what faculty, staff and students believed was the state of campus tolerance – and intolerance.

The commission will submit recommendations to Lefton, but Pat Book, primary staff member and facilitator of the commission, wouldn’t say what specific strategies were brewing.

“We have ideas, but I don’t want to tell you them because they’ll end up in the paper before the president sees them,” said Book, who is also vice president for regional development. “But we have some creative ideas, I think.”

The commission had a forum with only student respondents Sept. 30. Representatives from all the student organizations on campus were invited, and seven students attended.

“We talked about what we thought were our experiences on campus and what we thought needed to be improved,” said Katrice Cain, senior psychology major and president of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority. “A lot of us said that students stay in their comfort zones.”

Book said the existence of cultural comfort zones is one of the issues the commission will address.

“Building those groups created a sense of community and a sense of support that’s really important to students,” she said. “You have these groups of like students, so how do you make permeable boundaries between those groups?”

The students had their own ideas.

They said the consensus at the forum was that a greater sense of a university community was necessary – but not just among students.

“The idea of President Lefton just walking into a freshmen experience course and just saying, ‘Hey guys, I’m the president,'” Neal Konesky said, would create a general atmosphere of community.

After all, “we’re all at the same university,” as Cain put it. “There needs to be more communication as far as faculty members reaching out to students,” she said.

Konesky, senior construction management major and Undergraduate Student Government senator, said if the administration and faculty were to exude a welcoming disposition, that attitude would “trickle down.”

“Students said many of them were graduating without having a significant relationship with a person of a significantly other group,” Book said. “That really struck me as sad.

“Can you be a great university without really embracing diversity?” she went on to say.

Book said freshmen and sophomores will see results before they graduate. Lefton asked for an interim report by mid-November.

“It’ll take a few years,” Konesky said, “but with some good ideas and the right people, I think it will be very successful very soon.”

Contact administration reporter Ben Wolford

at [email protected].