Brandon Cortés- News Writer
The Department of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, DEI, launched the new campus climate support program on Thursday, Jan. 18. Vice President of DEI Diane Ariza said that one of the main goals of this program is to eliminate bias and empower faculty and students to ensure they feel safe, valued, heard and included on campus.
Campus climate concerns can include conduct, speech or expression that negatively targets, intimidates or threatens an individual or group due to race, ethnicity, ancestry and even national origin.
“There can be many types of biases, such as gender biases, racial biases, cultural biases, political biases,” Ariza said. “This program tries to raise awareness about those particular issues too.”
Students or faculty members who feel victim to any microaggression or bias can fill out a form on the campus climate support program’s online website.
Once the form is filled out, a restorative practice will be carried out, which is a process where both parties involved can come together and talk about the harm experienced. Restorative practices help to not only repair the harm caused by an incident but help to rebuild relationships and strengthen community climate.
“I think we really moved away from being able to dialogue with each other now with this cancel culture being a thing where everybody wants to cancel everything and everyone without giving them a chance to know each other,” Director of Education and Restorative Practices Patricia Glagiardi said.
Students and faculty members can also submit their forms anonymously. However, anonymity might limit the response of the university.
The decision to create this program had been in the planning process for two years by the DEI Council.
The original idea was to create an anti-bias task force and a dedicated team to work on these issues. However, with the national anti-DEI heat that has existed over the years and states in the country that have wanted to ban these practices, it has been very difficult to meet such an ambitious goal.
“A lot of universities had similar programs like this and went into litigation because of how anti-DEI the nation is getting,” Gagliardi said. “So, we had to think about how to protect what we are doing from that national heat.”
Gagliardi says that any other university or college that wants to establish something like this program needs to have people on their campus that are trained with restorative practices and can facilitate restorative circles to be able to have this dialogue when harm occurs.
Gagliardi says that the main goal is not to react when harm happens but to determine how they can prevent harm from happening.
“Restorative practices often lend themselves to creating a positive work environment, a positive community- be that in a classroom, a division or the multicultural center- any place where people find themselves in community,” Gagliardi said.
Gagliardi feels very optimistic about the program.
“I believe that if we can do a good job in promoting what restorative practices are, then this program can be very successful,” Gagliardi said. “We need a community that trusts and understands restorative practices and feels secure in engaging in dialogue.”