Stony Brook University united 26 SUNY campuses at the Charles B. Wang Center on Thursday and Friday at a two-day exploration on how to tackle gender inequality as part of Stony Brook’s commitment to UN Women to become a leader and advocate of gender equality.
Stony Brook University is a part of the HeForShe movement’s IMPACT 10x10x10 program, which enlists 10 universities, 10 corporate leaders and 10 heads of state to commit to achieve the goal of gender equality.
Stony Brook is one of only two universities in the United States that are IMPACT university champions, the other being Georgetown University. Other IMPACT university champions include Oxford University, the University of Sao Paulo and the University of Hong Kong.
Organizers said they hoped the HeForShe Gender Equality Conference would begin the discussion on how to implement ideas and methods to tackle gender inequality on SUNY campuses.
“The main goal was to begin a discussion across the SUNY system about gender equality and how to begin to take these discussions back to your campuses, how to expand on these discussions and I think we achieved that today,” said Charles Robbins, the SUNY UN Women HeForShe coordinator and Stony Brook’s vice provost for undergraduate education and dean of the Undergraduate Colleges.
Twenty-six of the 64 SUNY campuses came to Stony Brook to participate in the conference, Robbins said. These campuses include Binghamton University, University at Buffalo, SUNY Geneseo, SUNY New Paltz, Rockland Community College and Onondaga Community College.
The conference had several workshops, panels and guest speakers that discussed how to tackle gender inequality on the academic and extracurricular level and how HeForShe can help make campuses more inclusive of diverse student bodies, including those who do not fall into the female-male binary.
“Gender is not a two-sided coin,” Lauren Lamagna, a graduate of Stony Brook’s School of Social Work, said during the student panel. “There are multiple genders, so it’s important for all people to acknowledge the multitudes of gender identities and have all people given a voice and feel as though their existence is validated and their needs are addressed.”
The student panelists were Stony Brook students in the university’s HeForShe steering committee. Their job is to help the university communicate with students and implement HeForShe initiatives on campus. They emphasized the need for the universities to involve students in the discussion on how to implement HeForShe programs.
Beginning in the fall of 2015, Stony Brook has also incorporated gender equality lessons into the required freshman seminar 101 and 102 classes in order to include students in the discussion of how to achieve gender equity early on, Robbins said.
For students who have already completed their freshman seminars, the university plans to hold many meetings, lectures and discussions about issues of gender equality for students to attend, Robbins said.
Besides the panels and workshops, the representatives of the 26 SUNY campuses were given time to brainstorm and present some ideas they have to bring back to their respective campuses.
To focus on their unique challenges and ideas, the institutions split into groups based on their type of learning institution: community colleges, comprehensives and university centers.
A lack of student engagement and lack of funding for the gender equality lessons were the concerns of the community college group. All groups expressed concerns about how to unite an entire campus around the initiative.
The community college group also proposed the idea of having more SUNY-wide discussions on HeForShe through regional meet-ups, Google Hangouts or Skype meetings to continue sharing ideas and failures at each other’s campuses.
“We can use general education as a vehicle to infuse gender equality outcomes,” said Katherine Lynch, an English professor from Rockland Community College who spoke on behalf of the community college group.
The comprehensives group requested that Stony Brook disseminate more information on how to tackle the gender equality issue across the SUNY system.
“The biggest takeaway we received from the conference was the need to begin the dialogue about the challenges men face and how to address them,” Andrea Thomas, the deputy Title IX coordinator from Farmingdale State College, said on behalf of the comprehensives group.
The university center group proposed having more communication between faculty, administration and students about how to tackle the gender equality issue. It also proposed using data and focus groups in order to equalize graduation and matriculation among genders, a goal that is one of three public commitments Stony Brook has made to UN Women.
Beginning in March, there will be male student study groups to determine why male graduation rates are lower than female graduation rates, despite the fact that more males are matriculating to Stony Brook University than females, Robbins said.
In 2010, men represented about 55.9 percent of the incoming class, and women represented 44.1 percent. But within that cohort, 59.1 percent of women graduated in four years or less, compared to 44.6 percent of men, according to the statistics from Stony Brook’s Office of Institutional Research, Planning & Effectiveness.
The other two commitments the university has made is to use the Center for the Study of Men and Masculinities to study men in order to help achieve gender equality and to integrate the issue of gender equality into the Stony Brook curriculum and campus life, Robbins said.