Earlier this month, two black men were arrested at a Starbucks in Philadelphia for no reason. This has led to protests and an announcement by Starbucks leadership that all of its stores, numbering over 8,000 in the United States, will close on May 29 for racial-bias education geared toward preventing discrimination in stores.
Stony Brook should raise a coffee and drink to that idea. While May 29 might not be the best day for a racial-bias education event on campus (unless the university only wants to target summer semester students and faculty), having such an event at some point would be valuable. I don’t know what the event would consist of or how it would be run, but the Stony Brook community would gain a lot from such education — better that we are educated before we generate a story like this.
Stony Brook has grown as a political campus in the last few years. Founder of the #MeToo movement, Tarana Burke, spoke on campus in January. The Feminist Majority Leadership Alliance organized a #MeToo march in February. Other student organizations organized a March for Our Lives on campus last month. All of these, however, were organized by specific student organizations or third parties.
Last year, the then-Undergraduate Student Government (USG) President, Cole Lee, signed an executive order establishing a director of diversity affairs and a USG committee on equity, diversity and inclusivity. Not much has been heard about the position since. Perhaps the newly elected government could begin their tenure with a diversity event.
We do have Diversity Day every year, which falls on May 2 this semester during Campus Life Time. This “day,” however, only lasts an hour and 20 minutes and also doesn’t stand alone. Diversity Day is in conjunction with Strawberry Fest this year, therefore taking away from the importance of spreading appreciation of all represented cultures at Stony Brook. One Campus Life Time is too little time to effectively spread awareness of the importance of diversity and inclusion.
The only other time the idea of diversity is really “drilled” into students’ heads is during freshman orientation. We have all been through the lectures about diversity. But during these lectures, a handful of students aren’t motivated to listen because they think they know the information already or they just want to go back to their day. To fix this, the university needs to do a better job at drawing freshmen in about how important diversity is to our campus. It’s in the university’s mission statement to “celebrate” diversity through every decision made to promote the overall mission. How can we do that if students are not motivated to do so even before they start their first class?
Issues such as what happened in Starbucks are relevant to a college audience because the chain is popular, especially at Stony Brook — seeing the name in headlines will draw attention. Other issues such as this need to be promoted in the orientation lectures and meetings so more students will be drawn to learning how they can make a change. Not all students keep up with The New York Times or The Wall Street Journal and might not know that issues regarding diversity and inclusion are still happening.
While we have recently created a diversity chair and have town hall meetings about inclusion, nothing is really heard about them. Three events that define the office of multicultural affairs are Diversity Day, Festival of Lights, which promotes different traditions of the holiday season and Journey Around the World, where students can be exposed to different cultural dishes. All of them are long-standing traditions at Stony Brook at this point. Perhaps we should take a page from Starbucks’ book and have a widely announced day of racial-bias education for anyone who wishes to attend. This way, we embrace our diversity and don’t arrest people because of the color of their skin.